Technologies like 5G, the Internet of Things (IoT), 5G cellular devices and edge computing are poised to drastically transform public transportation, leaving traditional systems behind in terms of efficiency, flexibility and cost-effectiveness. While 5G networks provide fast connectivity for high-bandwidth data streams, the IoT allows remote, cost-effective data collection and monitoring for almost any device. And edge computing provides distributed compute power to access, process and act on insights from that data.
Public transit systems around the world can vary greatly, both in the technology they currently use and their approach to modernization. Some cities have the infrastructure, capacity and systems efficiency to transport millions of passengers each year while still lagging in their adoption of new and innovative technologies, as shown by various cities' results in the 2020 Urban Mobility Readiness Index.
Does a city's level of innovation matter if its public transit system is still operational? For example, while Madrid received a relatively low "innovation" score, the city still ranked in the top 10 for systems efficiency, and 16th for overall mobility readiness out of the 50 cities analyzed. However, urban transportation management teams today are finding that lack of investment in innovation could soon impair their cities from adopting new technologies and paving the way for future growth and viability.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted some of these concerns, as transit agencies scramble to ensure public safety. Some of the key areas many aging systems are seeking to upgrade for a better and safer onboard experience include:
Learn how Digi TX64 5G meets these requirements with one cost-effective solution in our blog post, 5G in Public Transit and Commercial Transportation Systems.
With the increasing availability of 5G networks, public transit has the opportunity to intelligently deploy autonomous transportation and much more. With IoT devices connecting transportation technology, smart cities can develop sophisticated data-gathering and processing systems that deliver a better public transit experience.
Public transit systems can create an intelligent, connected system around innovative transportation technologies like:
Together, these innovative technologies can create future mobility ecosystems that provide intelligent, accessible and cost-effective transportation options. Now, many cities are faced with a challenge: how can they integrate these new technologies into existing — and often inconsistent and diverse — IT systems?
How transit operators can deploy IoT transportation strategies for smarter, more efficient operations
Over the last twenty years, public transportation has seemed to lag behind other segments of the transportation sector in its digital transformation. Often, what holds transit systems back from integrating new solutions is their existing IT infrastructure. Therefore the solutions for public transportation problems must have these key features:
Whether dealing with vendor lock-in or using a complicated variety of hardware, existing technology used in public transportation can be difficult to upgrade, integrate with new solutions, or replace. For this reason, Digi's transportation solutions are designed to meet multiple, complex transit system requirements, while being extremely quick-to-deploy, offering system-wide monitoring and management with Digi Remote Manager®, and enabling transit authorities to move to 5G — the network technology of the future.
Overall, public transportation is meant to serve several key functions that currently overloaded systems aren't always able to deliver. Efficient, accessible public transportation should:
According to a study sponsored by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), "failure to invest in public transportation infrastructure modernization... [could result] in a loss of $340 billion in cumulative business sales from 2017-2023." That's a strong incentive for public officials to prioritize initiatives to modernize infrastructure and adopt future public transportation technology.
Put in a more positive light, here are a few of the inspiring points made in the APTA article:
Investment in public transportation technology is therefore quite compelling!
While 5G and IoT technology offer a promising avenue for improving public transportation and its IT infrastructure, there are several challenges that city planners and IT operations teams will have to overcome. Because of the diverse range of hardware and software solutions many public transit systems use, optimizing smart traffic management and other transit systems can prove difficult.
Many transportation authorities and agencies are likely using an array of applications for functions like capacity management, security, fare collection and vehicle travel metrics. Unifying controls or end-user access for these functions in a single interface can be expensive and time-consuming.
In many cases, completely replacing legacy IT infrastructure and applications is not feasible, especially given limited budgets for modernization efforts. However, by deploying consistent IoT devices — like Digi TX64 5G and Digi TX64 5G Rail — transit systems can use 5G to consistently monitor, integrate and manage data-driven functions across multiple platforms and applications.
According to the United Nations' projections, by 2050, 68% of people will live in urban areas. Without modernization, the public transit systems serving these areas will increasingly strain under the demand. While upgrading existing transportation technology may be challenging, 5G and IoT devices provide the chance to successfully make those changes now to prepare for the future of mobility.
With smart transportation, not only will urban populations have more reliable, accessible mobility options, but transit IT teams will benefit from having better visibility and control over platform security. Overall, 5G and IoT devices make it easier to implement smart technology — creating what the US Department of Transportation calls Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), which:
How quickly public transit changes on a global level depends on the ability of public sector stakeholders and experts to gain buy-in from key public policy leaders. In developed countries, transit agencies will have to overcome the challenges that legacy infrastructure poses while developing nations are integrating data-driven solutions into infrastructure that is still being built out.
As the 5G journey continues, milestones are key to realizing its value. In January 2022, in the midst of ongoing FAA and FCC and airline disputes, the coming online of a large amount of C-band gave many 5G mobile phone users a pleasant surprise upon doing speed tests. Although exciting theoretically and maybe for watching videos while in crowded spaces, the transformational bit is still on the horizon.
Digi is very excited about the control that will be brought by several advances:
These will be topics of future blog posts as those technologies are released and made available through Digi product platforms.
On a day to basis, in 2022, most people won’t see these technologies in action. But there are a myriad of pilots for CV2X, driverless shuttles are popping up at large scale events, airports, and city trials. And driverless vehicles are already commonplace in industrial environments like mines, ports and warehouses. The transition to seeing driverless cars on every road may not happen for a number of years, but one thing is sure: it will be largely based on 5G (and future 6G) technology.
Many major cities are already on their journey to adopting smart public transportation and IoT devices. For example, in New York City, the transit agency manages 14,000 intersections via Digi Remote Manager® and a cellular connection to have a much closer view of the happenings in the city. This was done when upgrading the city's traffic management and communications.
As smart cities become more common, those cities that have leveraged 5G and IoT technology and prioritized digital transformation and innovation will have an advantage. To learn more about how Digi helps deliver IoT and smart transportation solutions that move transit systems forward, visit our Public Transit page. Or contact us to start a conversation about how Digi can support your public transportation connectivity needs.