Current State of Affairs
As cities grow in size and population, the demand for reliable, safe public transit increases. Scaling or modernizing transportation in a city comes with challenges; these include challenges such as expansion issues, implementation of new routes, changes in population zones, and obvious security issues and risks. To keep systems running smoothly, transit operators need to monitor and respond to delays or maintenance issues. They need to measure the volume of people using transit, and what hours are the busiest. These metrics are then compared to available fleet size, staffing, and overall flow of traffic in the city to ensure resources are properly deployed.
Public transit has seen significant growth in the past 20 years. According to the American Public Transit Association, from 1995 to 2015 the total public transit passengers grew from 39.8 billion to 58.6 billion. Since 1995, ridership has increased by 30 percent, which is higher than the 22 percent population increase in the U.S.
As more Americans begin using public transit, system operators need these real-time insights to manage changes in current operations and improve the experience for users while planning for expansion. The challenge is the often outdated systems and methods that force operations teams to extract information from separate data streams. Valuable insights are potentially getting lost in volumes of data that are stored in different data silos, limiting the awareness that operators could get from seeing a more complete picture.
To create true smart city transportation systems, companies are seeking ways to tap into every aspect of public transit and people movement and visualize these separate components in one place. Leveraging the impact of ride-share systems, private cars and parking systems and the ways these impact city wide public transportation, companies can better understanding peak travel time needs, required maintenance, system slowdowns and delays, and other things that influence the overall system. Operations teams can then make changes to provide improved service to travelers, and utilize data analytics to show with certainty how resources should be allocated.
Adding video cameras and citizen response/alert systems to the routes within a city further enhances the overall efficiency and security of the operations. One tested solution involves the use of Dell Edge Gateway systems (like the Gateway 3000 or 5000) that are running remotely on each bus to support wireless communications and connectivity of camera systems and vehicle health data that seamlessly streams to central locations using Embedded PCs and other secure wireless connectivity protocols. By integrating the buses, routes, and central hubs all together, companies and cities can gain new insights to the operations and improve citizen safety at the same time.
Utilizing IoT sensors (cameras, door controls, etc.) with a safe edge computing environment (leveraging Dell and VMware solutions), operators can create a great experience and safer system for riders and area pedestrians. On top of this, by utilizing these systems, the operations team has access to real-time and historical data as these sensors and devices can track the exact location of a bus, if the bus requires maintenance, the number of people on-board, and much more.
To enhance safety on the bus itself, transit authorities and city officials have begun to install cameras to allow immediate visualization of operations. Milestone, a video management system (VMS), can provide video storage from nearly any camera type that is deployed in the bus or stop locations. Milestone provides users with real-time video feeds as well as access to historical footage. All video footage is secured as it is ingested and stored, making it easy for users to securely access real-time and historical feeds for analysis. Leveraging a VMS allows operators to better monitor bus interiors and review data to better determine conditions on the bus, which can improve security efforts.
As more IoT sensors are added, the need for management and security of these data streams also increases. The Edge computer gateway often runs VMware’s Pulse IoT Center software, which secures and manages data streams to ensure that the vast amounts of information coming in are properly secured and organized. VMware Pulse IoT also manages the hardware for updates the equipment might need to prevent hardware from going offline due to software upgrades. By integrating GPS tracking, on-board people counters, and edge connected IP cameras, users gain valuable insight into daily operations, routes, and congestion levels on a bus.
Bringing it all Together
To better leverage the power of all the data ingested from cameras and sensors across a city, advanced visualization platforms are being used at central control and remote locations. Live Earth integrates with Dell, Milestone, the VMware Pulse IoT Center, and other systems located within the city to provide a real-time consolidated view of everything. Bringing these systems together on a single screen adds tremendous value to data as it stands alone.
The Live Earth GIS visualization platform comes with data overlays, such as traffic flow, accidents, and weather conditions to provide context of how these and other external factors are impacting operations. Operators can use real-time traffic information to see areas with high congestion and how this impacts travel times. Insights into accidents helps transit officials better understand what caused a delay and how long the delay may last, which allows them to provide travelers with current information. While weather reports have become more accurate, being able to survey weather patterns in real-time can help officials prepare in advance for strong storms that could delay or halt operations all together.
Building a strong public transit infrastructure is a layered approach with a variety of components that work to complete the bigger picture. Adopting hardware and software that integrate and speak to one another creates a technological environment where transit officials can visualize and make sense of important data. More and more cities are embracing smart city initiatives. The number of people using public transit is growing. Officials that adopt smart transportation technology will see better organization, better deployment of resources and an improved transit environment for travelers.