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Ben Graham

Using onboard analytics to track impact of weather patterns

5 achievable steps to bring passengers back to public transport

By | Infrastructure, Multimodal transport, Public Transport | No Comments

Ridership of public transport is in freefall. In the UK, local bus passenger journeys outside London decreased by 63 million (2.9%) in 2018. And despite holding steadier numbers than the rest of the country, London is not immune to this downward trend. Statistics for bus journeys in the capital show a 5% decrease since the 2014-15 fiscal year. Likewise, the London Underground reported a drop of 19m, or 1.4% in the number of Tube journeys in 2018 compared to the previous year. The same is true in cities around the world, where the rise in on-demand services, changes in working patterns and wider demographic and economic shifts have drawn commuters away from public transit.

So what can transport networks do to win back the public? It won’t be easy, but as cities around the world finally push to improve urban air quality, it’s essential we act now to restore faith in local transport.

1. Convenience is king

The success of any civic amenity hangs on one simple reality, it’s all about convenience. The past ten years have seen a major increase in the number of private hire journeys precisely because they offer a simpler, more personalised service. Why would a commuter choose to walk to a bus stop, wait on a bus (often delayed), then disembark and walk yet further to their office, when they could hail a private vehicle to pick them up from their house and take them directly to their workplace, at a time of their choosing?

Public transport networks need to begin integrating features that emphasise the convenience of public transport over private commuting. Personalisation is key to making passengers feel like more than just another number. And what’s the key ingredient to personalisation?

Using onboard analytics to identify peak times

2. Embrace new technologies

Take advantage of modern technologies to improve the passenger experience. mTicketing, for instance, does away with arbitrary ticket pricing and the need for cumbersome change (for drivers and passengers both). A mobile app with vehicle-tracking provides visibility to passengers waiting outside. If a service is delayed, commuters deserve to know in advance so they can make an informed decision about whether to wait. Similarly, if services have been re-routed or cancelled, a mobile app means commuters can be notified instantly through their personal devices.

Meanwhile, Passenger Information Systems (PIS) add clarity to new journeys, notifying passengers to upcoming stops. Integrating a PIS that offers both visual and audio information also makes transport more accessible to passengers with sight or hearing problems.

Adding onboard WiFi, meanwhile, opens up a new realm of connected entertainment for passengers. Now they can start their day before they even reach work, catch up on their social channels and unwind after a long day with their own content. These new technologies represent an opportunity some operators may not have considered. Onboard WiFi can incentivise commuters to swap the car for a relaxing bus journey, but it also offers an additional source of revenue through the promotion of partner businesses. This means operators can offset the cost of their WiFi connection and simultaneously develop connections with local businesses.

Women using smartphones on a bus

3. Incorporate data

Although it’s been used for decades, it’s only in the past few years that transport authorities have begun to truly harness the power of data. Fuelled by the rise in connected devices, metrics from open data initiatives are transforming the way we move around urban areas.

The value of data in gaining a detailed overview of highly complex transport infrastructure has made it an essential element of modern travel. In fact, the growth of MaaS models, where commuters can combine multiple modes of transport to reach their destination, hinges on the availability of accessible data (but more on that later).

Likewise, data can help reduce congestion and optimise journeys. Using city-wide data collection points, traffic lights can track buses and manage routes to reduce waiting times between stops. Coupled with a mobile app, this data can also be used to quickly and efficiently inform commuters about changes to services.

Of course, data doesn’t have to play a merely reactive role. It can also predict future requirements, providing local authorities with the quantitative foundations to develop new services. From these foundations, cities can begin to add features that respond to the changing nature of urban travel, including Passenger Information Systems and priority bus lanes. As Andrew Small said in a recent piece for CityLab, “When buses get priority, riders prioritize the bus.”

Using onboard analytics to improve services in coach hire

4. Increase intermodality

Despite the overall downward trend, several cities across the UK have reported an increase in public transport use. Every city has its own unique requirements, so pinning down exactly why some areas are bucking the trend isn’t easy. That being said, there are some common factors that could point to a solution, and chief among them is multimodal travel.

For the uninitiated, multimodal travel refers to the integration of multiple forms of transport to offer a more seamless travel experience. For a traveller arriving in a multimodal city by rail, their train ticket can also be used to board a metro service, ride the local bus, or even hire a bicycle.

