Smart and connected: the stop of the future

The intelligent stop of the future (Photo: raumobil GmbH).

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

What will the stop look like in the multimodal, networked mobility world of tomorrow?  PTV Group and  raumobil GmbH worked on this issue as part of the R&D project “smartStation – the stop as a gateway to multimodal mobility” (RD No. 70.918/2016) over a period of 18 months. The research project was commissioned by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure. In our interview, Oliver Wolf, raumobil GmbH, Annette Kindl, PTV Research Team, and Christian Reuter, PTV Transport Consult GmbH, discuss their findings.

Compass: Urban mobility is changing – it is becoming increasingly connected and multimodal. What impact will this have on the stop of the future?

Annette Kindl: The stop has already become the pivotal point in public transport. It is therefore entirely obvious that a smart mobility network of the future needs to be equipped with smart stops. With this in mind, the primary objective of the research project was to develop visions for intelligent stops/stations. These “smartStations” represent a further development of conventional stops and mobility stations.

Compass: How is a conventional stop turned into a smartStation?

Christian Reuter is working as a Project Manager at PTV Transport Consult GmbH.

Christian Reuter: A stop earns the label ‘smart’ when it is able to offer personalized information and services tailored to the user’s needs. To this end, mobility offerings, services and infrastructure elements must be interconnected. It is therefore important to intelligently combine station-specific and meta data and information.

Oliver Wolf: For example, elements, such as info terminals, escalators, elevators or lockers, that used to be analogue need to be turned into systems that are able to communicate. In the scenario developed by our project team, the data will be integrated into the smartStation network in real time via a standardized protocol.

Compass: And the user will then log into this network?

Annette Kindl: Exactly. Travellers can use an app to log into the so-called Infosphere, i.e. the immediate environment of a smartStation, in order to access the desired information and services. All modes of transport can thus be used intelligently and comfortably as well as energy-efficiently and cost-effectively.”

Compass: What would that look like in practice?

Oliver Wolf supervised the project on the raumobils side.

Oliver Wolf: For example, commuters who missed their connection due to delays in public transport could use the app to search for travel options such as available car-sharing vehicles or car-sharing opportunities as soon as they arrive at the smartStation.

Christian Reuter: In principle, it is possible to integrate any type of infrastructure and service, such as information on elevator malfunctions. This can be important for people with disabilities who use local transport. The mobility app would already tell them at their starting point that the elevator is not functioning at the station where they want to change trains or buses and would suggest an alternative route. During the research phase, we developed numerous use cases in order to test and evaluate the practicality and feasibility of the “smartStation” vision.

Compass: Can networked stops only be implemented in cities?

Christian Reuter: No, not at all. Our idea is to develop a modular design. Depending on whether the “smartStations” are located in urban or rural areas, the number, design and configuration of the modules can be combined or varied. This means the spectrum ranges from simple public transport stops to central stations of large cities with a multitude of smart infrastructure elements.

Compass: What were the most important findings?

Annette Kindl is Project Manager in the PTV Research Team.

Annette Kindl: We were able to show that the digitisation of stops represents a huge challenge, but it also holds vast opportunities. There are many different standards, platforms and digital services that need to be technically interconnected. This requires action by numerous stakeholders from different areas. Participation is the lifeblood of the smartStation concept, which means that all players such as users, operators and service providers must be willing to exchange data, to network and cooperate.

Oliver Wolf: The digitisation of a stop or station is a complex task and there is no standard implementation plan. Nevertheless, I am confident that smartStations will be implemented soon. In the course of the research project, we have made initial assessments and started the discourse on the digitisation of stops and stations. Now it is time to continue the dialogue with all relevant stakeholders, to turn the idea into a conceptual design and to encourage the launch of pilot projects. First steps have already been initiated, such as interfaces for communication at stops/stations that are currently being developed by R&D project teams. Things certainly remain exciting.