Children have been singing “The wheels on the bus go round and round” since 1939. What’s new today is the tech that keeps those wheels rolling safely and on schedule.

Transit fleet operators work towards achieving on-time performance and vehicle reliability in order to attain safety, cost, and ridership goals. That requires deploying new technologies to improve operational efficiency and predictability. Who doesn’t like a bus service that’s on-time, reliable, safe to ride and has other perks such as free WiFi?

Some ways transit fleet operators are increasing operational efficiency include leveraging vehicle telematics, remotely connected devices in the vehicle, real-time vehicle location, and Internet of Things (IoT) sensors. Together these devices and information provide critical data to the operations center via the Cisco Catalyst IR1800 Rugged Series cellular and Wi-Fi router.

Some of the connected devices on buses today include:

  • Computer-aided dispatch and automatic vehicle location (CAD/AVL). These transmit route and real-time location information so dispatchers can see if the bus is on time, ahead or behind schedule.
  • Vehicle telematics to monitor engine temperature, oil pressure, emissions, fuel economy, etc. in support of predictive maintenance.
  • Fare collection systems for plastic card or mobile payment.
  • Passenger counting, which is useful for route capacity planning and complying with pandemic-related occupancy restrictions.
  • IP security cameras that capture video triggered by events like doors opening and closing or the driver pressing a distress button in the event of a disturbance.
  • Voice communications between the driver and dispatch center.

Operational efficiency takes a hit whenever one of these connected devices, IoT sensors or the vehicle telematics system stops working because buses are often simply taken out of service when issues like these are reported. If the CAD/AVL system goes offline, for example, the fleet operator can’t provide accurate ETAs to passengers on digital signs and online schedules. Loss of the fare collection system results in revenue loss for the transit agency as passengers ride for free. Loss of a video camera feed might prevent the counting of passengers or visibility of a potential safety threat as passengers enter and exit the bus. And an outage on a vehicle telematics system might result in a breakdown that could have been detected and prevented—inconveniencing passengers and requiring the operator to assign an on-call driver and replacement vehicle to take over the route. That’s costly and inconvenient. As fleet operators grow and the number of vehicles that need to be supported increases, these issues are further magnified.

Visibility and secure equipment access boost operational efficiency

Now, fleet operators can quickly detect, assess, and fix problems with connected equipment using the Cisco IoT Operations Dashboard. It’s a modular cloud service with a simple user interface to help operations teams view important data about the health and operational status of connected equipment and sensors, using the IR1800 cellular Wi-Fi router (see Figure 1).

Figure 1 – IoT Operations Dashboard

In the figure above, each dot represents a transit bus. A red dot indicates that one of the connected devices on the bus is malfunctioning. One click shows which system has the problem—such as an offline fare payment system, security camera or passenger counting system. With one click, the operator can learn about the status of connected devices on the bus as well as the router.

With another click the operator can learn more about the failing device and open a remote session to the device, using one of several industry standard protocols, to diagnose the problem or view the device details – providing a fast solution to many problems.

Secure equipment access protects sensitive data from intruders

IoT security is top of mind for critical infrastructure like transportation systems, and we’ve designed IoT Operations Dashboard with Secure Equipment Access (SEA) to connected equipment on the bus. Using this SEA capability, transit Operator employees, or third-party service technicians log into the IoT Operations Dashboard with multi-factor authentication through their browser and use it for remote access to connected devices using common protocols such as SSH, RDP, VNC, HTTP, or serial terminal interfaces, and can even use a native desktop application. And all communication is encrypted over the cellular & Wi-Fi router, preventing unauthorized access (see figure below). This is the essence and power of secure remote access. Lastly, the IoT Operations Dashboard enables operations teams to securely meet the scale demands of today’s fleet operators.

Figure 4 – Secure Equipment Access (SEA) schematic

To sum up, the payoff for being able to securely view, monitor, and troubleshoot all bus connected devices, and IoT sensors from one interface is increased operational efficiency and lower costs. It’s simpler than ever to make sure “the doors on the bus go open and shut, all around the town.” On time, and safely.

Learn more

Cisco IoT Operations Dashboard

Cisco Catalyst IR1800 Rugged Series cellular and Wi-Fi router

Cisco’s Mass Transit approach

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John Szpak

IoT Solution Manager

Cisco IoT