For services to move to a manageable collaboration between the transit system and external organizations, there must be a mutual benefit. This presents a conundrum for public transport authorities, who cannot be seen to be favouring private transport companies. Transport authorities can remedy this by offering public tender contracts for the different transport modes. Similarly, apps like Citymapper are working to link public transport networks with local cab companies to cover first-mile/last-mile, with public transport making up the bulk of the journey. While this encourages commuters to leave the car at home, it still requires small-capacity private vehicles on the road.

But how do cities create a cohesive network that responds to the needs of every citizen? The solution can be found in cities already pioneering the multimodal model. Columbus, Ohio, was awarded the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Smart Cities challenge for its work in developing a connected travel solution for commuters. Through extensive research, the city identified residents’ requirements and drew up a proposal that encompassed the use of real-time integrated data, priority bus lanes and mobile apps to connect visitors and citizens.

Incorporating multimodal technologies into public transport

5. Go green

The environmental benefits of public transport over private car travel are already well documented. A fully loaded bus has an 83% less environmental impact per passenger mile than a single-occupancy passenger vehicle. Simultaneously, increased sustainability is not only environmentally beneficial, it’s also an opportunity to lower operating costs.

With these savings, transport authorities can begin to invest in more energy efficient vehicles, while existing vehicles can be retrofitted with Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) emission control units to reduce NOx and NO₂ outputs.

Even with these features, however, transport networks need to make drastic changes in their approach to environmental issues. The future lies in developing a sustainable network with the smallest carbon footprint possible, and that means introducing fully energy-efficient vehicles.

New vehicles, however, are only possible with increased investment, which is itself only possible if we can reverse the decline in passenger transport use. It’s a vicious cycle that threatens the future of mass transit, right at the time when we need it most. To improve the environmental impact of our transport networks, cities must first establish new channels of revenue. To that end, cities must begin to expand Clean Air Zones (CAZ’s) and increase taxes on private vehicles in urban areas. Likewise, transport authorities can take advantage of government subsidies and innovation funding for projects that improve the local environment.

Red bus driving through London with Gherkin obscured in background

Of course, the issue of decreasing public transport usage goes beyond mere investment; after all, spending heavily rarely means spending wisely. But investment is essential to create a scalable, future-ready model that can adapt to the changing needs of citizens and the surrounding environment. Councils must be ready to invest not just in new vehicles, but in the entire infrastructure of their city. After all, if transport authorities really want to restore trust in public transport, they must be ready to prove that they have faith in it first.

Two coaches on coach tour holiday driving along empty road

The biggest travel trends of 2019 for the coach tour industry

By | Coach Tour, Feature, Holiday, Travel | No Comments

As we near the end of the decade, travel is shifting to offer a more personalised experience. Fuelled by the rise of social media and a new appreciation for unique cultural experiences, today’s traveller expects to be able to create their own adventure. 2018 was the year for TV tourism (think Game of Thrones tours in Northern Ireland) and eco-tourism. 2019 will see more of the same, but new developments in technology and changes in traveller attitudes will inspire new trends. So what should tour companies expect this year, and, more importantly, how can they deliver the best experience to their customers?

Wellness holidays go mainstream

‘Self-development stays’ have existed in some form for decades, but they’ve become increasingly popular in the past few years. Wellness tourism worldwide was worth £500bn in 2017, and last year grew at more than twice the pace of tourism overall. An emphasis on better emotional self-care, driven in part by the rise in Instagram-inspired wellbeing retreats, has brought the wellness trip into the mainstream.

In January, VisitScotland published its annual review of travel trends. The review noted an increase in demand for holidays centred around improving oneself, whether physically, emotionally or spiritually. The UK coach tour industry, then, is well placed to respond to this trend. 2019 is the year to start offering trips that cater to this new client base, whether through curated retreats, ethically-minded hideaways or traditional local events.

Wellness travel becomes the next travel trend

Eco-conscious excursions evolve

Just like the wellness travel trend, 2019 will be a big year for “green getaways” – trips focused on getting back to nature and respecting the environment. Sure, eco-friendly travel has been a hot topic for a few years now, but it’s only in the past year that travel companies have begun to grasp the potential value of them. Not only do they help conserve the environment for future visitors, but a travel company’s eco-credentials can also entice a new generation of environmentally aware travellers.

