IoT Blog
IoT Blog

How Does the IoT Enable Multi-Modal Transport Success?

by Benoit Tournier, Director of Marketing, Transportation
While the Earth is still a long way from becoming Star Wars’ city-covered planet of Coruscant, the share of the world’s population living in cities has grown significantly over the past two decades and is poised to continue to grow over the coming years. The UN reports that while only 39% of the world’s population was living in urban areas in 1980, by 2015 that percentage had grown to 54%, and they forecast that 66% of the world’s population will live in urban areas in 2050.

As the world’s urban population increases, national and city governments face a difficult challenge – how to affordably build reliable and sustainable transportation infrastructure that enables a growing number of people to quickly and safely travel into, out of and around cities. Many of these governments think the best solution might be found in a mixed-mode commuting system called multi-modal transport or intermodal mobility. Rather than relying almost exclusively on a single type of transportation infrastructure, a multi-modal transport system enables people to use a variety of public and private transit options – train, bus, bike, ride-sharing – to travel in urban environments. By providing multiple transit options, multi-modal transport systems seek to combine the speed of faster transportation options with the flexibility of others, while also reducing road congestion, traffic accidents and greenhouse-gas emissions. 

However, realizing a fast, flexible and sustainable multi-modal transport system that satisfies passengers without busting strained government budgets puts the smarts of a smart city to the test. For example, multi-modal transport systems need to provide travelers with transit apps that they can use to plan their trips using multiple transit options, secure real-time data on the location and status of their train, bus, bike or other transport options, alert them if a particular option is delayed or unavailable, and dynamically reschedule the best transport options for the journey, depending on customers’ preferences. Door-to-door multi-modal transport apps, such as Zaleo, offer seamless integration of all transport modes in the same application, so that the customer can buy one ticket for the journey, valid across all transport modes. Such apps need to deliver a transit experience – with Internet access – as good as, if not superior to, the one they would have using their own car. These systems need to have data communications that are secure and resilient – a cyberattack, natural disaster or other disruption that takes down these communications for a significant period of time would grind the system, and urban travel, to a halt.

Fortunately, municipal and regional governments have an experienced, global partner they can turn to for the IoT solutions needed to meet these and other key multi-modal transport system requirements – Sierra Wireless. Sierra Wireless’ embedded modules, cellular network routers, cloud platform, connectivity services and other device-to-cloud solutions provide governments with the end-to-end IoT platform they need to build fast and flexible multi-modal transport systems that are environmentally friendly, efficient, safe and secure. 

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Industrial-Grade Embedded Modules
For a multi-modal transit system to work, one needs to know where the system’s trains, buses, bikes and other transportation assets are and their current status. In addition, transportation agencies and others often need to be able to send directions to or remotely control these assets. Sierra Wireless AirPrime® WP Series embedded modules are perfect for this task, as they can be designed into telematics solutions used by the various transport assets in a multi-modal transport system and then connect with government transportation management applications, as well as travelers’ door-to-door multi-modal transport apps. The AirPrime WP Series also features an integrated device-to-cloud architecture that enables quick development of Linux-based multi-modal transport applications while also seamlessly sending data to the cloud. In addition, with an application processor running the open-source Legato platform, a GNSS receiver and a cellular modem with an ultra-low power domain, AirPrime WP Series modules reduce system complexity (and costs) as well as application development time. 

High Performance Mobile Networking Solutions
In addition to tracking and monitoring various modes of transport, multi-modal transport systems need to be able offer reliable Internet access to trains, buses and similar vehicles – both so that vehicle operators can use their onboard devices and other systems to connect to the Internet and so passengers can enjoy the Internet connectivity they increasingly expect while traveling. For example, public buses with Wi-Fi onboard help increase ridership, since commute time can now also serve as work or entertainment time. 

Sierra Wireless offers a variety of vehicle networking solutions able to deliver reliable, high capacity Internet connectivity, via Wi-Fi and broadband cellular, to onboard systems as well as vehicle operators and passengers’ devices. For example, Sierra Wireless’ AirLink® Networking Solutions include rugged cellular vehicle routers, such as the AirLink MG90 or MP70, that provide high-performance, secure, always-on connectivity for mobile applications. These AirLink routers are also specifically designed to withstand the harsh power supply and environmental conditions (temperature, shock and vibration) typical in train, bus or other vehicle applications. 

These routers can be used in combination with the Sierra Wireless’ cloud or on-premises based AirLink Mobility Manager (AMM), a mobile-network management system for real-time control and monitoring of an entire fleet of routers, and the AirLink Connection Manager (ACM) Mobile-Optimized VPN Server, an appliance that provides advanced security for all connected devices. The AMM can be used to deploy, monitor, update, configure and administer AirLink routers, while the ACM appliance can reliably maintain secure VPN connectivity even while roaming across more than one wireless network.

Smart Connectivity Services
In addition to providing IoT connectivity devices and device networking management platforms, Sierra Wireless also provides municipal and regional governments with the smart connectivity services required to connect mobile assets and devices to transport managers’ cloud services, as well as the rest of the Internet. Using Sierra Wireless’ Smart Connectivity offering, telematics devices with Sierra Wireless’ embedded modules and AirLink networking vehicle routers can connect to the most accurate cellular networks at anyplace, anytime. These smart connectivity services help simplify network setup and administration for municipal and regional governments, providing them with just one connectivity agreement, one network integration, one management platform and a single point of support for all their transport services, while still offering them access to multiple wireless networks in a specific geographic area. 

As the world’s urban population grows, the need to find new ways for people to travel into, out of and around cities is growing in importance as well. The multi-modal transport model offers governments a way to create transportation systems that are fast, efficient, safe and sustainable. By partnering with Sierra Wireless, governments can secure the end-to-end IoT platform they need to help them make their multi-modal transport systems a success. 

Read Sierra Wireless’ whitepaper, The Promise of Multi-Modal Transport: Making it Easier, Safer, and Greener to Navigate Urban Environments, to learn more about how the IoT is helping make transport more environmentally friendly, efficient, secure and safer. Start with Sierra to find out more about how Sierra Wireless’ fully integrated, device-to-cloud IoT solutions and smart connectivity services can help your help your region or city deploy multi-modal transport systems that reimagine the future of transit connectivity.