5 ways IoT can enhance passenger experience & safety in train stations
01 May 2022
The rail industry is ideally placed to leverage the Internet of Things (IoT) in its stations & across the rail network – so how will IoT technology affect using the UK’s railways? As UK rail reforms come into play soon, including the rollout of Service Quality Regimes (SQRs), it will be vital that train companies have new systems in place to measure & improve customer experience.
This article was originally featured in the May 2022 issue of EPDT magazine [read the digital issue]. And sign up to receive your own copy each month.
Here, Toby Hawkins, Sales & Marketing Director at IoT automation system software specialists, mpro5 outlines five ways IoT can enhance both passenger operational effectiveness and safety – specifically within train stations…
Big changes are coming down the line for Britain’s railways, and the industry needs to be aware of the new standards it is expected to adhere to in order to run a more effective, efficient and customer-focused service. Following publication of the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail, the DfT (Department for Transport) will award profit to train operating companies (TOCs) for successfully hitting performance targets that measure customer experience. IoT technologies and ‘big data’, underpinned by a cloud software automation platform like mpro5, can provide a smart digital solution that enables effective and cost efficient implementation, management and compliance with the DfT-mandated Service Quality Regimes (SQRs).
1. Reducing crowding
Overcrowding can be a significant safety concern, especially in bottleneck areas, when people are rushing to catch trains or exit the station in case of emergency – and particularly as COVID-19 and social distancing is still on everyone’s minds.
Using sensors and video analytics, it is possible to monitor passenger density (or in ‘rail speak’, ‘Fruin Levels of Service’) throughout train stations, making it much easier to respond to overcrowding as it happens. With video analytics running on connected cameras, overcrowding can be detected in real-time and alert train station staff to move passengers along, or perhaps open additional gates/exits, depending on the level of footfall.
As with all data collection, it becomes exponentially more useful and accurate over time. Over the long term, patterns can be identified from the data collected to improve station layouts accordingly and pre-emptively control expected crowds.
2. Using lux sensors for safety
Lighting plays a vital role in passenger safety and comfort. The correct lighting levels allow customers to confidently travel through a station with minimised risk of accident or incident.
Light sensors, also known as lux sensors, are widely used to measure the illuminance of light for safety reasons – but also for general ambience of the station environment.
At unmanned stations, having automatically triggered responses to faults can be invaluable and make a real difference to passengers who would otherwise not use the station, or be put at risk. If a lighting failure occurs, sensors can trigger reactive maintenance from the appropriate team to fix the problem swiftly.
3. Monitoring ambient conditions
Thermal comfort (temperature and humidity) is another key factor in passenger experience, and can be measured and monitored in real-time using IoT devices. Sensors can measure the temperature and trigger an action to rectify or react to an issue when thresholds are passed.
For example, a drop in temperature below the acceptable threshold within a station could trigger a response from maintenance to fix a faulty heater or to turn up the output of other nearby heating units.
Ambience and dwell time are closely linked. A few degrees in temperature either way could mean the difference between a passenger using your station as a transport hub, spending money in the retail and catering outlets, or simply regarding it as somewhere they need to pass through as quickly as possible.
4. Monitoring air quality
Now more than ever, the health of passengers is a key concern. Monitoring air quality is important in any station environment, particularly for passengers with certain health conditions, including respiratory illnesses. Moving trains can throw up dust containing potentially harmful particulates, such as PM2.5, and this needs to be carefully managed.
Sensors provide train operators with the ability to measure PM2.5 concentration, and alert team members when air quality is poor and potentially hazardous. Those with health conditions that could be at risk can be advised not to travel if dust particulates are above a moderate level, to help prevent a serious reaction; and medium-term trend analysis can even alter the frequency of track cleaning programmes to minimise dust build-up.
5. Ensuring washroom cleanliness
It might not be the most glamorous of uses, but survey data tells us that the cleanliness of washroom facilities is something passengers really notice and care about. ‘Smart cleaning’ leverages the power of IoT to deploy cleaners reactively and more efficiently. By monitoring washroom usage with doorway counters, cleaning operations can be planned in alignment with the rate of usage, rather than to a rigid schedule. Furthermore, cleaners can act more effectively and efficiently when there is a known increase in usage. Conversely, when washrooms are quiet, rather than cleaning staff being ‘shackled’ to their station, they can spend their time elsewhere on other key passenger impact areas, such as brightwork and touch points.
Using IoT sensors and the powerful associated data allows for cleaning on demand. This is the future of cleaning operations in stations, letting teams stay ahead of the curve, ensuring the passenger experience is always the best it can be.
The internet of things (IoT) – and data more generally – is an important and positive consideration for the rail industry, as it comes to terms with successfully implementing SQRs and works towards enhancing both customer experience and safety. The Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail reforms are focused on simplicity, customer experience and data, and therefore both real-time and long-term trend analysis is critical to its delivery.
mpro5 is a software-based digital transformation solution that improves operational effectiveness, ensures process compliance and drives productivity gains and cost savings for businesses, including those in facilities management, retail, transportation and healthcare. An innovative, configurable platform that unifies cloud, mobile and smart technologies to enable the quick implementation of tailored, digital processes, turning complex jobs, workflows and scheduling into simple, effective and continuously compliant processes.