By Jeremy Foran Technology Specialist, BAI Communications Canada

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Monitor, manage, mitigate: How data is transforming transit operations

Smart, connected and data-driven transit networks can leverage analytics to do much more than manage and optimise traffic flows and day-to-day operations. This data can also be used to monitor environmental factors and transform maintenance operations from schedule-based and reactive to data-based and proactive.

Across the globe, transit authorities are using Internet of Things (IoT)-connected sensors to monitor conditions and equipment to help maximise operational efficiency. The data generated can drive decisions about scheduling, maintenance, strategic planning, and day-to-day operations.

As we transition towards the station of the future, the future of public transport will be guided by this real-time data to proactively improve safety, convenience, operational efficiency, and strategic planning. Data-based solutions, including video analytics, asset management, environmental monitoring, and smart systems for access control will deliver measurable, real-world benefits to commuters and operators alike.

Video analytics

Video analytics has become one of the most cost-effective ways to monitor stations and public spaces. Cameras are relatively inexpensive and, once connected, can provide the inputs required for machine learning systems to analyse specific patterns and activities.

With network-connected cameras feeding data into a central repository, it becomes relatively simple to create a machine learning model that recognises behavioural patterns. If the system predicts that someone is at risk, it can alert platform staff as needed.

Another application for video analytics is access control. A video analytics system can monitor restricted areas to ensure only appropriate people are accessing them. Is the person entering wearing a high-visibility vest or transit authority uniform and equipment? If not, the system can send an alert so staff can take appropriate action.

Asset monitoring and tracking

Subway systems have thousands, if not tens of thousands, of assets that must be monitored, managed, and maintained. Traditionally this is a labour-intensive task, often relying on fixed schedules for inspection and evaluation.

Stations of the future use multiple sensors to monitor and track assets, including the transit authority’s: Rolling stock, tracks, signals, power, drainage, communications network, and other equipment (such as cars, air conditioning systems or mobile power generators).

Adding IoT-connected devices to the network creates real-time data feeds that can highlight potential problems, schedule maintenance, deploy technicians and more.

Transit operators can monitor escalators, elevators, and train doors to detect the signs of imminent failure. These include motors that are not functioning consistently or moving parts that are wearing. Pre-emptive repairs can avoid costly disruptions, such as having to empty an entire train due to a faulty door or forcing commuters to use stairs due to a faulty escalator or elevator.

Connected systems can also track mobile assets to ensure their location is known for both operational and security purposes. Data from equipment, such as power generators, can tell operators whether a unit is in the right place and functioning as required. Similarly, data from rolling stock can be used to track usage, maintenance requirements and service status.

Environmental monitoring

Managing a subway system’s physical environment is critical to ensuring passenger and staff safety. Transit authorities spend significant sums every year to monitor environmental factors such as: Temperature, lighting, humidity, and air quality across the system.

Typically, such environmental studies are costly, are conducted over days or weeks and rarely involve all transit stations.

A more efficient alternative is to install network-connected sensors across the transit system. This monitoring infrastructure can provide data all day, every day, from every connected location. The cost savings are considerable, and the results – in terms of the data’s completeness and value over time – superior.

The data gathered makes it possible to understand the transit network’s environmental condition at different times of the day, week, and year. Operators can identify trends and optimise services and operations. They can also ensure the environment is safe, efficiently serviced and meets or exceeds all regulatory requirements.

Smart keys, doors, and access control

Access control is critical for transit authorities. Operational personnel often invest heavily in providing team members with specially made physical keys or tokens (such as RFID tags). Inevitably, some of these keys or tokens will be misplaced, stolen, or otherwise lost, resulting in increased costs as full sets of keys need to be replaced.

Instead, an access control app can be downloaded onto a smartphone or other mobile device and used to communicate with sensor-enabled doors and gates. The app connects to the lock through Wi-Fi and grants access. It is similar to RFID keys but without the capital and operational expenses of procuring, securing, and maintaining a fleet of keys.

A further benefit is that connected sensors can provide detailed information about site access, such as time of entry and exit. This information improves worker safety – if a worker enters a site but does not leave within the expected time, then co-workers can be alerted. It also allows for time and task analysis to further optimise operations, by more accurate scheduling of as maintenance and inspections.

Data is the solution

The station of the future is more than just an idea: it is a growing suite of technology-driven possibilities. Alone or (ideally) together, they can streamline operations, create new revenue and partnership opportunities, and radically transform the customer experience.

BAI Communications is helping transit authorities around the world deploy these solutions. Data-backed business intelligence can help position them to rise to new challenges and embrace new possibilities.

What is the station of the future?

By partnering with BAI Communications, transit authorities can become the catalyst for creating connected cities; enabling connectivity and economic growth through the provision of a high-capacity, high-availability, multi-use communications network.

Take a walk through our ‘station of the future,’ and see how the support of IoT and data-driven solutions can further benefit the passenger experience, strengthen your operational capability, and help you prepare for the introduction of 5G.


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