STAGE | Project Design and Delivery; Operations and Maintenance
TECHNOLOGIES | Internet of Things (IoT), 4G/5G, WIFI, Bluetooth
Smart Stations are areas of influence in a city, delivering the accessibility and connectivity aspects of transport strategies: they are unique in terms of role, location, services and use in terms of time and space. A station is “Smart” when it is promoted in a city as the main mode for short- and long-distance mobility, where other commercial activities are offered to enable passengers to get access to relevant services when transferring or waiting. A Smart Station adapts its services and atmosphere to the flows of passengers and the travel purposes of the passengers, using technologies. However, Smart Stations are more than just the technology they utilize: they can anticipate and respond to the needs of its users, which goes beyond its role as the entryway to mass transit services.
The overall objective of Smart Stations is to enable a type of urban planning called transit-oriented development. This aims to create integrated, attractive, sustainable, people-friendly public transport that promotes a shift away from private car usage towards public transport. Smart Stations integrate connected objects and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to connect three streams of innovation:
- Smart Management uses information and communications technologies to improve the management or control of station operations. Traditional stations can gather data related to passenger counts and ticketing. This provides limited information to enable station managers to understand who is using the station, how long they stay in the station and the services they utilize while they’re there. Smart Stations can exploit several technologies (e.g. WIFI, Bluetooth, sensors) to gather more complete and granular information about user behaviours. This data can then be used to tailor the services offered to better suit user needs and respond to any identified issues. As a result, retail, information booths, coffee shops and other amenities can be located near where people are congregating.
- Smart Infrastructure to meet user needs through improved design and features. Sensors inside and outside the station analyse things like temperature, luminosity and the number of passengers to trigger lighting systems, sound levels, air conditioning and information announcements. These elements are designed to enhance the user/passenger experience and will make it easier for visitors to get their bearings and optimise passenger flows.
- Smart Mobility uses technologies to optimize the transport network integration and the flow of people in time and space: Technologies can also assist in this by enabling better integration with the wider urban infrastructure (e.g. Electric Vehicle charging, smart car and bike parking, geofencing application, pedestrian sensors) and to provide an improved station space (e.g. smart furniture (e.g. that can count users), smart waste management, smartphone ticketing). The technologies (such as dynamic information panels, wayfinding, etc.) are implemented to incentivise the use of other pedestrian routes or other transport modes.
- In considering the optimisation of passenger flows and operations, Smart Stations and Smart Airports (see also the Smart Airports Use Case) use similar technologies and share some other similarities in operations. However, their purposes and integration in a city landscape are very different. The daily time spent in stations can account for up to 30% of a passenger’s journey. The objective of the smart station, therefore, is to provide a pleasant experience to the passenger, while offering a seamless and short transit. Whereas airports are usually used on a less regular basis and require more time to process passenger access to the airplanes due largely to security requirements.
In general, stations that have high volumes of people travelling through them will require more transport applications and technologies to assist these travellers. Stations that are more central in the urban environment will require more diversification of their applications. This allows them to better integrate with transport and non-transport services, which means they will serve as more than any entry point to transport services. They will house additional services, making the facility central to urban life.
There are many unique ways a station can be developed and a range of initiatives and technologies it may deploy. The key is that the development should be done in a way that enables the station to integrate into and respect its history and surroundings, respond to traveller needs and contribute to increase the footprint of a sustainable Smart City that is accessible for all. The unique requirements of users with limited visibility and mobility should be considered with the opportunity to develop unique solutions to meet their needs.
Improving efficiency and reducing costs:
- Enable a better understanding of the operations and operating costs associated with energy consumption through technologies (mainly sensors). This can enable a reduction in energy consumption by implementing green design features, adjusting energy consumption with changes in demand and reduce the need for external energy sources.
- Indicate when tasks need to be performed and as a result decrease the overall station maintenance costs (e.g. smart waste bins that report when they need to be emptied, instead of manual checks on a regular basis (even if they’re not full) thereby enabling staff to use time for other tasks (see also the Smart AI-enabled Waste Management Use Case).
- Enable optimised passenger flows and provide an opportunity to reconfigure station access and internal design, implementing passenger information terminals (in multiple languages), leveraging on existing infrastructure to orient the flows and adapting the quays size for example to the forecast load.
Enhancing economic, social and environmental value:
- Enable better operations and understanding of passenger flows through data collection. As a result, spaces can be better utilised to create additional revenue streams by alternate activities / events / services unrelated to rail travel – e.g. New York’s Grand Central Station regularly hosts cultural events in its iconic foyer, this attracts local citizens, tourists and passengers alike to the station for reasons other than travel.
