Every transport company knows that passenger safety is paramount. We’re familiar with the safety procedures laid out by cabin crew on aeroplanes, lifejackets fitted on boats and airbags in cars that we drive ourselves – but what about passenger safety on buses?

Ensuring passenger safety in this environment depends on multiple factors. Clearly the condition of the vehicles themselves and the capabilities and training of the drivers are very important, but communications systems have a key role to play too. When operators have to manage hundreds of buses, constantly moving throughout a network, it is vital for them to be able to communicate with drivers, monitor incidents and respond rapidly where necessary. Likewise, on individual vehicles, drivers need to be able to communicate with passengers, keeping them updated regarding any incidents and providing instruction where necessary.

Terrestrial Trunked Radio (TETRA) systems have for many years now provided a reliable form of voice communications for bus operators. It is a secure method of communication for transport operators, and its efficient use of frequency spectrum make it the ideal solution for voice and narrowband data. But what about the future?

Growing safety challenges

Unfortunately, the increase in terrorist related incidents globally is only exacerbating the public safety role that transport needs to play during major incidents. Sadly, the public transport network is often used as the target of such attacks. On top of this it is also an essential part of incident planning, as the public need to be transported away from such incidents safely and securely.

As such, there is greater pressure than ever before on public transport operators, including bus services, to install the latest communications solutions which can ensure seamless collaboration between emergency services, first responders and drivers. This enables resources to be managed most effectively and securely in any eventuality, with decision-making based on real-time information.

Caught on camera

As part of this evolution, video surveillance has become a standard requirement over recent years, used to protect both drivers and passengers. By recording what happens on and near the vehicle, antisocial and dangerous behaviours are discouraged and prosecutions are more likely to be enabled when they do take place. Safety incidents can be reviewed later and fed into driver training and development.

However, the use of video surveillance has been limited by traditional narrowband PMR systems, such as TETRA, since the data rates do not allow transmission of real-time, high-definition video. As such, most systems currently in service rely on local video storage only, or separate, dedicated systems allowing high speed transmission services. Often data is captured on-board and downloaded back at depot.

An integrated approach

How can this be improved? As LTE technology, which can handle data-rich video transmission, becomes more established there is a real opportunity for combining voice and high-speed data communications in the transport sector, by unifying LTE with traditional PMR networks. Deploying separate communications systems is expensive in terms of both capital outlay and ongoing operations, so an integrated approach is essential.

This is where ETELM’s 4GLinked solution can be implemented. 4GLinked is a fully integrated LTE and TETRA solution, which allows both systems to interoperate over a single backbone transmission network. This results in seamless communications between all on-board monitoring systems and allows a single solution for operations to be managed from a centralised location. With LTE, the video can be captured and broadcasted to multiple locations and even to smart devices system-wide.

With 4GLinked, the thirst for data-rich communications in public transport can therefore be met with high-speed mission-critical communications, allowing monitoring to both the control centre and to mobile support staff using smartphone and tablet applications. The technology provides a secure, fully integrated network solution and a platform for advanced communications well into the future as it is based on a 4G and future 5G platform.

All aspects of vehicle technology are advancing rapidly, and as artificial intelligence and automation becomes established, the demand for remote monitoring and surveillance will also increase dramatically. For public transport, there will be an increased requirement for integration to on-board systems for vehicle monitoring, providing traffic management, maintenance and consumption data, security monitoring, and health and safety compliance. ETELM intends to carry on operating at the forefront of these exciting developments.

For more information on our 4GLinked solution click here