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Every journey matters

Could personalised passenger information hold the key
to deeper social inclusion? 

Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to using public transport. The more travellers know about their journeys, the more confident they feel – and the less likely they are to go by car instead. 

The evolution of passenger information never stops and the focus is now on delivering personalised information via smartphones. This not only helps to make public transport a more attractive option, but also helps to make it more easily accessible. This has important implications for people with mobility impairments who are often underserved by public transport.

The future of passenger information

Passenger information has traditionally focused on trains rather than passengers. When is the next train due? Where is it going? The ability to provide answers to these questions – typically via passenger information displays and PA systems – remains a core capability.

But today’s passengers expect more – and that means personalised information delivered via smartphones. Thales is meeting this need with Advanced Passenger Information, a new service for transport operators that provides user-specific information enriched with real-time data. The service can be deployed on the customer’s premises or on the cloud.

It’s no longer just the destination of the train and time of departure. Our goal is to complement existing offers by adding rich content that is delivered to passengers. This information can be tailored to the mobility requirements of the passenger based on their profile, says João Piussa, Product Line Manager at Thales.

Easy navigation: finding your way around an unfamiliar station is an example of what can be achieved with Advanced Passenger Information. “A passenger who does not know the layout of a station may require assistance to find where the lifts are, for example. So the idea is to offer a map or wayfinding via their phone,” explains Piussa. 

Any type of location-specific data can be integrated, such as the position of lifts, escalators, stairs and ticket barriers. Data about the characteristics of these assets makes it possible to automatically chart a step-free route through a station – vital for people with mobility impairments.

Crowd avoidance: another benefit of Advanced Passenger Information is that it can help users to steer clear of crowds and other obstructions. This is made possible by integrating dynamic, real-time data from sensor networks. Data from Thales’ DIVA (Distributed Intelligent Video Analytics) solution, for example, makes it possible to measure crowding levels. 

“You can use this data to guide passengers as they enter and move through the station,” Piussa says. “If a queue is detected at the ticket gates at the south part of the station, the system could suggest diverting passengers to the north part of the station – and provide users with a less congested route to reach the platform.”

Last-minute changes: Advanced Passenger Information also helps to eliminate confusion when train services are altered at short notice – for instance, by letting passengers know when they need to move to a different platform. 
These are just a few of the things that can be done with Advanced Passenger Information. The key point is that any type of operational data – from video analytics to signalling and ticketing data – can be used to generate valuable real-time insights to assist passengers on their journeys. 

Profiles and personas

Thales’ Advanced Passenger Information makes sure that the right people get the right information at the right time. This is achieved through profiling. Aside from the desirability of providing users with tailored information, profiling helps to keep passengers safe – for example, by ensuring that a person who requires step-free access is only offered routes with access via lifts and not stairs.

Profiling can be self-declared (via a customer account) or through analysis of past preferences. In both cases, personal data is anonymised to comply with data protection requirements. “We deal with the profile, not the individual,” emphasises Piussa. “Groups of people with the same types of preferences are used to create personas – and that is what we deliver to transport operators.”

Knowledge of the persona makes it possible to target information appropriately. But there are wider benefits too. “Data from Advanced Passenger Information helps transport operators to understand how their stations are actually being used by different profile groups, so you can make better decisions about where to make access improvements,” Piussa says.

Profile data could also make it easier to get assistance to people quickly while they are on the move. “We envisage an approach where transport apps allow volunteers to opt-in to provide help,” says Piussa. “So if a passenger makes a request for assistance, also using the app, they could team up with a nearby volunteer.” 

How is information delivered?

The beauty of Advanced Passenger Information is that it can be delivered via a number of different channels. 

First and foremost, it can be provided via an app on the user’s smartphone. The advantage with this approach is that it makes it possible to deliver personalised information that is tailored to the user’s specific needs. Information can also be delivered via the operator’s website.

In addition, Advanced Passenger Information expands the scope of existing passenger information systems, with enriched information delivered via passenger information displays and PA systems on platforms and trains. And it can be used by control centre staff responding to passenger requests made via help points and kiosks. 

Advanced Passenger Information underlines how Thales is working with public transport operators to boost ridership, drive social inclusion and build a future we can all trust.