Taking the cloud route for digitalisation of the transport sector

by Dipanjan Nath 08 Nov 2019


In the early 90s, the transportation vertical became one of the front runners in adopting digital technologies. The railway institutions started tracking railcars using automatic equipment identification (AEI) while leading hi-tech companies introduced GPS tracking technology. Over the years, the transportation industry leaders have been successful primarily due to their timeliness, speed, and innovative approaches in customer service following conventional business models.

The advent of digital technologies in the last decade has made a disruptive impact on the transportation industry. While it has provided an edge to the transportation companies, it has also raised the bar of competition. Like any other industry, the transportation sector too is challenged by ever-changing customer expectations. Today the customer expects an on-the-go omnichannel experience, i.e. booking tickets, track & trace, ride-sharing, among others. Data is key to enabling all of this.

A wide variety of sensors along with modern day connectivity solutions are contributing to an infinite amount of data. The industry is realizing that this huge amount of data can be processed and transformed into a meaningful form to derive actionable insights. Hence, technology strategy in a transportation company should be driven by IoT, mobility, big data and analytics, cloud-hosted digital platforms.

Cloud addresses modern-day transportation needs
The huge volume of data – to the scale of petabytes – is getting captured by sensors, enterprise applications, social media, etc. in the form of structured and unstructured data. To store and process this data on-premise will require massive investment on servers and datacentres. In contrast, infrastructure hosted on the cloud provides agility, speed, scalability, reliability, and above all, the flexibility of pay-as-you-use. Modern day transportation needs such as intelligent transportation system, C-V2X, fleet management, smart ticketing solutions, a connected car couldn’t have become a reality without the existence of the cloud.

Let’s take the example of fleet management. Earlier, only the vehicle driver had an idea about the location of the vehicle with no clue about its condition. The vehicles would undergo a routine maintenance check where the field force staff would identify problems and troubleshoot accordingly. More often than not, the problems surfacing during these routine maintenance checks were too late in the cycle, thus bearing a deteriorating impact on the performance of the vehicles.

Today, the vehicles are loaded with hundreds and thousands of sensors and electronic control units (ECUs)with which it can share real-time data about its location, speed, acceleration, fuel, tyre pressure, engine performance, other system monitoring and diagnostic information. It is obvious that the volume of data will be unlimited. Fleet management solution providers, as well as public and private transportation authorities, are leveraging cloud-based platforms to store and process this huge volume of data to track vehicles, provide navigation support, monitor the performance of vehicles and undertake predictive maintenance of their fleet. Most of the fleet management solution providers have developed cloud-based software as a Service (SaaS) applications which are leveraged by various transportation bodies for effective management of their fleet.

Leading cloud service providers log into transportation industry
Leading public cloud service providers like AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform are concentrating big time on the transportation industry having realized the critical importance of cloud for the transportation sector.

AWS is enabling public transportation authorities across the globe to reduce costs substantially through a scalable and agile technology infrastructure, thus supporting transportation bodies to deliver innovative services to their customers. For example, New York City Department of Transportation, Singapore Land Transit Authority, Transport for London have brought about a digital transformation by leveraging AWS cloud. These public transportation bodies have implemented features such as hosting website on cloud, smart parking solutions, addressing security requirements proactively which have indeed added lot of value for its customers.

Microsoft Azure IoT cloud is also enabling location intelligence services to increase safety and reduce costs by finding smarter ways to get people and products where they need to be. The Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities has implemented a unique solution leveraging Azure IoT. It is empowering its staff to be more proactive in fighting winter storms. Besides the public transportation authorities, large private transportation and automotive companies such as Texa, Rolls Royce, and Maersk among other have also leveraged Azure IoT to deliver solutions such as connected car, predictive maintenance, fleet operations and intelligent supply chain.

Dipanjan Nath is the Manager, Pre-Sales, Digital, Sasken Technologies