Information and communication technology (ICT) has fundamentally altered how transport systems are perceived and used. Today, technology solutions provide access to travel information and planning tools, enable sharing of different means of transport, compare transportation costs, make payments, improve the safety and health of passengers and communicate travel patterns. In addition to enabling the development of next-generation intelligent transportation systems, ICT solutions have allowed for the provision of informed, secure, cost-effective, convenient and greener mobility.
Many companies in the transportation sector are deploying advanced technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), internet of things (IoT), cloud computing and big data in order to simplify traffic management, enhance decision-making and improve monitoring. Automated vehicles, aerospace travel and on-demand taxi services such as Ola and Uber also rely on these solutions. However, there are concerns related to cybersecurity and the high cost of running and maintaining a vast IT set-up that hampers the adoption of these technologies in the sector.
A look at some of the key ICT solutions being deployed in the transportation industry…
The transportation sector is undergoing a digital transformation with AI. Several transportation segments have already benefited from it, including railways, shipping and aviation. It will make all modes of transport safer, cleaner, smarter and more efficient. Autonomous transport, powered by AI, could reduce human error, which is a contributing factor in many traffic accidents.
Moreover, auto manufacturers, technology firms and research groups worldwide are exploring AI technologies for the development of automated vehicles for commercial and personal use. In these vehicles, sensors (such as GPS, cameras and radar) work in conjunction with actuators (devices that convert input signals into motion), control units and software. While some of these technologies will take over certain driving functions (like parking), others will fully replace the human driver.
For inherently fragmented industries such as transportation, where close coordination with multiple parties is essential, blockchain technology is a natural fit. This technology has the potential to mitigate some of the transportation industry’s most persistent challenges. For example, blockchain technology can help provide enhanced security, improved logistics management across the ecosystem and more efficient industry interactions. It can build trust in digitised data.
The transport industry could greatly benefit from ML. ML techniques have become increasingly important in smart transportation in recent years. By using deep learning, ML has studied the complex interactions between roads, highways, traffic, environmental elements, crashes, and so on. Furthermore, ML can be used to manage daily traffic and collect traffic data. In addition to helping front-office operations, ML can assist in back-office operations.
The IoT market in transportation is already booming. According to Allied Market Research, the market was valued at $135 billion in 2016 and is expected to reach $328 billion by 2023. In the transportation sector, IoT devices are being deployed in a number of areas, such as traffic congestion systems, telematics systems in vehicles, tools and ticketing, and security and surveillance.
Using IoT technologies, customers get access to reliable, real-time, accurate information to improve their journey planning and communication. With IoT-enabled technology, companies can track metrics like train speeds, aircraft part condition, roadway temperatures, and the number of vehicles at intersections in order to improve the safety of their transit systems. As IoT-enabled systems can better track traffic patterns, they can react quickly to evolving patterns and provide real-time data to help people plan their travels. Further, the reduction of congestion and energy usage has a positive impact on the environment.
Connected public transport systems benefit from IoT technology in the following ways:
- Providing real-time vehicle tracking and accurate arrival times via mobile devices as well as passenger information displays at transit stops and stations, and allowing public transport agencies to better communicate with their customers.
- Allowing transit agencies to monitor progress in real time and adjusting for any unplanned incidents such as accidents, roadwork and emergencies to help re-route and make journeys more efficient.
- Transit agencies can track commuter behaviour and travel patterns, as well as deliver personalised information directly to commuters’ smartphones on key changes such as delays, station closures, or rerouting.
Cloud computing can redefine customer relationships, transform operations, improve governance and transparency, and increase business agility and capability for the transportation industry. The technology is being used by leading transportation companies for:
- Operational innovation: Simpler and faster processes improve internal efficiency, reduce complexity, enable better governance and broader access to data to manage risk, and provide IT capacity to meet business demand.
- Innovation in revenue models: Customer relationships, data and other assets can be more readily monetised; time-to-market can be improved; and relevant partner services can be incorporated more easily.
- Innovation in business models: Third-party services can contribute to the transportation ecosystem; open collaboration and sharing can be expanded; new forms of business can be explored; and innovation can be systematically introduced.
The adoption of cloud computing by transportation companies will also yield other benefits as it matures. Business users will be able to quickly design and prototype applications. A new user-driven, mobile and cloud-centric information technology will benefit organisations. Cloud computing is expected to support the transformation of enterprise IT functions, roles, and responsibilities. To improve agility, business managers will increasingly use cloud for application development.
Lack of time is the biggest problem in the transportation industry today. With the increasing demand for freight transport, transportation companies need solutions to manage logistics and supply chain operations more efficiently. A growing number of companies are leveraging big data in the search for these solutions. In the transportation sector, big data and smart technologies have brought about many positive changes. It has increased operational efficiency and flexibility, reduced fuel consumption, and improved customer experience for companies. Big data is also helping to improve safety in transportation. In many segments of the transportation and travel industry, such as airlines, airports, freight logistics, hospitality and railroads, big data provides many benefits. In this interconnected and instrumented world, every industry including transportation captures enormous amounts of data. So, big data and analytics help transportation firms to precisely enhance the model capacity, demand, revenue, pricing, customer sentiments, cost and a lot more using that data. The benefits of big data in transportation are:
- Enhanced knowledge: Big data and IoT can make customers or users aware of the most appropriate mode of transportation at all times. There are many train operating companies that have already started using big data to process seat availability data in real time and inform passengers waiting on platforms about carriages with more seats available. Big data not only improves the experience of customers, but also increases their knowledge.
- Better customer experience: One of the most important benefits of big data is that it has improved the experience of customers by refining their knowledge. Using big data effectively to analyse repeat complaints made by a single customer several times could lead to a more successful response. It helps in offering innovative solutions, such as smartphone technology, to solve a variety of problems.
- Operating efficiencies: Big data can be used to reduce errors and unnecessary expenditures. For transport maintenance, it can identify problems associated with delays and downtimes.
Challenges and the way forward
While advanced technologies improve transportation efficiency and safety, they are often expensive. In addition, these solutions are not yet adopted due to challenges related to their integration with the existing IT infrastructure, and the lack of skills among the existing workforce for using new-age ICT solutions. As technology adoption in the transportation industry continues to grow, cybersecurity has also become a key concern.
Despite the challenges, ICT adoption in the transportation industry is expected to grow substantially as the country moves towards a smart transport medium. ICT has become vital to customer satisfaction and safety due to the growing demand for on-board entertainment, surveillance and security. It is expected that this trend will gain momentum in the coming years, given the increased relian-ce on automation.