A recent study by Booking.com found that 86% of global travellers would be willing to spend some time on activities that offset the environmental impact of their stay. That’s why coach tour companies should use 2019 to begin integrating more eco-friendly features on your tours. If you can adapt your vehicles to reduce the environmental impact, do it. Adding tree-planting, wildlife conservation or wild camping to your tour itineraries could open up a whole new world and simultaneously conserve our own planet. What’s not to love?

Travelling on an eco-friendly coach tour is the new travel trend

Authenticity beats package

Just as eco-holidays grew from an increased awareness of the impact of travel on our environment, the demand for authenticity in travel has been fuelled by an increased focus on the impact on local cultures. Travellers in 2019 don’t want to be a spectator, they want to be an active participant, and, just as importantly, they want to learn. In fact, over half (56%) of global travellers claim they learned invaluable life skills while travelling.

This push for authenticity was apparent in the rise in domestic tourism last year. Travellers want to be immersed in a culture, even if it’s the culture of a neighbouring town or city. For coach tour companies, that means pushing activities over sight-seeing. Partner with local businesses to allow travellers to develop new skills based on local knowledge and practices. The more visual the activity (think pottery-making or gin-distilling) the better. After all, behind the push for authenticity is the ever-present desire for social-friendly photo opportunities.

Personalisation is the travel trend

The one-size-fits-all model of holidays will no longer cut it. Travel companies have responded by shifting to curated experiences that deliver hyper-relevant individualised content direct to the customer. Coach tour companies might want to study the following statistics found in the Booking.com study:

  • 34% of travellers now expect travel recommendations for them
  • 41% want travel brands to use technologies such as AI to make travel suggestions based on past travel experience.
  • 52% would be excited about tech travel innovations such as a digital tour guide

New technologies are at the heart of helping travellers create their own adventures. For coach companies, this means identifying a customer’s interests and catering subsequent offers to them. A customer who books a hiking tour in the Scottish Highlands, for instance, would be more receptive to additional offers for hiking gear than someone who’s booked a city break.

Personalisation as an essential travel trend of 2019

Social media is still essential

That means try to get your coach tour company included in the post, either by a direct @ of your company or through a hashtag (for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.). Of course, you can offer incentives to passengers, such as being entered into a prize draw, if they include your custom hashtag in their posts.

Social media will also continue to be an invaluable marketing tool. The only real difference will be a bigger focus on targeted content. Even the smallest of tour companies now have access to tools that allow them to optimise their message for different audiences. Customer personas and social analytics software allow you to narrow down your branding to laser precision. After all, it’s not just about getting your content in front of as many people as possible; it’s about targeting the right people at the right time.

Smartphone in travel

Micro-trips become more common

2019 will see a rise in the number of travellers looking for short-breaks. And when we say short, we’re talking as little as one to two days. This is in part due to financial constraints – paying for two weeks in the sun is not an option for everyone, after all. But it’s also due in part to travellers opting for a genuine ‘travel’ experience over a ‘holiday’. Travelling to multiple locations requires more planning and is usually more expensive than staying in a single setting. That’s why modern travellers will often opt for several short-stay trips spread across the year.

The popularity of the micro-vacation can also be attributed to the rise in ‘bleisure’ trips, where the traveller combines a business trip with a few days of leisure. It makes sense, after all, to take advantage of time in a new country that you might not otherwise visit. But these ‘bleisure’ trips offer coach tour operators a unique opportunity too. Single day round-trips and even half-day packages could be just the ticket for time-strapped passengers. Be warned, however, as one- day round-trips can entail a significant amount of time on the road, so make sure to stock up on onboard entertainment features.

Retrofitting your public transport

Sygnal partners with Prentice of Haddington

By | Coach hire, News, Press release | No Comments

Sygnal is proud to announce a new partnership with award-winning bus and coach hire operator Prentice of Haddington to provide onboard WiFi to passengers in and around East Lothian. The partnership represents an exciting opportunity for both parties to further enhance the travel experience and create a new level of connectivity across the Prentice fleet.

As a leading developer of transport technology for the bus and coach industry, Sygnal is ideally positioned to provide robust passenger WiFi to one of the foremost coach-hire operators in Scotland. Despite launching less than a year ago, Sygnal has already established a reputation for innovative and cost-effective transport solutions.

