Harnessing smart technologies to restore confidence in public transport after the pandemic

As the days of the pandemic finally begin to appear numbered and a return to normalcy is imminent, the government and public sector organizations must now devote special attention to reconstruction after more than a year of containment and recovery. social distancing.

Neil Killick is UK Managing Director of Milestone Systems

Something that will be essential to the reconstruction is the repopulation of our city centers. Working from home, business and hotel closures, and a general mistrust of occupied spaces have led many main streets to become quieter than ever. The public is keenly aware of the risk of spreading infections, and this mentality will likely survive when the pandemic is over.

Recent research on the role of smart technologies in post-pandemic cities commissioned by Milestone Systems has highlighted one particular area that needs to regain public trust to help cities return and economic recovery: public transport.

Although 85% of the UK rail network is currently functioning, research has found that almost four in 10 people (39%) are now more reluctant to use the public transport network than before the pandemic, and one in 10 (10%) said they would not use public transportation at all due to concerns surrounding the infection.

Only two-fifths (39%) of people plan to use public transport as often or more frequently than before the pandemic. This demonstrates a clear need for government and public sector bodies to re-attract users to public transport.

Research results indicate that public transport providers need to take action to make changes to the network’s data infrastructure, which will restore confidence and limit long-term avoidance after the pandemic. The recently announced Great British Railways, which places the rail network under single national leadership, promises improved infrastructure, better fares and busier timetables, but much remains to be done to ensure public safety measures in the area of ​​transport. hygiene – this is where smart technology has to come in.

Smart technology has the ability not only to reassure people using the public transport network, but also to genuinely protect them from contracting Covid or any other contagious disease while traveling.

Skin temperature sensing can indicate passengers with a fever, artificial intelligence can be used to detect if people are wearing masks, and crowd counting technology prevents overcrowding and predicts carrying capacity. Heat mapping technology provides analytics to optimize the flow of people and proximity identification supports social distancing.

All of these technologies are readily available and can anonymize data through metadata aggregation, privacy masking, data purging, and more security options. This means that public safety and reinsurance can be given priority in the return to public transport and cities, without compromising data privacy.

Following the implementation of smart technology in the transportation network, it will be essential for providers to effectively communicate what technology is used and its benefits to the public. This will be crucial to restore confidence in public transport.

Currently, only 21% of people feel their local authority keeps them up to date on smart developments and their benefits, and 61% said they don’t feel informed but would like to be. Effective communication around smart technology is essential to increase public support for the technology and, in turn, regain confidence in the transportation network.

When asked the question, there was no single, clear answer as to how the public would like to be informed and instead it is necessary to have a range of communications – digital media, physical and face-to-face media – to ensure it is accessible to all. In addition, smart digital signage in transportation hubs will make the presence of smart technology in the region and its use clear to passengers.

Instilling public confidence in the transport network is going to be an extremely important part of the UK’s economic recovery and smart technology can be harnessed to make it happen. Smart, safe and reliable transportation will help return and revitalize city centers in a way that supports environmental efforts by government and public bodies, and should be a priority to build back better.

* Neil Killick is UK Managing Director of Milestone Systems

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