Digitising passenger transport

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This week’s Industry Guide examines the digital technology available to coach and bus operators

As technology continues to move forward at a rapid rate, operators need to do what they can to keep up, or risk looking out of touch. The development of digital technology is usually followed by a rise in passenger expectations, as they become accustomed to it and expect it when they board the bus.

The benefits of the technology for passengers are many. The added convenience offered by real-time information allows customers to avoid wasting precious time waiting at a bus stop for a bus that is running late. WiFi allows them to make better use of their journey time without burning through their mobile phone data in the process.

The provision of these services will show that operators value the time of their customers, which helps to mitigate the fact that most bus journeys will take longer than the same trip in a personal car. This is less of a problem if passengers can make use of their travel time to do more than just listening to the radio. [wlm_nonmember][…]

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Operators can also step-up their digital offering beyond this. More companies are investing in on-board entertainment, usually linking in with a vehicle’s WiFi, able to offer their passengers experiences which they would otherwise have to pay for and offering a service which rivals that delivered by transatlantic airlines.

Operators also benefit greatly from new technology. Smart-ticketing systems, such as apps on NFC-enabled phones, dramatically reduce boarding times and assist operators in running punctual services. They also reduce the need for cash handling and lessen the frequency with which drivers have to give out change. Operators who offer smart-ticketing are also likely to find it easier to transition to a no change given policy without too much grumbling, because a cashless alternative is available, and they may be better placed to remove cash from their operation entirely, simplifying money management and eliminating the risk of theft from vehicle out in service.

Back office products can also benefit both customer and operators, more seamlessly linking the purchasing of tickets and travel with online booking software.

This software can make the process of booking travel with coach operators appear far more professional and akin to something customers would expect from much larger holiday companies.

21st Century

21st Century Technology has highlighted Connected System capability.

Operators have long known the benefits they can realise by integrating onboard systems, and 21st Century Technology understands this. The transport technology integrator has, over the past year, repositioned itself to demonstrate to customers the benefits it can bring to their operations by integrating systems.

21st Century Technology already offers a number of on-vehicle solutions for its customers, including mobile CCTV, telematics and passenger counting systems. The company maintains however, that where it truly excels is its ability to integrate technologies and to assist operators in getting the best from their fleet. Integration can take a number of forms, from upgrading existing systems to full ITxPT compliant platforms.

Replacing systems on a vehicle for the latest technology can be an expensive exercise, with a large initial outlay that can sometimes dissuade operators from adopting new technologies. For 21st Century Technology, existing on-board technology should not be an obstacle that prevents an operator from benefiting from the latest developments. It was this thinking that led 21st Century Technology to create its adoptive warranty scheme.

The scheme ensures that 21st Century Technology will not only enter a maintenance contract with operators for any technology that they install, but will also care for any existing technology that it has integrated with to the same high standard.

At the other end of the integration spectrum, 21st Century Technology has been installing hybrid and full IP CCTV solutions to its customers in Scandinavia for some years now and more recently within rail operators in the UK. The solutions communicate over Ethernet, meaning that the CCTV data can be integrated with other onboard systems, whilst safeguarding for future technology developments. This not only reduces the hardware architecture required on the vehicle and lowers the requirement for numerous routers to get data off-board, but also means operators can benefit from the cross-pollination that can come through integrated data systems.

As an integrator, 21st Century Technology is uniquely placed to assist operators to get the best from what were previously disparate technologies. Rather than directing customers to individual systems, 21st Century Technology holds key relationships with the manufacturers of some of the best equipment in the industry, allowing their customers to have a solution built from ‘best-of-breed’ systems for bus and rail operations 21st Century Technology is not only seeing benefits from integrating on-board systems, but is also demonstrating to customers the advantages of integrating with the off-vehicle solutions of its Passenger Information team.

Mark Johnson, Group Sales Director, commented: “It’s a very exciting time for 21st Century Technology as system integration becomes more relevant to our customers and they require our services to assist in the design, installation and ongoing support for a number of technologies that are fast becoming essential to the safe, efficient and reliable running of their fleet. Whether that be replacing essential elements of an existing on-board technology or ensuring that all technologies on and around the vehicle are ready to communicate over standardised platforms.”

Timespace Technology
Timespace Technology has been developing and manufacturing mobile digital video recorders (DVRs) for vehicle CCTV since 1997. Timespace’s X300 and V400 DVRs, now used in thousands of vehicles world-wide, are recognised for their compact ‘one box’ design and reliable performance.

Timespace’s most recent DVR, the V500 hybrid recorder, allows operators to introduce high-definition IP cameras into vehicle CCTV. With 24 channels of video, including up to eight IP camera inputs, the V500 builds on six years of proven reliability from the V400.

Timespace DVRs are configured via the Timespace Reviewer, which also provides live camera images and footage review. The recent introduction of the Reviewer App enables users to access all of the Reviewer’s features via iOS or Android mobile phone or tablet, thus enabling set-up and adjustment of cameras and menu settings without a physical connection to the DVR.

