When it comes to smart transport it’s not always about the Internet of Things, it’s increasingly about the ‘Internet of People. Here, Antony Savvas looks at how the rail industry is trying to improve operations with this new phenomenon.
Fifteen years ago the introduction of Oyster contactless cards on the London Underground was revolutionary for smartcard payments, as Oyster was arguably the first major project to show how wirelessly equipped smartcards could find their way into the masses’ pockets through serving an everyday user requirement.
There were relatively short-lived teething problems with Oyster and the roll-out came years before the widespread adoption of wireless banking payment cards, which a large chunk of the urban population now use to buy a coffee, burger or sandwich or other small purchases. Although these can annoyingly slow down bar queues, as some drinkers order those expensive convoluted cocktails they wouldn’t normally consume if paying by more noticeable cash (but we digress).
Actually speeding things up though is Cubic, which just happens to be the brains behind the London Oyster card system. Its new Gateless Gatelines system does away with the need to use a smartcard to travel and relies on us to be the “things” that make the network work. It’s now our faces and veins the system wants, not a piece of plastic.
Facial recognition and vein-mapping recognition can now deliver the speedy boarding that the likes of FleaBag Air and sleazyJet actually makes us pay for. Surely this is how ground transport can be improved in the truly smart city?
Mind the hick
Gateless Gatelines, as the name suggests, removes the need for physical barriers, with Cubic claiming the system allows 50 customers to be able to pass through verification each minute. This compares with the 25 passengers per minute possible with existing systems – not including the odd poor soul trapped between a slammed gate when there is radio interference or if they are just slow [so what if I like to take my time when in town].
With the presence of out of town hicks like me on the network, it’s probably no surprise that Cubic research shows that 70% of the public are open to using advanced technologies like facial recognition to help ease congestion and improve journey times through ticketless travel.
Dave Roat, strategy manager at Cubic Transport Systems, says: “When we talk about the IoT and transport in the same discussion, it’s not just the technology that’s the focal point. While the maturation in IoT will lead to better experiences with travelling, it’s the people not the ‘things’ that hold the key to this realisation.”
All you will need to benefit is your pre-registered smartphone to be recognised as you approach the ticketless walkways to the platforms, and the cameras there will recognise the face you presented at registration, or even the veins in the palm of your raised hand if you’re a little shy.
Never to be outdone when it comes to being slightly left-field, the Dutch have similar ideas in using our persons on the railways to improve services.
Dutch Railways has already gone through the process of updating its 800 trains that service the national network, with extensive Internet of Things (IoT) sensors that connect to a main control centre. In fact, its most modern members of the fleet send out around 50 telemetric instructions per second. Dutch Railways wants our readings too though, to combine with the steady stream of data that is filling its Tibco analytics system.
Wim Liet, program manager for IT on trains, says: “We’ve made a mobile app so people can see train locations and where the open seats are. We have a lot of sensors on the train, and we transmit that data on-shore, even from older trains. The solution has made it possible to improve our business and our customer experience.”
But Wim wants more, a lot more from us simple beings. “Because we now have a platform that we can use for all trains we are getting better travel information, we can not only add data from the Internet of Things, but also from the Internet of Persons. Do we collect that data or don’t we? Our commercial department is grappling with that.”
Data privacy is surely so Yesterday? “But”, says Wim, “when you collect customer information and give them back something that is beneficial, there’s a huge opportunity,” [that’s more like it Wim!].
The author of this blog is freelance IT writer Antony Savvas
About the author:
Antony Savvas has been a business journalist for almost 30 years, covering various industries and has written for many of the leading international technology magazines and websites, on telecoms and computing convergence, the rise of mobile and wireless networks and the evolution around business digital transformation. He is also an editorial consultant for major technology companies.