News from the lab: beacons drive accessible public transport forward

Current procedures for bringing the right assistance to public transport passengers can be time-consuming and cumbersome. Imagine a world in which a digital travel assistant was always available to guide passengers and guarantee a comfortable journey. “This future is closer than you think – thanks to Bluetooth Low-Energy beacons,” says Steven Lauwereins, research lead at Televic GSP.

Training beacons to guide the way

In a brand-new research project, Steven Lauwereins and his team are investigating how beacons on trains can significantly improve the comfort and experiences of train passengers.

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What are beacons?

Beacons are small radio transmitters that communicate using Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE) technology and are capable of locating passengers with extremely high accuracy. They can also be used to trigger a specific action that is location dependent.

Passengers can check if they’re on the right train, find their desired coach, their seat, the toilets or the bistro.

Steven Lauwereins
Research Lead

„The amount of data you need to transfer to a passenger’s smartphone is extremely small, which is why BLE-compatible beacons are so valuable in these contexts,” Steven explains. “They are extremely functional without draining your battery.”

Travel assistance at passengers’ fingertips

Rail operators can leverage this new technology to both expand their service offerings and reduce costs. “The travel assistant can guide passengers, push messages, present train topology and serve announcements for orientation,” Steven continues. “At the same time, passenger flow analytics capabilities enable operators to optimize fleet scheduling and gain insights into passenger flows.”

Combined with an automatic passenger counting system, the assistant guides passengers to coaches with vacant seats.

Travel assistance functionalities

  • Personalized passenger information, including boarding and connections
  • Wayfinding (seats, toilets, bistro, etc.)
  • Passenger flow analytics
  • Ticket control
  • Service calls
  • Luggage tracking

A combined industry-academic effort

This research project gathers university research group and industry players with different specialisations. Their shared goal is to develop the first high-resolution passenger localization system for rail vehicles by 2024, with research outcomes fueling the creation of a passenger information system.

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