By Phil Towers Head of Business Development - Asia Pacific

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Around the world, transport authorities, among other infrastructure entities, are contributing to ‘smart’ evolution. Steady innovation is transforming public transport systems and networks, and ultimately the commuter experience. We are in the era of digital technology and connectivity development that is giving us increasingly smarter devices, homes, workplaces, transport systems and cities.

This month, the World Economic Forum (WEF), an international organisation for public-private cooperation, released its latest community paper, Transforming Infrastructure: Frameworks for Bringing the Fourth Industrial Revolution to Infrastructure.

The WEF’s message is three-fold:

  • Infrastructure owners have the prospect of improving long-term viability, project development and asset management.
  • Technology providers could develop new innovations, forging new partnerships and technologically transforming a new sector.
  • For planners and policymakers, there is potential for enhancing efficiency, value and user experience for the publics they serve.

Today’s idea is tomorrow’s solution

Based on years of experience, and innovation, in the transport industry around the world, our view is that digital enablement, through connectivity, has been changing society’s idea of what a city can offer its citizens. Today, connectivity is sparking those ideas, while tomorrow’s innovation is helping to deliver them.

What makes a truly smart city is how it uses these advancements to improve the lives of its citizens – our lives.

BAI Communications helps to enable economic growth and fast-track development of world-leading connected communities. We do this by designing, building and operating the connectivity and communications infrastructure on which they depend.

Our deep experience in telecommunications, broadcasting, and network infrastructure makes us a key partner for transport authorities in global cities including Hong Kong, New York, and Toronto.

We believe that innovative transport systems are a defining feature of ‘smart’, world-class cities and citizens require continuous connectivity and innovation to realise the benefits of living in such cities.

Innovative transport boosts smart cities

The digital transformation we have seen this century has fundamentally altered the way we live in ways that we experience every day and in ways we, as individuals, may never know.

Accordingly, as we become more reliant on technology and connectivity, we are changing the way we live and work, thus collectively changing the world through the resulting innovation and development.

The long-term impact of technology is making cities become more efficient, livable and sustainable.

Innovation, change that adds value, starts with identifying a need or fixing a problem. As cities become smart, then smarter, the demands placed on their infrastructure increase in line with development and population growth.

A smart transport network contributes to the economy by enabling commuters to get to work and, importantly, spend their travel time productively, whether that’s working, studying, or keeping in touch with each other. Games, videos, podcasts and books, among other apps, are the relaxation and entertainment option. It also unlocks potential housing options in (usually) more affordable areas away from city centers.

Wireless connectivity turns wasted time into ‘bonus’ time, improving…lots

In our key markets of New York, Sydney, and London the average weekday commute exceeds 80 minutes, escalating to more than 1.5 hours in Toronto.

This is either wasted time or ‘bonus’ time.

Wireless connectivity on public transport generates a bonus. Working, studying, paying bills, watching videos, or contacting friends while on the train contributes to a more enriched life.

Why? Because commuters tick items off from their ‘to do’ list and free up non-travel time. More broadly, connectivity opens opportunities to change working hours and job location, in support of career improvement or lifestyle choices. Commuters may be able to change working hours (thereby avoiding peak travel, work from home more, or pursuing a hobby). They may even be able to make work location and housing changes.

The most basic benefit is simply arriving at your destination in seemingly less time and relaxed.

In short, a connected and evolved transport network digitally enables commuters, and this contributes to improved productivity and wellbeing.

Connected trains should be a ‘given’

Commuters in cities across the globe already expect more from public transport than just getting from A to B, and they believe that rail networks should offer wireless connectivity. When asked what makes a city smart, innovative transport systems (encompassing features like ‘smart bus stops’ and ‘intelligent transport systems’) top the poll globally.

It’s a finding that transport authorities are taking to heart in their planning.

Therefore, it’s imperative to provide simple, reliable and secure online connections.

There are two main ways to provide wireless connectivity to train passengers: dedicated trackside networks, and existing cellular networks that work in conjunction with dedicated onboard equipment. The transport authorities’  decision between the two will firstly consider passenger requirements, cost,  and carrier co-operation. It will also factor in the state of existing cellular infrastructure, demographics and expected use, and availability of land and other resources.

Either way, commuters expect their connection to be as seamless as possible.

Benefits beyond the commuter experience

Providing continuous connectivity across networks brings transport authorities considerable operational and safety benefits, in addition to improving the customer experience. These stem from real-time data feeds from trains in motion and internet-connected sensors.

Real-time CCTV monitoring (facial recognition, behaviour analysis) improves safety and security. As does the ability to co-ordinate emergency services and station crews within a station and from one station to another.

Pre-emptive maintenance thanks to internet of things-connected sensors can prevent costly breakdowns and optimise fleet usage, such as door monitoring. Wireless connectivity enables accurate train arrival systems that can be used to direct passengers to the most suitable services.

Feeding data back to the operator is a huge benefit, because it makes continuous improvement possible.

Real-time service updates, incident responses and other services help authorities reduce cost and improve operations and passenger service.

It always comes back to the customer

Operational benefits from connectivity will also, ultimately, return to the commuter by providing safer and more efficient services. The customer experience is a key factor in public transport’s competitiveness against other options, such as driving or ride-sharing services.

Public transport expert Adam Cohen notes, with innovation comes expectation: “In addition to safe and reliable transportation, passengers are increasingly expecting amenities, such as good lighting, security, and wireless connectivity”.

If the overall experience isn’t good – or at least satisfactory – then passengers explore other means of transport.

BAI Communications designs, builds, funds, and operates networks for above- and below-ground railway lines. We deliver the connectivity and technology that enables transport authorities and operators to provide better experiences, with all the benefits of connectivity, for commuters and communities, every day. Other means of transport should be complementary and supplementary, not alternatives.


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