“Easy-Mobility” is a Smart City solution, implemented as a “Smart Transportation” use case, that connects people, transportation buses, bus stops and terminal stations, to be able to deliver - in real-time - accurate information such as bus schedules, waiting time, quality of trip, trip conditions, arrival time, delays; and to notify the users for potential problems in the service.
The fundamental objective of this solution is to provide an interconnected and interactive system that delivers accurate information to the transport user in general; and in particular, to passengers with disabilities, in order to integrate them into the system, facilitating access through various mechanisms and media (visual, audio) to better adapt to these people's needs. As a result of this interaction, passengers can travel more comfortable and safe, reducing their waiting times originated by the lack of information.
Additionally, this interconnection of the system allows better coordination of transport units, generating greater efficiency in the operation and a great opportunity for administrators to improve supervision and control over transport management.
The platform concentrates information of the transport units (buses) through sensors, in order to know their current position, speed, trip conditions of the passengers, as well as any event that may occur as a result of an accident or even the activation of any panic button that is activated as a measure of detection of a possible attack of violence in the vehicle (optional). It is also possible to detect its level of occupation through sensors implanted in the seats; especially for seats reserved for disabled people. By providing bracelets or key rings with identification of these priority groups, it can even be detected if the reserved seats are actually being occupied by people with disabilities. Also, the driver could activate a panic button to request help immediately. Since the platform knows the current position of the unit, it can send precise location to the authorities to act immediately. Additional features, such as providing the bus driver with a system console to set reminders for passengers to be notified when the unit arrives at the desired stop, are possible as the platform offers such flexibility; future use cases can also be implemented in the future as needed.
On the other hand, the bus stops and transport stations can be connected to the platform, in order to receive real-time information regarding the units and their trip conditions, potential delays, route schedules, and any other relevant information. This information can be displayed on devices such as LCD screens, LED signs, or other cheaper means, depending on the budget of the implementation. In case of LCD screens with a touch screen, users can interact with the system to personalize the information. Visually impaired users can interact with the system through a device specially designed for them, pushing buttons and listening guidance audio messages from the system. Additionally, these devices allow the blind person to request a stop for a bus, which will be routed to the driver of the next unit to arrive, so the driver that is aware of the situation, can help and guide the blind person to get on the bus. In the event the notified driver decides not to stop at the bus station, the platform will register the situation and notify the transport supervisor.
Users, who are at the center of the interconnected system, and at the same time, the main recipients of the service, can search for routes and query for transport conditions at all times, request low-capacity transport mobility (if available), and even rate the trip and driver, in order to highlight the quality of service as well as reward or punish drivers for their performance. Users can interact with the platform through different ways; mobile phone applications, website (from our platform or from the Michigan Central Station authorities), or the infotainment kiosks available at the bus stops and terminal stations.
Responses to Areas of Opportunity
This proposal contributes to all areas of opportunity, although with a different impact;
Improve Access to Mobility Information
This is the area of greatest impact of our proposal, since the platform provides Mobility information in real time, making it certain and accessible, anywhere, anytime, from multiple devices, in many languages and using diverse media (video, audio), to ensure access and usability to all people, especially those with a disability.
At the bus stop, a multimedia kiosk provides real time Mobility information with the status of the transportation units, anticipating any potential delay that might occur, and providing alternate routes to help people take the best decision to reach their destination. It also makes Mobility more efficient as there is no need to waste time in the bus stop, as the user know exactly at what time the next bus is arriving.
At the transportation bus, passengers are informed during the trip about the current stop and the next stop with an estimated time of arrival. Using a smartphone app, visitors can get notifications for specific places, such as historic landmarks or museums. Passengers may also ask the driver to set a reminder for a destination stop, so they will be notified once the destination is reached. Bus drivers have access to a console to set and check the system on board.
Visual impaired people can interact with the platform using a device specifically designed to take advantage of services such as knowing where they are (street or places), directions for near bus stop, notify a bus driver to get on-board at the bus stop, stop the bus to get off, among other tasks. This special device interacts with a smartphone app, pressing buttons and hearing audio messages from the smartphone through the headphones.
Since the platform provides information in many languages, people who are not fluent in English, may interact in their native language. The UI (user interface) is very simple and intuitive making easy to operate even for people who haven’t felt comfortable with modern systems.
As the buses are equipped with different sensors, not only the bus position and speed can be tracked, but also air quality, shock detection, and level of occupancy; all this contributing to monitor the trip conditions. Also, and alarm might be activated in the event the bus starts to move, while passengers are still getting on or off. This is very important for people traveling with children, older people and those with disabilities as they are more vulnerable to these situations. All this information is sent to the platform, so supervisors may monitor the bus unit and driver behavior as well.
