IT-Trans is focussed on public transport technology, so it was no surprise to find a strong contingent of companies offering real-time passenger information (RTPI) systems, passenger counters, ticketing solutions and planning solutions.
As a platinum sponsor of the event, we were proud to be leading the innovation and technology display at the show.
Figure 1 - Trapeze stand at IT-Trans
It was interesting to see the growth in tablet-based solutions for vehicles and a continued demand for both passenger counting and on-board passenger information solutions.
The overall trend within the trade show was a move towards mobile ticketing. There was still a strong representation of TVM and cash sales, but many companies have taken advantage of low cost tablets and mobile phones to develop new tracking and ticketing solutions.
The conference themes were:
The areas that attracted the most interest were related to improving the customer experience and how to use big data.
Transport authorities discussed what they saw to be the current digital challenges, including the growing expectations of the tech-savvy customer. It is fair to say that the wide range of approaches to these digital challenges reflected the diversity and maturity of the various cities’ operations. With digital technology responses varying between a simple Facebook page fed by the marketing department to Transport for London’s interactive travelbot, there is an awakening of operators to the power of social media. For many organisations though, there is still a long way to go.
Many participants agreed that social media is already running faster than traditional information systems and the call was made to reduce bureaucracy so as to improve the response to social media. Some exciting mobile tools that allow real-time fault reporting (including damage and graffiti) direct to the operators using social media were discussed. If was pointed out that for this to work in a positive way, the transport company needs to listen to their users and act quickly. In the digital age, delay is death.
Attendees are comfortable now with the concept of MaaS and recognise that this is a key part of the public transport solution. However, there remain issues around integrated ticketing and there are few full scale implementations.
Big data gets planners weak at the knees and has shown that it can deliver some excellent insights into operations. The next challenge is to put this to use improving services and delivering to the bottom line. There are early adopters and it feels like operators are just looking for ways to capitalise on this.
Operators and suppliers are aware of the challenges of handling electric buses. The technology is sorted and the vehicles are in production, but as vehicles are being rolled out we are starting to come up against the operational issues of where to locate charging points, lower range and the associated impacts on block length. Also raised was the need to conserve battery power by pre-heating or pre-cooling in the depot.
Autonomous vehicles continue to advance and trials are starting to sprout like tulips in spring. Some of these trials are now moving to the open road and the need for more advanced control systems that integrates these vehicles into existing public transport operations is clear.
Our own driverless shuttle, Trapezio, gave attendees a taste of the future and straight after the show was sent to Switzerland to begin operations as a licensed bus running Route 12 on the streets of Neuhausen.
Whilst the driverless bus is a relatively sedate, safe experience, Volocopter took urban mobility to a whole new level, displaying their manually controlled and potentially autonomous passenger-carrying drone.
Figure 2 - Volocopter at IT-Trans 2018
The future is coming and I, for one, can’t wait.