Safe networking can fuel public transport uptake
By Daniel Polomka, Regional Sales Manager ANZ
Tuesday, 05 October, 2021
Imagine the COVID pandemic happened 30 years ago. What a different environment we would be in. No instant case location updates, no digital check-ins and vaccine passports, no remote work and learning from home. Why? Because the one thing that has made these things possible in the modern age is fast, reliable and secure connectivity — the ability to connect people, places and things anywhere.
As the Australian federal and state governments try to navigate the nation back to a new normal, connectivity will need to continue to underpin all parts of society, including our infrastructure.
According to data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in April 2021, one in seven Australians (14%) reported using public transport in March 2021, compared with nearly one in four (23%) who reported regular use before COVID-19 restrictions began in March 2020. Given the recent ongoing lockdowns in major cities, it’s fair to assume that this number has fallen even lower in states like NSW and Vic.
As vaccination figures rise, the next phase of the pandemic in Australia will focus on the return of normalcy, although likely somewhat different to what we knew two years ago.
State transport will play a big role in supporting the recovery of Australian city functions once lockdowns are lifted. Governments need to work towards solutions that will help people be safe using public transport. It is vital to keep improving the transport experience to help drive a more rapid recovery as people increasingly return to work and students return to school. Transport systems will also play an important role in addressing evolving security needs within the communities they serve.
Safety on public transport has been an ongoing area of work for state governments. In Victoria, there have been trials of connected CCTV cameras to improve passenger and community safety. Connected CCTV cameras can also enable live and automated emergency response activation for accidents on roads, ensuring the right emergency response units are dispatched to service an incident that has occurred.
Safety in relation to COVID may require different in-vehicle technologies. Governments are talking about enabling the COVID check-in apps to link to people’s vaccination certificates to ensure safety when travelling.
In Israel, although public transport usage volumes decreased after lockdowns, there was still a need to move a large number of essential workers quickly and cost-effectively, while allowing fewer people onto public transport in order to observe social distancing rules. Real-time traffic management systems were integrated into a mobility-as-a-service model to produce an on-demand transit routing algorithm that calculated the most efficient journey for each passenger and routed buses accordingly.
Onboard bandwidth requirements can vary depending on the need and available cellular infrastructure. Connected technologies like capacity sensors are being used overseas to check passenger numbers as a more bandwidth-efficient way of determining social distancing than streaming video from onboard surveillance cameras. Another challenge is establishing and maintaining uninterrupted connectivity across a fleet of potentially thousands of vehicles.
To help address evolving bandwidth requirements, a new generation of enterprise-grade wireless wide area network (WAN) routers unlock the full capability of today’s modern cellular networks:
- They feature carrier-agnostic dual modems which connect to two network carriers simultaneously, helping prevent congestion on the network and ensuring non-stop availability for supported applications.
- Routers must also be able to handle the connectivity and bandwidth requirements of a variety of onboard applications simultaneously, such as passenger Wi-Fi, point-of-sale (PoS) functions, surveillance cameras providing inside and outside views, and gathering and transmission of real-time location data to back-end operational systems.
Cellular connection drop-offs make the sharing of real-time data impossible, which is disastrous for applications such as location data for automatic vehicle location (AVL) systems, passenger apps and other back-end operational systems. Streamed video surveillance, PoS, and traffic signal priority (TSP) systems are also affected by the loss of connectivity. In vehicles, where a router is almost always moving, that signal is ever-changing and potentially dropping out of coverage range.
Not only does the router need to support access to multiple cellular networks at once, but it needs to identify cellular health so that public transport operators can use the information to better manage their fleets and improve customer experience. Router management platforms need to combine location data with information relating to signal strength and carrier availability to identify problem areas and respond by changing routes. Even more value can be gained by router management systems transforming insights and analytics into visual dashboards, enabling public transport operators to explore their data over a responsive map.
Security and management
With many vehicles on the move and spread across whole states, IT personnel can’t always rely on garage visits to troubleshoot connection problems, make configuration changes, provide security updates and attend to other issues. Therefore, IT teams rely on non-stop connectivity to their fleet of vehicles to maintain the onboard IT infrastructure and to ensure their security posture.
Remotely managing fleets of in-vehicle routers enables full visibility via a single-pane-of-glass interface. Cloud-based management tools make it easy to manage licences and subscriptions, identify and push out software updates, deploy new devices offsite and update security policies to instantly protect against cybersecurity threats. With easy control over every device in every vehicle, IT staff can make changes to entire fleets simultaneously, all at the touch of a button.
Connectivity and the future of public transport
As for many industries in Australia and globally, the pandemic has created a need to change the added services that public transport operators should provide customers to ensure their safety and the safety of staff operating those vehicles. These changes will be underpinned by technologies that rely on wireless networking solutions to ensure secure, reliable and agile connectivity.
Whether leveraging a 4G or 5G cellular network, wireless WAN will play a critical role in enabling this new normal future. The sooner that state governments prioritise technologically enabled safety measures in environments like public transport, the sooner we will see a recovery from recent challenges.
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