Enhancing Public Transportation through IoT

by Daniel Browning

Urban mobility is, in essence, the circulatory system of any city. Public transportation and its efficiency directly impact the ability of a city’s lifeblood—it’s citizens—to reach their destinations in a timely manner. When this system does not operate at its maximum effectiveness, the people who utilize it suffer, as does the integrity of the city itself.

From inefficient routes and untimely stops to traffic congestions, each barrier between a subpar transportation system and one that excels can quickly turn from minor inconvenience to major flaw, especially when considered in conjunction with other poorly-executed factors. The key, then, to minimizing or eliminating these barriers is to not only confront them individually, but also in context.

In the modern era, these issues have become both more complex and potentially more correctable. How is it possible that these seemingly contradictory truths coexist? Simply put, technology has complicated and, simultaneously, simplified the majority of transportation issues facing cities. As such, it is vital to utilize technology to one’s advantage rather than lagging and constantly trying to catch up. One of the most effective ways to stay ahead of the curve is to use IoT (Internet of Things) to your advantage.

What is IoT?

Communication is key in creating an efficient public transportation system that minimizes delays. When blockages or miscommunications occur the effects can snowball, effectively turning one poorly relayed bit of information into a widescale transport disaster.

The fallibility of communication is obvious. Most people experience minor inconveniences on a daily basis due to poor communication, but this can be reduced by removing the element most likely to make a mistake: human beings. Despite apocalyptic films depicting robot overlords, the key to minimizing, or even eliminating, communication issues is to utilize internet-connected devices that can communicate over a network.

To put it simply, the internet of things is the interconnection of uniquely identified things that are able to share their data without human interaction or interference. What qualifies as a “thing” within this system? This is both the exciting and complicated aspect of the concept. Anything, biological or manmade, can be considered a “thing” within the system so long as it can be given an IP address and is capable of transferring data over the network.

How IoT Can Help

The revolution of the smartphone is the most integral piece of the IoT puzzle and is the key to unlocking the untapped potential of city transportation networks. By utilizing IoT in conjunction with smartphone applications, nearly all sticking points public transportation deals with can be addressed.

One of the simplest issues with public transportation is people wasting their time. Whether it’s waiting for a delayed bus, not knowing which routes go where, or simple lacking information, most of this frustration and lack of efficiency is location-based. Eliminating wasted time drastically improves the productivity of the entire city.

By using GPS to track buses, real-time information can be generated, collected, and dispersed. When integrated with a smartphone application or another connected device, this data can be translated into usable information for public transportation users.

For example, wait times could be estimated and updated in real-time, allowing citizens to adapt their schedules on the fly. Delay notifications could be provided to those waiting for particular buses. Pre-scheduled routes could be available in advance to make scheduling convenient to those searching for the correct bus stops. There are many potential applications of this very simple use of IoT.

Final Thoughts

The potential of IoT in relation to public transportation is limited only by the imagination, which should be both exciting and slightly intimidating. From utilizing mass amounts of data to diagnose and pinpoint specific areas that need improvement to dreaming of ways to better public transportation systems with that information, IoT is essential from start to finish.

Whether a particular situation requires a complete overhaul of its public transportation or simply minor tweaks, IoT is almost a necessity in the modern era. If you fail to use the resources available to you, your solution is more likely to underperform or fail. IoT offers unprecedented insight into large-scale problems on a scalable level—micro or macro—depending on your needs.

Once new systems are implemented, they only need to be maintained and occasionally updated. Essentially, IoT-based applications are able to learn, grow, and adapt on their own, according to their design, eliminating the need for human input and further reducing potential mistakes and waste.

IoT is the future of many aspects of life, public transportation included. Several large cities across the globe have already implemented systems that exploit the advantages provided by IoT utilization. Known as smart cities, they are pioneering a field that is bound to expand rapidly, providing examples of viable applications for other cities to follow. Following their lead is a great place to start your own IoT implementation.

Daniel Browning is the Business Development Coordinator at DO Supply Inc. In his spare time, he writes about automation, AI, technology, and the IIoT.

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