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The Internet of Everything: Transforming the UK’s transport infrastructure

The UK transport infrastructure is already at nearly 100 per cent capacity. With a rise in population and an increase in expectations for smarter, quicker and more efficient travel options, it is crucial that the industry is digitised to benefit from what the Internet of Everything (IoE) has to offer.

According to the CBI’s ‘Bold Thinking: Roads’ report, congestion alone costs the UK economy up to £8 billion a year, but with new innovative approaches and by connecting the unconnected through the use of the IoE, these challenges can start to be addressed.

Cisco’s ‘IoE: Bringing the future to life’ report states that over 74 per cent of adults now own a smartphone. This figure, which continues to rise, represents a huge untapped opportunity to connect people, processes, data and things and use this insight to improve services and user experiences on a national and global scale. Examples of this can be seen in the use of on-train cameras, which are now able to link to mobile applications to advise passengers on which carriages to join during a busy commute, as well as provide updates on whether a later train may be less crowded and therefore provide a more comfortable experience.

In addition, more stations are now adopting a ‘Station-as-a-service (StaaS) approach, which creates in-house connectivity that connects operators, security providers, passengers and retailers through a single IP infrastructure. By adopting new approaches and allowing these parties to ‘talk’ to each other, station safety can be improved, management capabilities enhanced and ultimately, revitalise the customer experience.

IoE powering more efficient railways

The IoE has the ability to transform the way in which the rail industry is monitored and used to its maximum capacity if applied to the 20,000 miles of track, 2,500 stations and more than 40,000 bridges and tunnels the rail network relies on to function in the UK.

Nearly half of the UK rail network is currently electrified and Network Rail has ambitions to further extend this to meet increasing consumer needs and combat congestion. By utilising IoE technology, temperature, humidity and energy performances can be automatically monitored and altered from IP-enabled devices. At the same time, IoE can deliver more visibility and access to crucial data to drive greater efficiency and ultimately improve the safety of passengers and workers alike.

IoE keeping traffic flowing

By digitally connecting the unconnected, devices can provide status reports on hazards on both the UK’s railways and road network. At last count, the UK’s roads were packed with 34.5 million licensed vehicles and it is estimated that almost a third of all traffic in cities is caused by people searching for parking spaces.

This further adds to the congestion and over-crowding on critical roads and adds to the valuable time that is wasted by those stuck in unnecessary jams. An example of IoE in action can be found on the streets of Barcelona, which has enlisted the help of Cisco and Streetline to help keep the city moving. By embedding sensors in the pavement at Born Square, various data insights can be communicated on occupancy levels, usage and pattern trends, all direct to a mobile app.

This not only keeps the traffic flowing, it also allows people to plan their journey more effectively, avoiding disruption and optimising commuter experience.

IoE improving road safety

According to the CBI, 95 per cent of business leaders cite that the UK’s roads are important to their business and its productivity, but nearly two-thirds are dissatisfied with the current network. This figure is only set to rise with the increasing population, number of vehicles and amount of congestion on our roads and is critically an economic threat that needs to be re-assessed.

For example, just one incident on the M25 in 2011, which closed junction 11, cost the economy upwards of £1.74m through delayed meetings, lack of productivity and loss of crucial opportunities. Therefore, there is a real and urgent need to improve both the safety and efficiency of the UK’s roads, which is why the UK is starting to incorporate and utilise IoE technology.

There are already examples that show exactly how IoE technology can deliver impact abroad. By utilising the IoE and real time data and analytics, the Port of Hamburg alongside Cisco has delivered Europe’s first ever ‘smartROAD’, which allows incidents to be detected and reported automatically. In addition, the deployment of ‘Follow Me Lighting’, which uses cameras and data analytics to track cyclists and pedestrians in the area ensuring there is sufficient visibility, is enhancing safety for commuters in the port. Both these initiatives help to improve both resource management as well as traffic flow, costs, energy and ultimately optimise public safety.

The future of transport

It cannot be denied that the UK’s transport network, much like technology, is part of the foundation of the British economy and key to improving business productivity. However, as the sheer number of commuters puts pressure on the transport infrastructure, it is crucial that new technology is adopted and new methods introduced to ensure efficiency, create new revenue opportunities and ultimately improve the safety of passengers across the UK.

By connecting the unconnected and utilising the real-time data IoE makes available, we will be able to create a better transport experience for all.

Alison Vincent, CTO, Cisco UKI

Image source: Shutterstock/stocker1970

Alison Vincent
Dr Alison Vincent is the Chief Technology Officer for Cisco in the UK and Ireland. She is a senior technical executive with 25 years experience in international leadership of software projects.