Automatic Transport Ticketing Using Beacons

There’s new research from University of Cagliari, Italy on Beep4Me: Automatic Ticket Validation to Support Fare Clearing and Service Planning.

Integrated transport with single ticketing across bus, tram and train requires revenue sharing between service providers which, in turn, needs accurate usage data. Relying solely on user-provided data suffers from incomplete data because not all users always validate their ticket when checking out or when switching lines.

The researchers have created a system, Beep4Me, that collects usage data and interfaces with an existing mobile ticketing platform.

A smartphone app identifies the vehicle (bus, tram, or train) and automatically validates the ticket. It does this using Bluetooth LE beacons and location and orientation phone sensors to identify the patterns to clearly define modes of transport. Beacons are installed on buses:

The test data demonstrated almost perfect accuracy of event detection such as validation, transfer, choosing a ticket, purchasing a ticket and check-out.

Bluetooth Vehicle–Pedestrian Collision Warning

There’s recent research by Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada on Investigating Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Bluetooth Low-Energy Signal Characteristics for Integration in Vehicle–Pedestrian Collision Warning Systems.

The paper looks into the comparative performance of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Classic (Bluetooth) and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) for integration in vehicle–pedestrian collision warning systems. More specifically, accuracy and functionality are considered with respect to signal strength indicator (RSSI) distance stability, rainfall effects on the signals, motion effects, non-line of sight effects and signal transmission rates.

The experiments identified the overall superiority of Bluetooth LE over Wi-Fi and Classic Bluetooth. Bluetooth LE provides fast collision warnings due to the frequent transmission and provides higher probability of simultaneous signal detection by multiple scanners.

The researchers say the results indicate the possibility of integration of Bluetooth LE technology in the design of vehicle–pedestrian collision warning systems in addition to currently used systems.

Using Bluetooth to Measure Travel Time

There’s recent research from Thailand on Evaluation of Bluetooth Detectors in Travel Time Estimation. The researchers looked into the feasibility of using detected Bluetooth devices to estimate travel time and assess the affect of vehicle speed on Bluetooth detection performance.

Bluetooth provides a compelling method because it’s already transmitting from smartphones, car stereo speakers, wireless headphones and other devices such that dedicated transmitters are not required. Bluetooth devices are also non-intrusive and more affordable compared to other types of traffic sensors and don’t suffer from low light and inclement weather as with the case with automatic license-plate recognition.

A 28 km toll section in Bangkok was used for the study. Bluetooth detectors and microwave radar devices, for comparison, were installed to collect traffic data. The data for 20-days, with 2 million Bluetooth trips, was processed in 5 ways to estimate the travel time.

The resulting Bluetooth trip data was compared with the traffic counts recorded by microwave sensors. For inbound traffic, the detection rates for the study area were in the range of 50–90 percent during the day and 20–50 percent during the night. Slower traffic during peak periods made it more likely for the Bluetooth detectors to detect MAC addresses.

Using Beacons on Buses

Some of the first uses of beacons was on buses. For example, in 2015 in London, 500 buses sent targeted in-app messages to passengers. It didn’t work, Proxama ceased to be in business and thankfully the use of beacons for spamming went away. Today, the use of beacons has matured as has their use on buses.

There’s a useful presentation by Texas A&M Transportation Institute and Houston METRO on Bus Stop Beacons: Transit Wayfinding for People with Visual Impairments (pdf). They classify accessibility challenges as locating stops, knowing which routes serve stops, obtaining real-time information and boarding the vehicle. They conclude that multiple location sources, using Bluetooth with GPS, work better than a single source alone. Also, sound shouldn’t be the only way riders receive information from an app because noisy environments make listening difficult. Vibrations can be used to provide additional notifications.

There are insights from Connecthings/CTS in Strasbourg on helping the blind catch the right bus. There’s also guidance in In–Vehicle Positioning for Public Transit Using BLE Beacons that shows locating a passenger to at least 1 meter across the length of the bus vehicle is possible using Bluetooth beacons. This can be used to assess crowding.

The current state of the art is using beacons with ticketless payment and automatic boarding and un-boarding detection. The pioneer in this area is one of our consultancy clients, UrbanThings, who has an article on Increase ridership through mobile ticketing and case studies.

Another one of our customers, Lothian buses, uses beacons to aid accessibility:

Next Stop Announcements: when on a bus, the customer can select which bus route they are on and the app will announce the name of the next stop as the bus approaches (with buses fitted with Bluetooth beacons, the customer doesn’t even need to select which bus route they are on – the app knows automatically)

Read about Beacons in Transportation

Rail Technology iBeacon Charging System

The April/May issue of Rail Technology Magazine mentions a new train passenger phone charging system that uses iBeacon:

The system created by EAO, uses iBeacon to automatically open train operators’ apps on the passengers’ smartphones. Passenger apps can provide tailored passenger information such as smart ticketing, trolley service requests and deliver targeted marketing messages.

Read about Beacons in Transportation

Beacon Triggered Rail Passenger Interfaces Entering Service

We previously mentioned EAO’s rail passenger interface. Railstaff has further news that the UK’s South Western Railway will include the system in refurbished Class 444 trains in November.

The wireless charging works with an app that can signal the seat is occupied and prompt the user to open the app.

“Ticket inspectors can then be informed if the passenger has a ticket while passengers would be able to order food and drink to their seat if there’s an onboard catering service. There are also options to provide tailored passenger information.”

EAO is also working with Eversholt Rail to retrofit the system to Class 395 Javelin trains in use by Southeastern.

Read about Beacons in Transportation

Rail Passenger Interface Using iBeacons

EAO AG, a company specialising in human machine interfaces, has a new train passenger interface that provides phone charging and information services.

The information services use iBeacon locating to allow train operating companies to provide added value services such as journey information, ticket validation and refreshments requests. The wireless USB phone charging fits onto seats and the iBeacon is detected in mobile apps.

“The iBeacon in each Passenger Interface also transmits a code to the passenger’s travel app, while the cloud translates the code into a carriage and seat number, making seat reservations easier to track and helping make passengers’ journeys more connected than ever”

Read about Beacons in Transportation

Beacons in Metro Stations

There’s a new article today at Global Rail News on how MTR, who run the Hong Kong metro, is trialling Bluetooth beacon navigation at Admiralty Station.

“As well as helping customers navigate the station itself, one of the new features, “Fast Exit”, will tell passengers which train car and door number to board when they set off on their journey in order to be closest to the exit at their destination station.”

The pilot is part of MTR’s Rail Gen 2.0 programme.