Why IoT is Key to Britain getting from A to B


The UK has always been a country on the move, but the last few months have seen our public transport network come very close to totally shutting down. The pandemic saw train and bus services restricted to essential travel only, with the number of journeys on national rail falling to just above 10 percent of their average. As the public transport sector begins to slowly open up once more to the wider public, a number of measures will have to be put in place to help keep passengers and staff safe from the threat of Covid-19.

The most notable of all the measures so far announced by the public transport sector to keep passengers and staff safe is the introduction of the mandatory wearing of face masks on trains, tubes and buses. However, whilst this can be enforced by transport staff, it very much depends on public acceptance of responsibility. So how can public transport companies take concrete steps to ensure the safety of both passengers and staff without having to necessarily rely so heavily on public compliance?

Digital transformation can seem like a big, scary prospect for any organisation. The reality, however, is that digital transformation can often be something as simple as deploying small sensor devices in order to get a better understanding of what is going on “on the ground”. Monitoring train stations or public transport vehicles in real time with these sensors, through an integrated “Internet of Things (IoT)” system, can deliver the simplest and most effective way in which to ensure the sector is ready to cope with the easing of lockdown.

In the same way that footfall is managed at a sports stadium or facilities managed in a shopping centre, transport hubs too need to be transformed into smart stations in order to keep the public and their staff safe whilst getting the country moving again. This can be done with sensors and other IoT endpoints, measuring things as diverse as the number of people in a crowd at a train station to the cleanliness of bathrooms onboard a train. This information is then fed back to management teams and frontline workers to give staff members maximum visibility over what is happening on their “patch”. The information is used to inform frontline workers about a number of things that will help to keep both them and passengers safe. This data could, for example, show which tasks should take priority in order to keep to stricter hygiene regimes, or it could advise staff to avoid certain parts of a station when there are large numbers of passengers in a specific area to help them work in a safe and socially distanced environment.

These sensors are becoming more and more innovative to meet the demands of the new normal. For example, we are currently working with a prominent rail client to launch a LoRaWAN people counting system which measures signal density in specific areas; if it detects a high volume of mobile devices in one space then staff are directed there to disperse the crowds and monitor the area. Such technology is invaluable in giving real time insights into the state of a frontline working environment and helping the sector to keep both staff and passengers safe.

Effective workplace monitoring and management will be critical to the public transport sector as we continue to ease lockdown restrictions. If organisations want to get Britain moving again, they must begin to think about using technology to help them keep both their passengers and their staff safe.


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