The Internet of Things (IoT) is becoming prevalent across many different sectors and the rail industry is perfectly placed to leverage this smart technology in their stations. With UK rail reforms coming into play soon, including the rollout of Service Quality Requirements (SQRs), it will be vital that train operating companies have new systems that help them to measure all the factors that influence the customer experience. Smart technology and real-time monitoring enable intelligent decision-making, whether it is a busy transport hub in a city or a rural, unmanned platform.
In this article, I look at just five ways IoT can enhance both passenger experience and safety, specifically within train stations.
1. Reducing crowding on trains and in stations
Over-crowding is a significant safety concern, especially in bottleneck areas when people are rushing to catch trains or exit the station in case of emergency. Since the pandemic and the easing of lockdown, it’s more important than ever to be able to easily disperse crowds reactively to allow for social distancing and passenger comfort. Using sensors and video analytics, it’s possible to monitor passenger density throughout train stations, making it much easier to respond to over-crowding as it happens.
Video analytics running on connected cameras can detect crowding in real-time and alert train station staff to move passengers along or perhaps open additional gates/exits, depending on the level of footfall. Monitoring passenger counts at bottlenecks can also be used as part of a “Stop and Go” system, which can trigger digital displays as well as manual intervention by station staff to “throttle” the flow of passengers.
In the long term, patterns can be identified from the data collected to improve station layouts accordingly and pre-emptively control expected crowds. This is essential for safety and assurance in a post-covid world where passengers remain nervous of travel. By managing and pre-empting crowding issues, you create a pleasant and safe transport hub that people won’t hesitate to make part of their journey.
2. Using Lux sensors for safety
Lighting plays a vital role in passenger safety. The correct lighting levels allow customers to confidently travel through a station with minimised risk of an 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 a key factor in the 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 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 food outlets, or seeing 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.
5. Ensuring washroom cleanliness
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 a rigid schedule. Furthermore, cleaners can act more effectively and efficiently when there’s a known increase in usage.
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.
Implementing IoT-enabled sensors within train stations has many benefits, and there is a compelling case for rail operators looking to improve the passenger experience to seriously consider this technology.
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