Following Euro Bus Expo 2018, and amid a growing interest in cloud technologies within the transport sector, Iain Stringer, Divisional Director at Synectics, discusses the benefits of "the cloud" and how bus and coach operators can be ready to make the most of future developments.
First of all, what exactly is meant by “the cloud”?
Think of the cloud as a virtual location where data is maintained, managed, backed up remotely, and made available over a network (typically the Internet) through any web-enabled device. This means users don’t have to be in the same physical place, or even organization, to draw on that information. The ability for any authorized user to securely view video and interrogate data from any connected device opens up huge potential in terms of video and data analysis.
“The benefits afforded by cloud technology support all sectors and industries, but how this connected capability is used, specifically for the transport sector, is where things get really interesting.”
What specific benefits does the cloud offer the industry?
Data analysis is actually a good place to start. IP cameras, GPS, telematics systems, passenger counters, and CAN bus information are commonly found on buses. They are often web-enabled, either by way of direct transmission capabilities or via integration with on-board solutions (such as NVRs) that consolidate information and support streaming of video, audio, and operational data over cellular networks or Wi-Fi.
So what happens if all this disparate data is stored in the cloud? Suddenly, bus and coach operators have the very real opportunity to extract the data in real time, apply analytics, and create tailored dashboards – presenting information as charts, graphs, and statistics – to help support fleet management and critical decision-making.
In addition to the range of benefits made possible by real-time data access, monitoring, and sharing, cloud-based storage and software services can significantly reduce the costs of hardware, setup outlay, and ongoing maintenance.
Can data stored in the cloud also be shared with third parties?
Yes, and that’s another important benefit. Let’s take surveillance as an example. Footage from IP cameras can now be streamed and reviewed remotely for quick investigation of evidence pertaining to recent or ongoing incidents. With cloud-compatible evidence-sharing solutions, this footage – whether relating to an accident, criminal act, or say a missing person – can be securely accessed by, or automatically pushed to, authorized police colleagues or other relevant agencies. We recently demonstrated this type of capability as part of our technology preview at Euro Bus.
“The implications for more connected working between bus operators and key urban agencies are significant, not just in terms of incident response but also regarding joint decision-making on more efficient transport infrastructure planning.”
What technology do operators need to have in place?
Considering so many of the building blocks are already in place, the fundamental necessity is simple – ensuring that key systems and devices on board vehicles are IP/web-enabled. This is one of the main reasons why migration to IP cameras has become increasingly more relevant to the bus industry. Everything flows from there.
The key then is to unify, manage, and make sense of the data generated by the various devices and appliances found across a fleet. Where operators can really realize value is by having a platform that provides the integration capability to combine data from all these systems. This then enables the application of rules, alerts, and workflows that will support efficient fleet management and improve operational processes. In other words, utilizing the cloud with an overarching platform – like Synectics’ Synergy 3 software – allows operators to securely share, monitor, and manage information in real time and in a purposeful way.