Information and Communication in Local and Long-Distance Transport
The progression of our society towards a communication society also manifests in local and long-distance public transport. Similarly to how social media changes our interpersonal dealings, passenger information systems, traffic apps and new communication technologies revolutionize passenger services.
Passenger Management Systems Inform and Supply Data
While a static schedule only states the predetermined arrival and departure times, the modern passenger accesses live data including current delays, alternative routes or traffic predictions. All of course adapted to the individually created and optimized travelling plan. Modern passenger management systems do not only serve for customer information – they also provide the transport company with valuable data about their users. The transportation company can optimize their products accordingly.
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Trip Computers as Multimedia Platforms
In busses and cars comprehensive infotainment systems extend the functions of trip computers and thereby assume the role of a universal media platform. They
- inform about current congestion warnings,
- navigate routes,
- calculate the remaining range,
- monitor oil levels.
Servicing has also been made intelligent. In case of a problem the customers first inform themselves using online services and then request call center support according to need. At the same time the connection between vehicles and central customer support enables a thorough analysis of the problem as technical data can be retrieved from a distance.
Once experts have identified the issue, support can order the respective spare parts even before the customer arrives at the service station. In addition, vehicle attrition data allows inferences towards particularly susceptible components and hence contributes to product improvement. Also, software updates can remotely improve the travel experience.
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Individual Journeys due to Digital Services
At the foundation of all this are the latest evolutions of information technology. The individual traffic elements – passengers, cars or trains – are interconnected, in order to achieve an optimal transportation experience. The result is a new mobility which is tailored to each individual passenger. Only the digital services of this information technology allow for the complex coordination of our different transport networks.
Passenger Information Systems – Quickly and Safely to the Destination
Up-to-date passenger information is the foundation of every efficient public transport system. Individually compiled passenger information enables the passenger or user of local public transport to precisely plan their journey. Ideally, the system enables the passenger to react to delays or re-routing and plan alternative routes at any time. The core essentials of passenger information are
- network plans and routes,
- departure and arrival plans,
- overview of stops,
- site maps at large transport hubs,
- real-time passenger information,
- fares and rates.
Apps for Passenger Information – Always Up-to-date
Usually timetables at stops and stations as well as staff of transport companies inform the passengers about travel information. Today electronic passenger information systems and thus electronic timetable information is the standard. The great advantage of these passenger information systems is that they address a large audience: They electronically display content which dynamically adapts to the current situation. Passengers find screens at the stop which display the real-time departure of the next service. Within the vehicle, displays provide on-board passenger information about current delays, the next stops and further connections. The most important output media are
- destination boards at stops,
- handheld devices such as smartphones and PDAs,
- computer (via offline databases or live via the internet),
- cellphones (audio output or SMS),
- touchscreens (service center of the transport companies or ticket machines),
- screens within the vehicles.
Passenger Information System – Digital Tour Escorts
Passenger information is stored in a standardized format and available according to the individual needs of the passengers via the channels of communication. This ensures that the visually impaired receive transport schedule information by means of an automated audio output and physically handicapped passengers are shown elevators and barrier-free access.
Dynamic passenger information links the static transportation schedule information system with the real-time passenger information (RTPI). A dynamic passenger information system plans a specified journey and then accompanies its entire realization. The passenger information system collects specific passenger wishes such as a preferred choice of mode (e.g. only local traffic) and informs them about the connection service’s load as early as the planning stage. If cancellations or delays occur, for instance due to a blockage, the passenger information system provides alternative routes.
Handheld Device – Quick Access to eTickets
Handheld devices, especially smartphones, are the best choice for using passenger information systems. Mobile applications for passenger information are the interface to dynamic passenger information. Here the app for passenger information collects the specific parameters of the planned journey and navigates the passengers according to their wishes as quickly and comfortably as possible to the destination.
In addition, passenger management systems provide the functionality to purchase electronic tickets (eTicktes) using the app for passenger information. Thus the customers buy their ticket on the go and pay for it electronically. Long standing in line at counters or ticket machines is hence a thing of the past. The transport company on the other hand, has much easier access to information regarding its passenger utilization and can use this data to improve its services. In this way it can identify changing rush hours and loads on individual routes and either react immediately with special services or take these changes into account at the next schedule adaptation.
Communication Technology – Modern Digital Services
The modern communication technologies are the backbone of public transport. They enable the deployment of computer-aided operations control systems, the so called Intermodal Transport Control Systems (ITCS). Based on this information, communication central traffic control supervises the flow of traffic and reacts to schedule deviations and emergencies.
Digital Services as Efficient Information Technologies
The currently employed communication technologies often still draw on analog communication. However, this is increasingly changing: Digital services and internet services are replacing the analog, error-prone communication channels. This enables the integration of digital communication systems, for instance as internet services, into existing communication networks. Current data technologies support both speech and data communication. Primarily used are
- professional mobile radio and trunked radio systems for speech communication,
- radio data transmission,
- digital radio systems,
- public mobile communications (GSM).
During emergencies in particular, efficient information technology is indispensable. Via telecommunications the vehicle driver or a passenger raises the alarm – for instance in case of a fire or medical emergency. Using speech communication, the control center receives detailed information provided by the ITCS. In addition, the communication system provides exact location data, so that suitable measures can be initiated.