Natalie Crayton, Business Development Director for Sygnal, said:

“We are very pleased to partner with Prentice of Haddington. As are a multi-award winning local bus and coach hire company, Prentice has developed a reputation for providing a consistently reliable personal and professional service to a range of clients. The addition of Sygnal WiFi ensures the company can provide passengers with the highest standard of service and increase overall operational efficiency.”

Managing Director of Prentice of Haddington Ross Prentice said:

“We are extremely impressed with our Sygnal WiFi units; they are very powerful and easily support multiple passenger uses and allow us to further enhance our passenger’s onboard experience. Sygnal is very easy to deal with, provide a cost-effective solution for our WiFi needs and through the built-in analytics give us great insight into passenger use.”

Passengers increasingly expect WiFi as standard on their coach service. Likewise, custom services aimed at improving efficiency and reducing costs are fast becoming a fundamental feature on all transport networks. That’s why Sygnal and Prentice are committed to developing a reliable, sustainable service that utilises the latest transport technologies. With this new partnership, Prentice of Haddington has once again exceeded passenger expectations while gaining new opportunities in fleet connectivity and vehicle performance.

Click here to find out more about Sygnal passenger WiFi.

Using onboard analytics to improve services in coach hire

Onboard analytics: The secret to enhancing your transport services

By | Analytics, Feature, Passenger Wifi, Technology | No Comments

As industry leaders call for mobile phone location data to be used to plan out new bus and rail routes, we look at why it’s not just governmental transport bodies that can benefit from onboard analytics.

In passenger transport, data comes from every stage of the customer engagement process – from booking to boarding to using onboard amenities. With the advent of web analytics services, any business owner can acquire the metrics from their website and begin to streamline the customer purchase process. The real problems arise when operators try to quantify what’s taking place on their vehicles.

That’s because many transport companies lack the time, staff, or tools to tap into these ‘data warehouses’. Large operators, meanwhile, can afford to pay data analysts to study these metrics and draw up actionable strategies to optimise sales and improve the passenger experience.

But with the Sygnal Dashboard, any coach company can tap into the invaluable onboard analytics gathered from a whole host of in-vehicle processes. It’s only with this data that operators can begin to optimise the travel experience and develop a flexible service that meets the changing needs of today’s commuter.

Identify peak times

Transport operators across the world still struggle to adequately cater to fluctuations in passenger numbers. Of course, not every transport network is unable to anticipate passenger numbers, but until recently, services were largely based on feedback from drivers and, to a lesser extent, passengers. But with the advent of accessible data, companies can now pinpoint how many passengers board their vehicles at specific times.

This data can then be used to direct vehicles to specific routes at key times. Likewise, operators can allocate different capacity vehicles to different routes based on the number of passengers. Analytics also enable operators to map out travel patterns and add new services to underserved areas.

Using onboard analytics to identify peak times

Personalise services

We all use technology to help us navigate the world, but the most regularly used technology is actually one of the least utilised for its data value. The smartphone isn’t just a handy tool for travellers, it’s also a valuable access point for transport operators looking to better understand their customer.

In fact, onboard analytics give operators the power to decipher a lot more than just the number of people on their vehicles. These metrics can reveal, among other things, how many passengers logged on to the WiFi, the most popular sites to browse and what ads passengers are most likely to click on.

Additionally, a company app allows operators to gather valuable data on how many people are boarding their vehicles, and the type of journeys they are making (i.e. daily commute, one-off return journey, day ticket, etc.) With an app, operators can also use real-time data to give users reliable updates on the progress of their bus. That’s handy for passengers waiting on their bus and passengers already onboard who need to know when to disembark.

Of course, there are restrictions on the kind of data you can collect. All information gathered from interactions with your onboard WiFi must be completely anonymised in line with GDPR. Even with these restrictions, however, you can gain real insights to optimise your services.

Study environmental factors

As every transport operator knows, sometimes services are disrupted by factors beyond their control. Of the most significant external influences is the weather. Rain, snow, storms and heatwaves can all have a major impact on vehicle performance and passenger numbers. Incorporating data on weather patterns can help operators direct vehicles more effectively.

