The Connected Bus
The benefits of
By Estee Woods
As riders become more “wired,” transit agencies are modifying their services to be more in line with modern technology. Cloud-based management frees up agency resources in this regard, enabling agencies to reduce their in-house responsibilities and provide faster, better service for riders.
King County, WA, has become one of America’s major technology hubs. Large companies such as Microsoft, Amazon, and Google have major offices there, and hundreds of smaller technology companies have started up in the greater Seattle area.
With so many hi-tech employees using public transportation, King County decided it could serve its ridership better by providing Wi-Fi access on its RapidRide commuter bus lines. After an extensive search and in-depth testing, the County’s Metro Transit Division’s System Development & Operations Group implemented Cradlepoint LTE networking solutions in its fleet of high-end commuter buses.
The county’s Vehicle Maintenance Section installed the devices in 113 buses, and then implemented Cradlepoint Enterprise Cloud Manager so the team could monitor and manage all the devices from one central location. The county’s transit department and its riders soon saw the benefits associated with cloud-based management across the network.
Greg Debo, former IT project manager at King County Metro Transit, and Tony Puopolo, vice president of product management at Cradlepoint, offer best practices and answer frequently asked questions about the intricacies and benefits of cloud-based management for public transit.
What are some of the top-level management advantages realized by agencies using cloud-based networking?
As a government entity answerable to taxpayers, transit agencies are continually trying to find ways to do more with less. System administrators have to oversee entire mobile networks with a limited number of staff.
There are significant IT cost savings associated with cloud-based management. An agency can have a central administrator who’s trained on the system in a short period of time, because it’s all GUI-based as opposed to traditional management interfaces. That means simpler training and reduced costs associated with networked devices.
Cloud-based management enables administrators to be proactive, to see problems as they develop, and to implement solutions that keep networked devices up and running.
Error-free rollbacks are another advantage to Cradlepoint’s cloud-based management. If an administrator accidentally types in the wrong APN or misconfigures something, devices out in the field can roll back to their connected state without interrupting service. Those kinds of protections are available in advanced cloud-based systems like the one from Cradlepoint, allowing for less user error and less downtime than in older systems.
What’s involved with updating devices on the network?
Cloud networks allow for remote, group-based updates in minutes, not hours. System administrators can roll out an update to the entire fleet remotely, without sending anyone into the field. This is called zero-touch configuration. Without the cloud, that same update requires bringing in every vehicle, one by one.
Content filtering, anti-virus and anti-malware software – all can be modified, updated and implemented instantly. Furthermore, it’s less of a bandwidth hit because everything resides on the cloud.
What benefits are there for the riders of agencies using cloud-based networking?
Aside from the stated benefit of less service interruptions, the flexibility associated with cloud-based networking also boosts customer satisfaction. If, for example, riders are complaining about low bandwidth on a route that offers Wi-Fi, system administrators can instantly respond to those complaints and make appropriate network changes, such as changing the wireless service provider. Remote, real-time control is good for administrators and for riders.
Greg Debo is the former IT project manager for King County Metro Transit in Seattle, WA. Tony Puopolo serves as vice president of product management for Cradlepoint, Inc. in Boise, Idaho. Cradlepoint is the global leader in 4G LTE networking solutions that power transportation fleets — joining data, cloud, security, and the evolving IoT with intelligent networking. Visit them online at www.cradlepoint.com.