How intelligent software can ensure high quality passenger information when it really matters
Winter 2021 in Hannover, Germany: It snows in the city about once every ten years, but when it happened this time, it didn’t take long for the public transport to fall apart. What matters most for people waiting in the cold to catch their train or bus is reliable and, above all, up-to-date travel information. This was, however, exactly what was missing here, while the snowfall quickly made the traffic a city-wide nightmare. – Why don’t passenger information systems work well when they are really needed?
Many real-time passenger information (RTPI) systems work rather discreetly on most days. The problem is that they quickly lose their balance when massive traffic disruptions occur: a blizzard, an accident in a key part of the transport network, or any critical incident often results in a lack of correct information, or no information being generated at all. Consequently, information provided to passengers via onboard and stationary displays, websites, social media, versatile applications, and even by service personnel is often no longer consistent and can even be contradictory.
The reasons for this are diverse, and they form a puzzle that a modern RTPI system should solve:
- Insufficient integration of systems between different transport operators
- Extensive separation of stationary, on-board and online information systems
- High workload of personnel in control centres and communication teams especially in crisis situations
- Non-intuitive operation of information systems
- High proportion of manual processes with hardly any automation available
How to address all these challenges? There is certainly no crystal ball that can accurately predict future incidents to ensure that passengers will be informed correctly in every situation. However, with the help of good software transport operators can get a little closer to that and make the available information accessible to everyone more quickly. This is exactly where Teleste’s passenger information and management system comes in and what our development teams are passionate about.
There are three factors that should play together here: consistency of information, system operation, and automation.
Overcoming the information disconnect
Typical public transport software consists of a multitude of heterogeneous, gradually grown and sometimes outdated systems that only work together to a limited extent. Different operators in a region often have their own solutions, and even where integration between their systems does take place it often ends at critical points leading to discontinuity and inconsistency of information provided to passengers.
Teleste’s intelligent passenger information software puts an end to this. It ensures integration across all transport systems, subsystems and their generations and can be integrated to various operational environments due to its modular structure and open interfaces. The system can import data from all possible external and internal sources and feed it to a variety of communication channels including information displays at stations and onboard, websites, applications, and social media platforms.
Centralising data guarantees consistency and integrity of information throughout the integrated transport network. In addition, maximum accuracy of information is ensured by always processing the data in real-time. This makes it easier for passengers to find their way around in the public transport system and to trust the operations and services from departure to return.
Making data easier to manage and understand
Especially under disruptions and unexpected incidents, collecting, integrating, and sharing data is not everything you need. It is also important to ensure that the right information is available for passenger when and where needed. To achieve this, control centres need to be able to quickly identify critical information from all the available data and convey it promptly to the passengers.
Based on the conviction that only software that is very easy to operate will be used intensively even in stressful situations, we have built our passenger information management software on operating philosophy that is completely new in our industry. The idea is to make passenger information and the entire transport system easier to manage and maintain by creating a comprehensive overview of the operating environment.
What our software does is to gather data from all connected resources into an easy-to-use user interface. From status of information displays and subsystems to location of vehicles and schedule deviations, everything is aggregated in one place and distributed further from a single source. The system also identifies critical incidents at an early stage and predicts their further development to help control centres take a proactive approach to each situation.
Automation and scenarios to guide communications
During incidents and unpredicted events, the speed of information is essential. However, when things get critical and multiple issues need to be considered simultaneously, passenger information is often delayed. This, in turn, easily leads to the spread of disturbances throughout the entire transport system. Should a critical situation occur, wouldn’t it help if your staff could launch an information campaign predesigned for just that purpose?
With Teleste software, you can create a variety of scenarios and automated messages to increase efficiency of communications and guide the information content. These include predefined textual information, audio messages, images, infographics, and videos that can all be distributed across all communication channels. To improve operational efficiency and reduce response times, the system may even automatically suggest further actions to the staff in the control centre.
The perfect interaction between the intelligent software, transport systems, and data sources ensures that even in exceptional situations passengers are not literally abandoned in the cold waiting for their connection. As governments and societies are calling the public transport industry for help to drive the green and sustainable future, people need to be convinced to opt for trains, busses, and metro instead of their private cars. This is what an intelligent passenger information system can help us achieve – and not only on sunny days.
Stephan Brûnig has been working in the public transport industry for more than 20 years supporting operators improving their quality with innovative technology solutions. At Teleste, he was responsible for the global business with public transport and rail operators until September 2022.