An increase in passenger numbers on rainy days, for instance, suggests you may need to provide larger vehicles for busy routes. Likewise, knowing in advance that commuters are willing to walk on particularly sunny days would allow you to redirect services to other routes.

Likewise, weather patterns can affect journey times, so it’s important you take the data behind these when redirecting vehicles and developing new routes.

Using onboard analytics to track impact of weather patterns

Respond to major events

Whether it’s a local festival or a major sporting event, there are some days every operator marks down in their calendar. After all, coaches are the best means of transporting large groups to a single location beyond the reach of rail. Not only does travelling by coach reduce congestion on already crowded roads, but it also enables passengers to relax before arrival. This is particularly important for passengers travelling a long distance, where exhaustion and a lack of knowledge of the roads can increase the risk of accidents.

That’s why many coach companies now offer express travel to and from events. National Express, for instance, offers transport packages to attendees for several UK festivals. For smaller coach companies, local festivals and sporting events offer a great opportunity to establish a recurring relationship with passengers.

In turn, coach companies with onboard WiFi can use the analytics gained from passenger interactions to offer additional services. For instance, if there’s a spike in searches for camping supplies on the way to a festival, you could partner with a local outdoor retailer to offer supplies en-route.

Simultaneously, data allows you to anticipate busy times in advance and capitalise on potential bookings with unique offers. Including an email sign-in to your onboard WiFi gives you the option to follow-up with offers for the next year’s event.

Improve journey times

Passengers are your main source of data, but they’re not the only one. Operators are increasingly turning to data to understand how their vehicles perform, and how they could be optimised to increase efficiency.

Data gathered from your onboard GPS can provide invaluable insights into your journeys. For instance, if you notice a service is regularly delayed, data from the journey history can identify where the interruptions occur. As in-vehicle technologies like GPS become more commonplace, transport operators will also be able to incorporate data from external sources too. Traffic lights, motorways and even other vehicles will be able to communicate with each other to alert drivers to changes in traffic and potential road hazards.

Similarly, engine tracking data can identify where your vehicles have idled. When studied together with dashcam and CCTV footage, operators can identify bottlenecks and reduce fuel consumption.

Woman using onboard technologies to browse bus WiFi

For something that’s become such an integral part of our society, data is still an impenetrable reality for many operators. As a result, of the millions of services run every day across the world, only a small percentage of the potential data is actually captured and analysed. This isn’t simply a loss for the company, it’s a loss for passengers too. The insights hidden in this sea of data can go on to shape new services and streamline operations. With onboard analytics, operators finally have the power to optimise the travel experience with quantifiable insights.

Woman smiling using in taxi WiFi

5 reasons in-taxi WiFi is essential for modern taxi firms

By | Passenger Wifi, Smart transport, Sygnal Bites, Taxi | No Comments

As every taxi firm knows, new technologies promising to ‘revolutionise the journey’ are ten to a penny these days. However, that’s not to say there aren’t valuable technologies out there. For every ten new innovations, there is one that can genuinely increase efficiency, reduce costs and improve the passenger experience.

Of all these new transport technologies, it’s safe to say that onboard WiFi has had the biggest impact on the passenger journey. In fact, WiFi is now a ubiquitous feature on buses, trains and even planes. All of this leaves you wondering, why has the taxi industry been so slow to embrace the onboard network? If you’re operating a taxi firm without onboard WiFi installed in your cabs, you probably have your reasons, but it’s worth considering the arguments for WiFi. After all, just as an object will select the path of least resistance, passengers will always opt for the transport with the best connectivity.

Everyone wants onboard WiFi

It’s not exactly news that the world today is fixated on connectivity. At home, at work, at the pub; it doesn’t matter where we are, we want to maintain some kind of digital link with the world. For taxi firms, onboard WiFi represents the next logical evolution in customer service. Your passengers aren’t simply looking for the cheapest and most reliable form of private travel – they’re looking for comfort, consistency and connection.

Even passengers on a relatively short journey will appreciate access to in-taxi WiFi, particularly if they’re young. Passengers on their way to work can use the connectivity to start the workday early. Meanwhile, passengers unsure of their exact destination can use the onboard WiFi to establish where they need to be dropped off.