Timespace’s proprietary PCLink and LANLink software is compatible with all Timespace DVRs and provides operators with comprehensive CCTV and fleet management information. PCLink video viewing and analysis software allows operators to view live and recorded footage, with all cameras available on one screen. It now also includes a valuable face/object-blurring tool, helping operators to comply with the forthcoming General Data Protection Regulations.

LANLink remote monitoring software enables operators to see at a glance the status of all installed CCTV systems via ‘traffic light’ indicators and daily camera snapshots. LANLink features include footage downloads, geo-fencing, vehicle route information and email reporting. Vehicle CAN data can now be included via Timespace’s CANLink unit, allowing CAN data to be viewed in sequence with video footage.

All products are developed, manufactured and supported by Timespace in the UK.

Timespace works closely with long-standing installation partners to provide users with product training, telephone/email technical support, service repair and full product documentation.

Mobile Onboard
Mobile Onboard’s widely respected Beam bus WiFi technology provides powerful passenger WiFi connectivity for any size passenger vehicle. Its Beam WiFi product range has established itself as one of the UK’s leading full-featured, cost-effective on-bus WiFi technology and services.
Designed and built in the UK at Mobile Onboard’s Southampton base, there is a range of systems available, each designed to deliver the best passenger WiFi experience. From taxis and minibuses through to the largest touring coaches, there is a Beam bus WiFi system to provide the perfect solution for a connected journey.

The enhancing of journeys with Passenger WiFi

Passenger WiFi has fast become an expectation on buses and coaches. Mobile Onboard has recognised this and developed Beam bus WiFi to give operators compelling opportunities to take on-bus WiFi beyond just offering their passengers internet access.
Powered by its own open operating system, BeamOS, Beam bus WiFi provides features that make it easier for operators to add value to their on-bus WiFi investment while further enhancing their passengers’ journeys at the same time. Multiple WiFi channels enable wireless connectivity to other on-board systems such as CCTV, ticket machines, talking bus systems, GPS tracking and passenger information. The open BeamOS also allows integration with third party platforms that offer valuable data collection, revenue generation and local offline content for passengers to browse.

Passenger infotainment with BeamTV

Mobile Onboard’s flagship bus WiFi system, the Beam bw280, has an integrated media server aptly named BeamTV. With built-in media streaming it allows passengers to access infotainment media directly on their mobile devices. It is perfect for operators that want to offer passenger entertainment on vehicles that have no entertainment system fitted.
The Beam bw280 has built-in HDMI and composite outputs so it can also easily connect to existing and retro-fitted entertainment systems. The passenger journey can be enhanced even further with GPS triggered tour videos, sponsored destination videos, promoted tours and attractions as well as downloadable vouchers for destination attractions.

A full-service solution

Mobile Onboard provide a full-service solution based around its Beam bus WiFi systems. This includes flexible 4G data plans, dedicated support, systems management and additional benefits such as lifetime warranties and on-site engineer support. This means operators can concentrate on running their services while Mobile Onboard ensure their passengers and systems stay connected.

Distinctive Systems

Distinctive Systems has released several major new additions to its range of software. These new features can bring significant efficiency improvements and easier ways of working to a business. The first feature is a free of charge Driver Online Portal which is now available for the company’s widely used Coach Manager private hire and contract booking system. This lets drivers log in securely to an intuitive desktop and mobile-friendly website where they can view an online diary showing the bookings they have been allocated to. Clicking on a booking will immediately bring up the full details of its work ticket. Drivers can also print their work tickets directly from the website, or download them to a desktop, laptop or mobile device. If preferred, operators can still send work tickets directly to a driver’s smartphone, or print them for subsequent collection from the office.

In the Coach Manager allocations diary, the traffic office is able to see when a driver has looked at a booking and has printed or downloaded the work ticket. Optionally, drivers can be allowed to say whether or not they are able to take on a booking they have been allocated to.

The driver portal follows hot on the heels of the recently released Client Online Portal. This lets clients request and accept quotations, list and check their bookings, view a statement of account and make secure online payments via the same desktop and mobile-friendly interface. A third portal, which will open up online access to the operations side of Coach Manager, is currently under development.

The second major new enhancement available is the addition of an electronic job card to the company’s Vehicle Maintenance System. The electronic job card not only allows workshops to become paperless, but also goes beyond what can be achieved with the original paper document. The job card is implemented as a web page running in a browser on a laptop or tablet device. Inspection and maintenance items can be ticked off as they are completed, plus any faults and work done can also be recorded item by item. Any costs incurred or parts used can be recorded directly into VMS.

A new version of VMS itself, featuring the enhancements Distinctive Systems has added to help operators gain DVSA Earned Recognition, is also now available. VMS is registered with the DVSA for participation in the ER pilot, so any operators who are interested in taking part are welcome to contact Distinctive Systems to discuss how VMS can help them achieve this.

Finally, the latest version of the award winning and free of charge Driver Walk-around Check Mobile app is available.

The app has benefited from a number of enhancements since its launch at the end of last year and is now available for both Apple and Android mobile devices.[/wlm_ismember]