Make Mobility More Affordable
As a result of this challenge, In the event a more affordable transportation systems (such as shared vehicles or low capacity transportation) are implemented in the Michigan Central Station, they can be easily integrated into the platform. In addition to some of the features implemented in the conventional transportation units, other such as automatic dispatch center can be beneficial for both, the potential passenger and the low capacity transport operators; i.e., passengers could book a trip (without having to move to a stop station), while the transport operators will get a trip which otherwise could be lost (it could call for a taxi or other transport).
Connect People, Places, and Opportunities
The platform connects people, bus stops & terminals, and transportation units to keep information accurate and highly available. Additionally, places like groceries, stores and markets can be added as well to keep users aware of products and services of their interest. This conforms a connected community where opportunities are created to both consumers and producers. Promotions, recommendations and information can be shared among the community to the benefit of the residents and workers of this area.
Build an Inviting Environment
The connected community described above generates a sense of belonging as the users exchange information, get advice or help others in their needs and searches.
Think outside the box
The platform can also implement a Smart Parking solution, which provides additional benefits for residents, workers and visitors that drive cars and look for parking. The drivers can find the nearest available parking using a smartphone app without wasting time, while the city traffic gets alleviated as less cars drive searching for parking spots. In other words; time efficiency, gas economy and less air pollution.
Since it’s possible to detect when a parking slot is being used, an integration with the parking payment system would allow to check if payment is valid. Otherwise, a notification could be issued to the parking enforcement authorities to notify for this situation.
Automatic payment could also be implemented so the user doesn't have to worry about the payment. Providing the car with a unique identification technology, the system can bill the user for the time the car was parked.
Technical description of the system components:
The solution consists of different modules and devices, interconnected through a cloud platform, scalable and highly available, which centralizes messages and configuration rules to implement the desired features.
This is the central component of the solution, which interconnects devices, applications and other sources of information, in order to receive, coordinate and send relevant information to the users of the solution. The cloud consists of computers located in regionally replicated Data Centers, in order to increase 24/7 availability and ensure a permanent service. The capacity offered by these computers can easily scale according to the demand, avoiding saturation and lack of response to services.
Public transport units (buses):
A low-power wireless sensor network (easy installation as it does not require wiring) is installed in each bus, and connected to the cloud through a gateway. This sensor network allows the collection of data from the unit which is forwarded to the platform. The following is a list of sensors and devices that interact with the platform (not all sensors are required; specific configurations according to the implemented use case);
- GPS to know current vehicle position, speed, detours, etc. The data reassembles the route that can be monitored in real time, and stored to be reviewed later from the platform.
- Detection of passengers getting on and off the bus at each bus station or bus stop, to ensure the bus driver stops the bus when required by the passengers.
- Ability to receive stop requests from blind people to notify the bus driver about this events.
- Detection of allocation of seats reserved for people with disabilities. These people could use a bracelet or key chain that identifies them as disabled through identification technology, which is detected by the sensors of the seats, and notified to the platform.
- Panic buttons, which notify the platform in case they are activated, and this can activate an emergency protocol.
- Shock sensors that can detect from rough driving by the driver, to a possible crash of the unit, allowing immediately notification and dispatch of ambulance units to the current position of the vehicle (known in real time). This shock sensor, in conjunction with an accelerometer, can provide data to use algorithms (through the use of Artificial Intelligence) to classify the driver’s driving style, and guarantee a pleasant service to the passengers (motion sickness and “pump-driving” impact the comfort and safety of the passengers during the trip).
- Sensors for temperature, humidity, air quality, smog detection, etc. to monitor passenger comfort conditions.
- Reception of notifications and recommendations for the driver regarding route conditions or other information relevant to the route of the trip.
- Ability to integrate vehicle diagnostic information using the OBD interface (on-board diagnostics) and sending this data to the platform to alert for potential problems in the unit, and to allow predictive maintenance to reduce downtime of the bus units.
- Alarm to be activated when the unit is moving and passengers are still getting on or off the bus. The platform is also notified for registration and supervision purposes.
- LCD screen or LED sign with Audio, for notifications and announcements of arrival at bus stops, next stops, connections to other lines, etc.
- Driver console to set reminders for passengers. Passenger will be notified once the bus is arriving at the requested stop or address.
- On-board Passenger counter to measure the level of occupancy in the bus, and provide both; real-time and historic information for the bus occupancy. This helps the transportation supervisors to monitor the passenger’s condition during the trip, modify the bus schedule and improve the service. This information also helps to detect when bus driver ignores stop requests from passengers waiting at the bus stops and the bus still has space available.