Securing Connecting Travel with Communication Technologies
Ideally, information technologies for geolocation combine physical and logical locating. A GPS-signal, if available, transmits the precise location data. Alternatively, if a vehicle is for instance inside a tunnel, the location is inferred from the last reported position. That is accomplished by logical locating according to the scheduled route progression.
Regular operating also utilizes communication technologies. The one responsible can decide, in case of very short changeover times, relying on information technology, whether the train, bus or other public transport vehicle can wait for the connecting passengers. Alternatively, the central control can publish advice to avoid sections with large load and supply alternative routes.
Successful Management of Communication Networks
The objective of this communication technology is intelligent mobility. This requires an effective management of communication networks. The following must be connected:
- long-distance rail traffic,
- air transport and seafaring,
- local public transportation (bus, tramway, subway, metro),
- road traffic (car, bike, pedestrian),
- transport-sharing offers (carsharing, bike-sharing),
- electric mobility (E-Scooter).
Passengers use the complex combinations of different modes of transportation, if they can rely on their availability. The latter is guaranteed by a well-functioning communication technology. This technology connects the different modes of transport and hence promises an efficient, sustainable and lasting mobility.
Infotainment Systems – Marketing on One’s Own Account
Departure times, connections, advertising messages, the weather forecast – infotainment systems in modern vehicles combine, as crossmedia solutions, information and entertainment. The passengers encounter them mostly as large screens. Those are usually placed in a highly visible location within the vehicles. Using text and speech, infotainment systems supply the passenger with important information.
Infotainment Systems Offer Visual Advertising Technologies
As a content provider for multimedia solutions, infotainment systems are perfectly suitable for advertisement marketing. Current offers from the arts and culture can be advertised inside the vehicles, in the same way as one’s own business. The infotainment system with its screens is the ideal platform for any visual advertising technology. In particular this can also be implemented with respect to location: If a business is situated at the next stop, it can be advertised inside the vehicle in the time immediately before – in the spirit of “get off and you’re already there”.
Instrument Clusters in the Context of Digital System Solutions
The head unit, essentially a specialized computer, operates the infotainment system. This digital system solution considerably extends the functionalities of a trip computer. They not only display live data such as speed at the instrument cluster, but also allow information unrelated to the journey to be displayed, such as weather forecasts. The feature set of infotainment systems comprises technical information – via the trip computer – such as
- fuel level and remaining range,
- current and average speed,
- current and average consumption,
- temperature of the surroundings and inside the vehicle,
- notification of errors and defects, and service intervals,
as well as further information and entertainment functions such as
- music and video playback (via radio, internet or other data sources),
- navigation via GPS,
- traffic news such as possible closures or detours,
- news and weather forecasts.
Choosing Information via Touchscreen
The central control element of the infotainment system is usually a touchscreen on which the driver can select specific information. In case railroad engineers realize that a delay is impending due to track issues, they can use the infotainment system to provide the passengers with alternative connecting trains displayed on the screens.
Further, these digital system solutions coordinate the information on how the mode of transport is within schedule and serve to bypass waiting periods in an entertaining manner. If the screens in busses or subways show current news and the latest weather forecast, the passenger can more easily endure delays – which will improve customer satisfaction.
Customer Service – Guarantee for Customer Loyalty
For lasting customer loyalty an efficient and successful customer service is indispensable. Immediately after the business transaction – the purchase of a ticket, a service card, etc. – the after-sales management begins with corresponding marketing actions. These serve to achieve a high level of customer satisfaction and thus bind customers to the product. This, however, requires that customer service meets the customer’s expectations.
Call Center Technologies for Higher Customer Satisfaction
The goal is to affirm the customers’ satisfaction with their purchasing decision and to encourage further purchases. In particular for passengers, customer service is concerned with questions such as
- refunds on unused tickets,
- upgrades or enhancements of tickets in cases of delay,
- development and updates of passenger apps,
- tutorials for the correct usage of products,
- security certifications.
To this end customer services use call center technologies, which provide a suitably trained contact person who analyzes and solves the customer’s issues. A good service management ensures quality by appropriate selection of call center providers. In addition, the provider ensures that multimedia services are made available for customer service.
Web Services as an Instrument for Training
In case customers have lost their smartcard used for electronic tickets, they can notify a call center about the loss and thus initiate the suspension of the card in order to protect the deposited credit. A staff member then proceeds to issue and send a new smartcard to the customer which will continue with the old balance.
Customer support over internet services has the advantage that with constant resources a multitude of customers can be served. If transport companies provide, for instance an app for navigation and electronic tickets, they can also provide an internet service with which the customers can learn how to correctly use the app. In addition, online FAQs explain frequent questions, wikis the basic functionality, and video tutorials provide step-by-step understandable instructions.
Communication Networks Provide Customer Data
In parallel transport companies can collect data about the usage of their apps using modern communication networks. If they recognize that certain functionality is rarely used, they can interpret this as a signal to improve their control concept according to customer needs. Furthermore, a feedback functionality can be integrated into the app, for instance in order to have ratings regarding certain routes.
With progressing digitalization in traffic, successful customer retention must increasingly put a strong focus on multimedia services. As is customary with IT, customers expect constant updates and system improvements. Only customers who can plan and realize their journeys with a fast and streamlined app will be lastingly content customers.