Using in-vehicle networks to securely connect modern public transportation technologies

Cradlepoint Australia Pty Ltd

By Nathan McGregor, Senior Vice President Asia Pacific, Cradlepoint
Thursday, 03 November, 2022

Using in-vehicle networks to securely connect modern public transportation technologies

With the return of passengers’ regular use of public transportation, there is a new desire for contactless payment options, enhanced security and insights into seat availability and schedules. The increased adoption of 5G and the evolution of public transport technology over the last few years sets the industry up well for continued increases in ridership.

These days, a bus without Wi-Fi might as well be an ancient artefact. By deploying a wireless WAN (WWAN) router that supports Wi-Fi in transit, at stops and in stations, passengers, drivers and agencies can take advantage of 5G speeds, latency and bandwidth — along with the hallmark mobility of cellular broadband — to power a variety of use cases.

In-transit security

Safety and security of passengers and drivers is likely at the top of the list of transport organisations’ priorities. 5G connectivity enables cameras inside and outside vehicles to transmit live and recorded HD video footage to headquarters or offload it wirelessly at stations. This footage not only helps to mitigate incidents en route, it can also assist with the validity of accident reporting.

Also, onboard IoT sensors can count the number of passengers getting on and off the vehicle, which can provide life-saving data to first responders in the event of an emergency.

In Australia, Transdev Sydney Ferries deployed 5G cellular routers on board vessels and at wharves, to deliver reliable IP video monitoring and Emergency Help Point services, to enable improved passenger safety and security on board vessels and at wharves. The high bandwidth of the 5G solution means that when streaming footage of CCTV in real time, the images are clear and accurate. Compared to 4G, the reliability and stability of the 5G solution has greatly reduced the effort and repeated attempts to get visibility and access to all the data. Using location-based services within Cradlepoint’s NetCloud Manager, admins can easily track and trace vessel locations and routes in real time and determine LTE and 5G cellular coverage over a travelled area.

Digital signage on vehicles

With its low latency and high bandwidth capabilities, 5G delivers multimedia content faster. That means news about routes, stops and schedule changes can be displayed and updated while a ride is in progress to ensure passengers have the most up-to-date information. Digital signs can also display maps and arrival times or showcase advertisements and visual announcements from anywhere along the route.

Fare collection

Mobile ticketing for public transport not only reduces theft by limiting cash transactions, it also virtually eliminates the need for physical contact, which many passengers prefer in a post-COVID world.

Touchless payment systems require high availability and prioritisation over other network traffic. Vehicle WWAN gives agencies the ability to separate payment and fare box transactions from other network traffic on the vehicle, ensuring always-on connectivity.

Customer experience

Reliable, free public Wi-Fi on public transport is a fundamental expectation for passengers aboard buses, ferries, trains and light rail. This — along with the increased adoption of local transit apps and contactless payment solutions — means the cellular broadband network providing connectivity in motion must be robust enough to handle multiple users, as well as support the vital systems in place for the safety and functionality of the vehicle.

Not only does 5G connectivity provide increased bandwidth, but 5G network features also support network slicing, allowing IT administrators to tailor and prioritise security and bandwidth needs based on traffic type, ensuring that drivers, smartphone scrollers and everyone in between stay connected and secure.

Telematics and GPS, GNSS and AVL

5G for public transit is a key element to monitoring location and statistics associated with transportation. Telematics data such as tyre pressure, temperature, oil volume and even driving behaviours (sharp turns, hard breaking, etc) can be monitored remotely via a wireless broadband connection.

Additionally, most public transport vehicles use automatic vehicle locators (AVL) and computer-aided dispatch (CAD) systems that piggyback on the global positioning system/global navigation satellite system to provide exact vehicle coordinates for dispatch. Advanced public transit technologies use this information to automatically notify first responders, share vital information when an accident occurs, update virtual maps and route information, and more.

Security and signage at stops

While most public transport technologies tend to centre on the bells and whistles of an onboard experience, the uses of 5G WWAN also extend to stops and stations. Cellular broadband can provide connectivity for monitoring passenger traffic, updating digital signage with advertisements or schedule information, and connecting surveillance cameras — especially in remote locations that can’t benefit from the added security of nearby surveillance. Each of these use cases has the potential to improve rider safety and satisfaction.

One example is from the US, with Seattle-based King County Metro. Riders expected real-time updates about bus locations and arrival times delivered via the website, apps and digital signs, but without a continuous network connection, King County Metro had no way to take advantage of GPS or AVL data to deliver this information. Plus, the lack of reliable in-vehicle connectivity stifled the ability to control traffic priority or use a touchless payment system.

By installing wireless routers on board its fleet of more than 1750 buses, King County Metro was not only able to meet riders’ expectations, but it also had access to NetCloud Manager, providing the ability to schedule and deploy updates across the entire fleet, simultaneously and remotely.

Another US example is with Valley Regional Transit in Idaho, which faced similar struggles when its 2G and 3G modems routinely lost connectivity. With each network failure, the ability to communicate with traffic signal priority (TSP) radios also failed, causing buses to fall behind schedule with limited ways to notify passengers of schedule changes. Installing new cellular broadband routers specifically designed for the unique needs of fleets gave Valley Regional Transit reliable connectivity throughout its service area to collect real-time data that improved efficiency and passenger expectations.

Public transportation technology: the future or frivolous?

The popularity of WWANs is in large part due to the flexibility of the network. Paired with the performance of a 5G network, it’s the perfect companion for public transportation. Cradlepoint’s NetCloud Service and wireless routers unlock the power of LTE and 5G for public transit to transform operations and rider experiences for a new era of public transit.

Image credit: Lukichev

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