- Reduce the station’s environmental footprint by implementing sustainability initiatives that reduce energy and water consumption and the station’s reliance on the energy grid and improve waste management.
- Increase integration with other transport modes by installing smart car and bike parking infrastructure, electric vehicle charging stations etc., thereby enabling a more seamless user experience across different transport modes.
POLICY TOOLS AND LEVERS
Legislation and regulation: Governments play a key role in enabling new technologies and innovations. They should introduce regulatory frameworks that protect users from any potential risks associated with these new technologies.
Transition of workforce capabilities: Operational staff should be trained to use the technologies and carry out their maintenance. Additionally, passenger services and satisfaction performance should be revised in government contracts with operators. To do that, it will be essential to understand what optimisation, and therefore what increase in performance, can be achieved through connected technologies and integrated in contracts.
Procurement and contract management: Governments have a key role in incentivising the development and adoption of technologies in stations. As mentioned, contractual requirements should be revised to reflect the increased technology performance and the opportunity for ‘better’ passenger satisfaction. Station managers should partner with start-up companies to lay the groundwork for the digital future and combine their knowledge of transportation with the innovation and technology specialism of the start-up. Some managers host ‘Hackathon’ events to invite such companies to develop innovative solutions to respond to recognized issues within their station or station network and select the strongest ideas to be developed further in close collaboration between the two entities.
RISKS AND MITIGATIONS
Risk: There is a risk of ‘oversupplying’ technologies without using them for specific Smart Station functionalities to deliver accessibility and connectivity transport strategies. This might create inefficiencies instead of optimisation and slow the implementation and operations of the Smart Station.
Mitigation: The Smart Station functionalities should be developed to ensure that the technologies enable the station’s operations to be well dimensioned and respond to specific needs.
Risk: A key element of the Smart Station is that it should be accessible to all users, otherwise there is a risk that it will isolate certain user groups (e.g. mobility and visibility impaired).
Mitigation: Governments and station managers should consider the various needs of many stakeholders and users of the station when planning the construction or renovation of the station and should continue to consider the changing needs of users during operations. Users with limited mobility or visibility will require unique innovative solutions to enable wayfinding and access to all amenities and services.
Safety and (Cyber)security risk
Risk: As stations are framed as public places to be used throughout the day for shopping, meeting friends, leisure activities and resting, and because they are open when other places are closed, stations can be vulnerable from a security perspective. Furthermore, due to the amount of data that is being collected at the Smart Station, there is a data privacy risk.
Mitigation: Station security measures should be designed and managed considering their impact on the station’s business elements and customer perceptions. Additional security personnel can be deployed during more at risk hours of operation (late at night, early morning), and emergency alert systems and CCTV should be installed. The data collected by the Smart Station should be secured to mitigate the risk of cybersecurity.
Risk: By implementing Smart Stations, the role of the station in its community will change. Additional services will be incorporated that will encourage more users to congregate in the station. This will invariably require additional energy requires to maintain required temperature and lighting and may increase waste at the station.
Mitigation: A sustainable ecological policy should be developed which takes into consideration aspects of station operations like sustainability, resilience, energy consumption, the use of natural resources, waste management and recycling. This policy should be referred to throughout the design, construction, operations and asset management phases to ensure the day-to-day functioning of the station is viable and any future innovations are in support of the station’s environmental objectives.
Example: Horrem Station, Germany
Implementation: The station was renovated with a focus on self-sufficiency. This was achieved through the design of the building and the installation of devices including solar panels and a water plant and geothermal heating system.
Cost: Whilst the annual primary energy consumption of the station is 0kWh, constructions costs were 20% higher than of a conventional station build. This additional cost will be recouped in reduced operational costs.
Timeframe: The project begain in November 2012 and was completed at the end of 2013. The station was opened in 2014.
Implementation: The “My Lantern” project aims to remove obstacles for visually or mobility impaired passengers using a station wayfinding and journey planning smartphone tool, adapted to the handicap type, context (geolocation and dialogue) and featuring a multisensory interface (vocal, visual and tactile).
Cost: High technology investment costs for piloting the project. The idea being to ‘tailor’ the technology according to the pilot’s feedback and optimise investments and operations costs for a larger scale implementation in a second stage.
Timeframe: The prototype was validated at the end of 2016 by SNCF’s Accessibility Department and tested in 2017 at Gare de Lyon in Paris.
Example: Itoigawa Station, Japan
Implementation: To improve passenger experience, the station developed a range of leisure activities for passengers waiting on connections and split its station into three distinct zones to cater for different passenger types.
Cost: High infrastructure investment.
Project Director Future Lab