By Paola Realpozo
As emerging, cloud-based technologies continue to enable higher levels of safety for bus drivers and passengers, it’s time for transit and coach operators to step up with “always-on” mobile broadband service to further enhance the connected bus. Here are several safety-related reasons to choose a connected bus.
Today’s technology helps provide real-time remote condition monitoring of a bus engine and its components. Typically, a light on the dashboard activates an alert of a component requiring maintenance. Connected to the cloud, this information transmits immediately to the operator or dispatch for a centralized decision. In this way, the decision-making process is not left in the hands of the driver alone, or until the end of the trip or work shift. Having real-time information about a faulty condition of a critical component onboard the bus helps bus operators proactively make informed decisions that may directly impact safety and security. Operators can send a replacement bus to maintain customer satisfaction and avoid an emergency, and then reroute the empty bus to the nearest maintenance facility.
Another safety application onboard the connected bus is the emergency alert. Drivers have access to an emergency button within their reach. They can immediately trigger an alert in response to a safety threat or a sudden emergency situation, sending a message to a central location or even directly to emergency services. This emergency alert can automatically activate live video streaming using the existing CCTV system to aid emergency services in real time. For instance, as a fire truck is actively responding to the bus emergency, the first responders can log in to a web-based portal to view video and prepare in advance for the specific nature of their critical response.
Remote condition monitoring of assets, coupled with location services and video surveillance, can also help determine unusual behavior. For example, when the bus is delayed or must deviate from its route, onboard systems can pinpoint the current location. The technology can further detect detailed nuances such as if the doors are being opened or closed at a location other than a regular bus stop. Dispatch can observe these abnormal events that may suggest an emergency and respond accordingly.
Single fog computing gateway and cloud networking platform lowers operational costs and increases efficiency
Deploying Wi-Fi onboard buses enables internet access and solutions that inform and entertain passengers, and otherwise provide a more enjoyable rider experience. Connectivity also enables the transmission of relevant operational data to the dispatch office. In case of component failure, early real-time alerts to dispatch may help to inform them of the issue before it occurs, allowing them to respond quickly enough to avoid delays for the passengers, ensure their safety and security, and maintain efficient operations.
A connected bus collects data from different sources such as the transmission and braking systems, fuel and oil levels, doors, climate control, and, many others. Other devices including digital displays, security cameras, and emergency buttons are also deployed onboard. By integrating the entire array of sensors and devices, and their corresponding applications, into the same communications gateway, the number of devices that have to be installed, wired and maintained is dramatically reduced.
As data is collected from different sources, the onboard communications gateway must be intelligent enough to determine what to do with the data, whether to store it for future off-loading at the depot, send it to the cloud for processing and delivery, or process it locally and discard what’s not useful. Sending all the data to the cloud as it is gathered would be cost prohibitive if using a cellular network. Implementing a fog computing gateway and a cloud-networking platform helps operators more efficiently manage platform resources, such as local memory space, and conserve bandwidth, thereby lowering the overall operational cost of cellular connectivity.
Even more cost savings can be achieved when cellular connectivity is not only conserved in an intelligent way, but optimized. If the platform can also perform carrier aggregation, then the bus operator can create network policies that take into consideration the cost of data from different carriers, as well as other parameters that help operators maximize overall efficiencies and ultimately achieve their business goals and objectives.
A cloud-networking platform, with robust operations management capabilities, helps operators save time and conserve limited resources. Operations management enables the remote monitoring, tracking, provisioning, troubleshooting, and software updating of the communications gateway and onboard applications, effectively eliminating the need to deploy employees to perform these tasks locally. The ability to leverage a fully integrated communications platform becomes even more important when large fleets are fully equipped with communications gateways, as tremendous economies of scale result, and the once overwhelming complexity of large fleet management is now leveraged to greatly benefit the overall streamlining of operational efficiencies that positively impact the bottom line.
Paola Realpozo is director of rail strategy at LILEE Systems. LILEE Systems provides solutions for passenger connectivity, and a range of other broadband solutions, including on-board entertainment and advertising, surveillance and security, fleet management, and positive train control.