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Next stop: the 5G and IoT opportunity

Global Trends
5 Mins.

The internet of things (IoT) and the rollout of 5G have the potential to transform the public transport sector and put it at the forefront of the smart-cities revolution

The mayor of London has a bold vision: make sure that 80% of all trips in the city are made on foot, by bicycle, or using public transport, by 2041. The key to making this happen is a seamless transportation experience. As the mayor’s most recent transport strategy notes, this means “catering for the whole journey, with all its stages, from its planning to the return home.”1

Although overall use of public transportation declined dramatically in London during the COVID-19 pandemic, there were sharp increases in journeys made by walking and cycling, from 29% to almost half. Membership registrations for the British capital’s public bike-sharing scheme, Santander Cycles, rose by 167%.2 However, sustaining these increases will require making changes between different forms of transportation seamless. This is where technology, including 5G and the IoT, comes in.

“A good public transport experience means catering for the whole journey, with all its stages, from its planning to the return home“
Sadiq Khan
Mayor of London

Opportunities for transportation authorities

However, the full spectrum of opportunities is only just becoming clear. To take the example of London, the local transportation authority could link its Santander Cycles scheme and taxis to its existing journey-planning app, giving transport users the option to travel from door to door, rather than from station to station. Short-term vehicle and scooter rental could also be brought into the fold to provide even more options.

In stations, biometric ticket gates, information kiosks, live service apps, and connected CCTV could mean that physical ticket barriers become a thing of the past. Station infrastructure could also connect to low-cost wireless networks for real-time condition monitoring and predictive analytics. Elevators, escalators, HVAC systems, passenger announcements and information screens, and ticketing systems will share data and allow operators to adjust and optimize services in real time

Predictive maintenance represents another opportunity. Sensors added to bikes, buses, trains, and trams could transmit error messages in advance, thereby reducing downtime of assets and reducing service and maintenance costs. These crucial opportunities to reduce costs and improve efficiency are more important than ever, as many transit authorities have taken a significant, COVID-related financial hit.

Strategic advantages

Young businessman with scooter sitting on stairs at sunset using mobile phone and earphones

Efficiencies and a better customer experience are in themselves good enough reasons to look seriously at the opportunities 5G and the IoT will bring to the transportation industry. However, there are wider strategic advantages as well.

Having a secure, private network frees transport authorities from dependence on network operators and provides 100% always-on connectivity. This means that mission-critical infrastructure is in the hands of the transportation authority and dependence on external partners is reduced.

Data will become even richer than is already the case. The transport authority will get an excellent overview of door-to-door travel patterns across more modes of transport than at present. It will also get rich information about the performance and reliability of equipment. It will know about changes in people’s sensitivity to price. All of this information, at an aggregate level, can be used for better planning and forging stronger partnerships with civic authorities, suppliers, commercial partners, and other transport operators. In short, data substantially strengthens the transport authority’s place in the smart-city ecosystem.

However, there is a risk that ad hoc developments lead to a patchwork of solutions that are less than ideal. Public bodies need to take a strategic view of these developments and take the initiative in planning transportation solutions that seamlessly cover their area. If public bodies do not take the lead in orchestrating a holistic solution, no one else will.

Ultimately, it should not matter what type of transport travelers use. What is important is that in a single place they can plan and pay for their trip no matter how many buses, trains, boats, or scooters that might involve.

A technology revolution

The rollout of 5G networks is a good time for transportation authorities to review their connectivity strategies and infrastructure. Mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) will be a key element of such strategies. At a minimum the transportation industry is going to need to ensure that real-time information is provided to users at the journey-planning stage and that payment platforms are up to date, connected, and fully integrated. The number of devices that are integrated into a city’s transport infrastructure is immense. Only if they are fully connected can the ultimate potential of 5G be realized. With 5G networks reaching almost 1 billion people by the end of 2020, there are big opportunities for transit operators – if they get this right. 3

For transportation authorities, the opportunity to replace wireless, or older cellular technology, with the deployment of a single 5G network infrastructure will be game-changing. The increased bandwidth and reduced latency of 5G networks enable dedicated private networks, increased automation, and tracking via smartphones and other connected devices.

eSIMS are being embedded in an increasing range of objects, not just smartphones, and are a crucial IoT technology. Combined with 5G networks, their ability to store multiple operator profiles and connect to different networks can ensure permanent connectivity. This has significant implications for the transportation industry, for everything from logistics to autonomous vehicles and supply chains.

G+D offers secure, end-to-end IoT solutions to connect transport devices and infrastructure. These cover not just the supply of eSIM-enabled cards but also the IoT eSIM management service that is responsible for remotely managing connectivity. Global connectivity enables reliable communication with the eSIM platform and the data center. Quality of service applications ensure that a high-quality network and communication are available and that a range of additional solutions enhance the security of the communication between devices and the back end. G+D’s IoT solutions make it easy for transportation authorities to realize the huge potential of the IoT and mean that there really is no excuse to delay taking action.

  1. The Mayor’s Transport Strategy, London.gov.uk, 2018

  2. Outer London sees 22 per cent rise in cycling as new data shows vital role in active travel, TfL.gov.uk, 2021

  3. Ericsson Mobility Report, Ericsson, 2020

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