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Why tech solutions are a must for safe and reliable public transport systems

Sep 25. 2019
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By HELEN MASTERS
SPECIAL TO THE NATION

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Preparing and remained at the ready for a vast variety of contingencies is a top priority for those tasked with keeping public transportation systems running without delays or failures. However, budgets for maintaining assets and vehicles are often strained, forcing managers to make difficult repair-or-replace decisions concerning ailing fleets. Fortunately, smart technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) and predictive analytics can help.

Many cities are exploring ways to adopt digitization and apply smart technologies to make systems more efficient, safe, sustainable, and responsive to the community’s needs. According to the 3-year Digitization Plan of the Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning (2017-2019), the collaboration with various government sectors such as the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society and the Ministry of Transport aims to improve on the digital infrastructure to establish better transportation crisis management and to facilitate better services to support both the logistics and public transportation in Thailand. However, the issues are complex. The total volume of travel in Bangkok and its vicinity in 2017 had risen to 32.65 million trips per day, according to the Travel Demand Survey conducted by the Office. As such, managing public transportation in metro areas, especially in Bangkok with its constantly rising population, has become a juggling act to keep costs in line, while also accommodating the shifting needs of the community and complying with federal mandates for public transportation safety.

New housing developments, changes in population demographics, and evolving workplace travel patterns all contribute to the need for agility in planning. Transportation managers must also be aware of value-added factors that impact community satisfaction such as accessibility for the elderly.

According to the Department of Land Transport, the condition of assets, from bus fleets to ride-share bikes, must be tracked and monitored for performance issues, preventive maintenance and lifecycle projections. The parts and components included in each vehicle, like tyres or brake systems, also require their own maintenance and projected lifespan. For example, computerized components are likely to have short lifespans, needing frequent updates.

If reliability is diminished by frequent breakdowns, the public will become frustrated and seek alternatives, hurting revenue. With budgets compromised, maintaining fleets becomes even more challenging, further escalating into a downward spiral. It is essential to stop that progressive threat before it gains momentum.

Mandates from the State Audit Office to verify the proper use of federal funds have intensified the need for advanced reporting tools and system-wide visibility. The requirement to document the safety plans of the Department of Land Transport add to the pressures local transit authorities face. These include the planning of the Ministry of Transport’s regulation to enforce new time adjustment for trucks to travel only between midnight  and 4am, and not during the day and the controversial adjustment to increase the speed limit up to 120 km/hr. 

Modern IT solutions can play a major role in monitoring fleet health and keeping assets performing as needed, as well as providing intelligence and insight about the evolving community demands. For example, a modern Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) solution will provide the ability to track and monitor assets, schedule preventive maintenance, and record as-serviced details. With a mature deployment model, managers can be proactive in responding to signs of diminished performance, intervening before a part or component fails. Progressive managers can take the system a step further and develop asset assessments which assign scores based on condition, value, and cost to replace. This supports strategic planning for investing capital and maintaining continuity of service.

Sensors embedded in vehicles can track a wide range of physical attributes, monitoring for early warning signs of potential issues. Data that falls outside of the set parameters trigger an automated response, such as scheduling a technician to inspect or replace a part. Sensors can also be installed in key locations, like bridges or highway on-ramps, to help monitor traffic patterns along with relevant context, such as weather or time of day. This data can provide insights about areas of congestion and when or where the transit schedule may need to be adjusted. Data generated from IoT can also be packaged into a consumable format and turned into a new revenue model.

Modern compliance and reporting tools make it easier to verify that federal funds are being used in accordance with State Audit Office mandates while supporting Land Traffic Act guidelines. With the ability to drill into expense details, evaluate risks, and maintain safety standards, modern IT tools can reduce the worry over possible federal audits.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is used in modern business intelligence solutions to help automate processes, speed agile response to real-time issues, and help managers make well-informed decisions, using data, not hunches. AI uses data science algorithms and machine learning to derive insights from data. AI functionality is embedded in modern Business Intelligence (BI) and EAM solutions.

Predictive analytics uses AI, machine learning, and data science algorithms to project the next likely outcome in a series. This advanced IT tool lets transit managers see into the world of tomorrow and anticipate trends. Managers will be able to accurately project demand as well as revenue earned from tickets.

Timely maintenance and repairs of fleets require access to tools and parts. Replacement parts must be in inventory at the service center or a nearby warehouse. In addition to physically storing the parts inventory in a safe environment, the transit manager also needs reliable supply chain insights so that backup inventory can be ordered for just-in-time delivery. Foreseeing the type and volume of parts that will be needed is another benefit of predictive analytics.

In summary, upgrading the IT solutions now will help the Department of Land Transport prepare for its transit needs.

Helen Masters is Senior Vice President and General Manager, Infor Asia Pacific

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