How the IoT Improves Public Transit

How can cities provide safe, dependable, and more efficient transit services that people use to live and work?

Well, a growing number of transit experts are looking to the Internet of Things (IoT) to connect transit vehicles and operating systems to improve a passenger’s commute and overall experience and also provide valuable information for smart city initiatives.

The impact of the IoT on our world is vast. In fact, industry analysts forecast that the market for connected devices will be between 50 billion and 100 billion by 2020. IoT adoption is proliferating from industry-leading manufacturers to service providers. With sophisticated sensors transmitting data to the things around us—we can start to have a better understanding of how things work together or could work together better. Luckily, public transit has also jumped on board in implementing IoT into existing infrastructures and has begun to provide a more reliable transportation service by supporting real-time routes, schedule management, alerts, and occupancy information.

All thanks to the rise of the IoT.

It all begins with connecting public transit to the cellular networks with wireless machine-to-machine (M2M) solutions through public cellular networks. These networks are abundant and highly dependable, supporting everything from safety systems to serious operational concerns. Public transportation is often disrupted by unanticipated circumstances like breakdowns, road-closures, or hazardous weather. The IoT will enable transit authorities to make alternative arrangements and enable them to develop contingency plans for events in the future. This might trigger a transit ticketing smartphone app to offer alternative rides in the area if the bus is not moving.




Strong network technologies can also deliver the bandwidth power of web browsing as fast as what people have in the comfort of their own home. And let’s face it—public transit should be all about the passenger. Personalized information will make travelers taking public transportation feel more connected to the system they’re using. With Internet access on-the-go, commuters can receive useful alerts to make their trip feel customized. For instance, transit authorities can track a person’s mobile behaviors and determine which route a person frequently uses. Transit authorities collect this data by developing relationships with passengers during the duration of a commute. From the time a ticket is purchased on their smartphone, to tracking where they are going, to what sites they browsed onboard—information can appear with real-time updates, keeping passengers updated throughout their travel.

One of the biggest pain points for travel passengers today is the inability to get real-time information about where their bus or train is or when it will arrive. Thankfully, the IoT allows regions to track vehicles with GPS systems, alerting travelers of the exact time their ride will arrive — even alerting the rider that their stop is approaching and to prepare to deboard. The IoT can also provide data to help understand the vehicle and its surroundings. Sensors can update transit authorities on parking updates, routes to avoid congestion, and adaptive navigation based on current road incidents. Agencies are hopeful that a more personalized experience will entice everyday commuters to choose public transit and leave cars parked at home—reducing our carbon footprint by optimizing harmful carbon dioxide (CO2) gas emissions that damage the environment.

States like Utah have already reaped the benefits of implementing IoT in its public transit system. The Utah Transit Authority (UTA) serves two million residents with public busing services. That’s a weighty 80% of Utah’s population. Fleets of UTA’s buses use Sierra Wireless technology to support mobile communications and other on-board applications. It can sense and select the top available wireless and municipal Wi-Fi networks. This means all UTA vehicles are continually connected to the most reliable networks available. UTA headquarters can now monitor their network and diagnose communication problems faster and continually improve transit services for customers.

Utah is just one example of a state providing a more effective transit service through the IoT. If more transit agencies utilize what the IoT offers, it’s likely passenger sentiments towards public transportation will continue to improve. Cities could become less congested and we’ll also be helping to decrease the carbon footprint for that area. Everyday transit agencies are finding innovative and effective ways to make public transit better with the IoT. From learning more about their passengers to being better prepared for unexpected events on the road—the IoT is win-win for everyone.

Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.