Innovation challenge for new super-fast wi-fi on trains
During 2016, Purple Realtime was invited by the SWIFT consortium to participate in an Open Innovation Challenge (OIC) project. The project was to come up with new and useful application ideas for passengers or staff using super-fast wifi on trains.
The objective of the overall SWIFT project being driven by consortium members Cisco, Level3 (now CenturyLink) CGI and Wittos and sponsored by the RSSB and Innovate UK partners was to deliver Super-Fast WiFi In Trains – hence SWIFT!…. With more and more passengers using rail transport and less than 33% being able to access and maintain a usable connection, the SWIFT consortium developed a technology approach that used traditional mobile operator backhaul only as a backup to dedicated train-to-trackside connectivity. The goal was to deliver a consistent 100Mb/s client to internet service, even this was exceeded in testing where over 300Mb/s throughput was seen to be achieved
The technology and client experience were provided through each of the different consortium partners. The train to network connection used trackside fibre and modified wireless train to trackside wireless services to connect to a datacentre. With high speed and consistent, unbroken connectivity to the internet, new client and service opportunities presented themselves.
Innovate UK sponsored a competition, the Open Innovation Challenge, to develop ideas and prototype applications that could be used by customers or rail staff. The application’s objective was to be innovative, useful or beneficial to customers or staff of the train company. From the initial 20 applicants, Purple Realtime we selected into the final 5 to deliver a passenger facing web application.
Realtime’s submission “My Train Tracker” allowed passengers to launch, from the train portal, a realtime passenger/train location service. The location was derived by taking data from the SWIFT systems which calculated realtime train positioning based on GPS data and positioned on GoogleMaps embedded in the application UI. Traditionally, train positioning is done when a train passes a signal device at the track. These signalling detection systems could be many miles apart and do not provide an accurate picture of actual train position, speed or arrival times.
By having a realtime location and comparing with other analytical data sources, Purple Realtime were able to compare with similar journeys and timetable data to identify if the journey was ahead or behind schedule. This data was then fed back into the SWIFT data centre to be used by other applications linked to My Train Tracker. Partner applications could then be integrated and be aware if the passenger was going to be late or early. Essiential if a taxi, pizza or a loved one is waiting.
Another use case within the app features was ‘remind me’. By setting the destination station within the app, a mobile phone alert, text or call could be triggered when the passenger was 5 minutes away. This alert was based on actual location + speed, rather than the ‘guestimate’ normally used. Very useful when traveling tired, late at night with a long journey ahead.
Though the delivery of SWIFT was within a limited timeframe and on a limited section of passenger carrying track, Purple Realtime proved it’s ability to integrate using Azure and RESTFUL APIs, aggregate and present data in a customer friendly format and innovate based on listening to passenger and train operating company feedback.