Businessman using in-taxi WiFi on tablet

Overseas visitors need WiFi

Travelling overseas is great, but it’s not always ideal for connectivity. While data-roaming is now fairly consistent across the EU, visitors from elsewhere often have to shell out large amounts for a data package. That’s why tourists arriving at an airport are more likely to choose a taxi with WiFi.

Whether checking into their hotel, arranging to meet friends or just finding their bearings, in-taxi WiFi is an invaluable amenity for overseas passengers. Additionally, the presence of WiFi in a taxi can be more appealing than that of a bus or a fixed public WiFi because the user will be one of the only people connected through the secure 4G connection. Unlike in bars, restaurants or other public areas, passengers using the WiFi in a taxi can be assured that they are accessing the connection alone without the worry of losing speed because of the other passengers already online.

In-taxi WiFi increases brand loyalty

It’s not just overseas passengers that want WiFi wherever they go. Travellers on their way to the airport will always welcome free WiFi. We’ve all been there – rushing to the airport, frantically trying to recall if you locked the front door, checked in for your flight, remembered your reservation details, etc.

These days, travellers have a whole host of ways to check these things (except for the front door, sorry, you’re on your own there). But these last-minute checks, invariably, require some kind of internet connection. And if a passenger can’t use their own data, they’re going to require connection of some kind. That’s why in-taxi WiFi is such a valuable feature – if your connectivity can help them out in an hour of need, they’re more likely to use your firm again.

Black cab with light on and in-taxi WiFi

Personalisation is essential

A captive portal is a great way to engage with your passengers before they begin browsing, not to mention alerting WiFi users to your terms and conditions. It’s also a chance to get to know your passengers. Many firms ask for an email and other contact details before granting access to the internet. This way, firms can keep a record on who has accessed what on their WiFi and keep customers up to date on company news.

It’s important you don’t then bombard their inbox with unnecessary information or spam. It’s always a good idea to offer something on top of company updates in turn for providing contact details. For instance, the chance to enter a competition and win prizes can be enough to prompt passengers to share their contact details.

With passengers willingly submitting their contact details, you can begin to build up a clearer sense of your customer base and tailor services to their specific needs.

Driver satisfaction improves

It’s not just passengers that enjoy access to WiFi. Drivers, who spend more time than anyone in a taxi, will also appreciate the introduction of onboard WiFi. Of course, drivers should never use a device while driving, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t periods of downtime where a driver is required to sit and wait. As we all know, it’s in those moments of boredom that people reach for their phones.

Onboard WiFi isn’t just designed to improve the in-taxi experience. It can also open up new channels of communication for the driver. Of course, firms will already have at least one established line of communication with headquarters. But with onboard WiFi, drivers can also receive updates on traffic developments and adjust routes accordingly.

Driver using in-taxi WiFi to engage with passengers

For taxi firms considering implementing a mobile app, onboard WiFi in every vehicle is a must. Informing passengers about delays prior to pick-up is only possible if the vehicle can report to head office. Drivers can do this manually, but an inbuilt connection enables automatic updates and ensures passengers are never left in the dark.

To find out more about Sygnal Taxi WiFi, get in touch here.

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Finding the right onboard technologies for your coach fleet

By | Passenger Wifi, Sygnal Bites, Technology | No Comments

For any coach operator, identifying the right onboard technologies requires time and a careful appraisal of your requirements. That’s why operators tend to opt for an eclectic mix of solutions, purchased when and where they can afford to roll them out across the fleet. But this approach comes with its downsides. Technologies end up with wildly disparate capabilities, not just in their performance, but in their ability to communicate with each other.

That’s why Sygnal offers a range of packages, tailored to meet the specific needs of every transport operator and centralised through one system. So whether you’re a large, national operator or a small, local coach firm, there’s a Sygnal package to meet your needs.

But which Sygnal package is right for your coach company? That all depends on what you’re looking for…

Fleet size

Of course, the size of your fleet will be a key factor in the kind of technologies you require. Are you a small local coach hire company looking for a simple onboard WiFi system or a nationwide operator looking for an entire onboard overhaul? Each Sygnal package comes with onboard WiFi and access to the Sygnal Portal as standard, but for some operators, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Small coach companies with just a few vehicles, for instance, might be looking for a simple Sygnal WiFi and Portal package. Major operators with hundreds of vehicles, meanwhile, are more likely to require robust fleet-tracking technology than a small local service.