Low capacity transport (shared rides, taxis or non-conventional transportation with on-demand routes):
Since most of this type of transport does not have a preset route, it makes it difficult for passengers to know exactly where to find an available unit, unless they approach the usual stops of these vehicles, so they have to move to those places, and even with the uncertainty of finding some available unit at all.
Devices installed in these vehicles;
- Driver panel to interact with the platform, with small LCD screen and interaction keys, where the driver can accept / reject trip requests, read passenger ‘s address to pick them up, or set the unit as available / unavailable whenever the driver wants to take a break or decide not to work. This device can be replaced by an application for smartphones that performs the same function (with the addition of others), in case the driver owns a smartphone.
- GPS to provide the platform the current position of the unit, and be able to assign nearby trips (automatic dispatch).
- Ability to receive requests from passengers, either from their homes or from a bus stop / bus station, to continue the trip to their final destination.
- Busy / available sensors (optional) so that the platform knows the vehicle status anytime and can correctly assign trip requests.
- Panic button to alert of possible attacks of violence (optional).
- Shock sensors that can detect from a rough driving style, to a possible crash of the unit, allowing an immediate notification and dispatch of first responders to the current position of the vehicle (known in real time).
Bus stops and terminals:
Bus stops and bus stations are usually key places for passengers as many seek information on routes, connections, travel times, etc. For this reason, it is essential that these places provide accurate information, in real time, with the possibility of interacting with the users in order to help them with their questions. Also, these places should be comfortable and fundamentally safe. For this reason, these places should be equipped with;
- Multimedia (visual and audio) information panels with user interaction to provide, in real time, the bus unit status, arrival times, potential delays, and alternative routes in case of problems with the usual transport line.
- Request to stop signaling feature, to notify the bus driver there are passengers waiting to on-board the bus. This feature is mainly intended to visually impaired people, to force the bus driver to stop the unit at that bus stop. This signaling is recorded on the platform, and if the vehicle doesn’t stop (when it has available capacity, which is also detected in the vehicle), or it stops but does not allow passengers to get on the bus, the platform will record this driver's behavior , and will send notifications or alerts to the transport administrator.
- Passenger detection with special identification devices (bracelets or key chains), in order to provide a differentiated service to a priority group (disabled or elderly people). These devices are assigned to people with disabilities, so the platform knows the type of disability and how to announce information or interact with these people. The idea is that these people receive a special and more personalized treatment for a better integration to transport services.
- Panic button (optional) to report possible attacks of violence. Optionally, sound sensors, shock sensors or even cameras can detect possible attacks of violence and notify the relevant authorities. An alarm or siren can call attention to surrounding pedestrians, for immediate help.
Support for blind people;
There are several applications that support blind people, providing adequate information when needed, through auditory messages. The problem is that blind people cannot easily or comfortably interact with a smartphone touch screen. For that reason, we have designed an additional device that interacts with a mobile phone application, so that the blind can interact easily. These devices can take the form of a cane, or a handle and have several buttons to interact with the application interface. It also has a vibration element as a notification feature.
There are also autonomous devices that do not require a smartphone, suitable for use by those who do not have access to one. However, with the proliferation of these smart mobile phones, the cost and provision of them makes them increasingly accessible. The following are some of the benefits of this system '
- Know the current location (street, places).
- Get a list of nearby businesses.
- Know transportation options.
- Request a low capacity transport to start a trip.
- Route guidance to specific places, including bus stops.
People with vulnerabilities (elderly, disabled, women and children)
For this priority group, bracelets or key chains can be provided to allow them to be identified by the platform (and all its access points, such as buses, transport terminals or bus stops), to receive preferential treatment and services, and using the right media (i.e., audio for the blind).
A smartphone application enables the users to access information services regarding the route schedules, bus stops and status of the transportation available in the area, including the availability of low-capacity transport nearby the user current location, with the possibility to request a trip. This application integrates with special devices for the blind, to allow them to interact easily and use the provided services.
IVR (Interactive Voice Response) for landline (non-cellular) phones:
The platform allows users to register identification codes associated with addresses provided by those users who do not have access to smartphones, so that they can still access the services offered by this platform, such as requesting a trip from a low-capacity transport.
Other available technology are small devices that can be connected to the platform through different communications technologies (WiFi, LoRA, 4G/3G cellular) depending on what is available in the implementation area. These devices can integrate people with very low resources who cannot access smartphones, or have certain features adapted to people with disabilities.