Of course, every operator has a different idea of what their company needs to grow. That’s why we encourage our customers to discuss their current requirements and future growth prospects before establishing which Sygnal package best suits their needs.

Bus coach with onboard passenger WiFi

Fleet functions

It’s not just the size of your fleet that determines the kind of technologies you require. The typical daily functions of your company will go some way to dictating the scale of your Sygnal package.

Some questions to consider:

  1. Do you operate school routes?

If so, onboard bus CCTV could be an essential technology. For safety purposes, many schools now require their coach operators to provide CCTV as a standard safety feature. Operators looking to expand their local bus contracts, then, will not get far without onboard cameras. Likewise, operators that choose to integrate CCTV will be better positioned in school transport tenders.

  1. Do you run coach tours?

Coach tours can cover a wide range of services. Whether it’s for international or domestic passengers, the unique requirements warrant a specialised service. Discerning these requirements before you purchase your Sygnal Package is integral to getting the most value for money. For instance, coach tour companies operating in remote areas of the country might require signal enhancement technology to ensure total connectivity. Meanwhile, operators running tours for overseas tourists may want to consider integrations for translation tools for their onboard content.

  1. Do you run tours abroad?

The same goes for operators who run coach tours abroad. Sygnal WiFi functions anywhere within the EU, so connectivity isn’t a problem. However, operators will require accurate GPS and fleet-tracking software, particularly if a vehicle is travelling a new or remote route.

Operators running tours to areas outside the EU will be required to purchase an international data package. Alternatively, invest in some offline content to keep passengers entertained when they enter non-EU territory.

  1. Do you run regular local services?

Operators running regular services, whether it be across local, regional or nationwide areas, have their own unique set of requirements. To begin with, operators who run services on scheduled routes, in which the bus stops at established points, may find they don’t require content for the passenger entertainment system. After all, if most passengers are only onboard for twenty minutes to half an hour, they’re unlikely to want to start watching a film.

Mobile ticketing, on the other hand, is an essential tool for operators running regular routes. For coach companies who run infrequent services between specific destinations, mobile ticketing can be a useful tool but is not necessarily essential.

Onboard technologies for your bus company

Geographical setting

The needs of your fleet are defined not just by the type of coach tours you run but also the typical locations in which you operate.

As we said before, if your routes tend to adhere to remote areas, you’re more likely to encounter issues in connectivity and maintaining visibility of your vehicles.

Rural

Rural commutes tend to involve longer journeys, so it’s a good idea to consider additional features that decrease pressure on the 4G data connection. Simultaneously, rural transport can experience significant delays as a result of closed roads or slow-moving vehicles. Sygnal’s GPS system enables operators to keep track of their vehicles and redirect them should they notice an obstruction somewhere on the route.

Urban

Similarly, in urban areas, your biggest concerns will be navigating traffic and security. The Sygnal Secure Package comes with CCTV, dashcams and GPS along with Sygnal’s robust WiFi. Through these technologies, drivers can monitor onboard events, use the dashcams to navigate narrow gaps on busy roads and receive real-time updates on local traffic disruptions.

Mixed

Many operators run services that cover both urban and rural routes. The Sygnal Fleet package comes with a suite of technologies designed to meet the diverse needs of every modern bus company.

Retrofitting your public transport

Customer base

Although likely to have the most significant impact on your technology needs, your customer base is usually the most difficult to qualify. Regardless of how diverse your customer base might be, it’s vital you establish your typical demographic and take steps to tailor your services to their needs.

Schoolchildren, although limited in their access to smartphones, are major consumers of WiFi. However, younger passengers must also be protected from harmful content. That’s why Sygnal comes with inbuilt options for parental locks and age verification. Operators can also block websites on specific servers to further protect children.

Any company that provides some kind of public WiFi will know that passengers between 18-30 years old are the highest consumers of data. Millennial travellers are also the most common users of public transport, excluding the elderly. Sygnal already blocks access to data-heavy websites (including video-streaming such as YouTube), so you can rest easy that they won’t drain your data. Simultaneously, every Sygnal server is designed to provide support for up to 60 concurrent onboard WiFi users, so there’s no need to worry about WiFi speeds even with a bus full of young travellers.

Worried about exceeding your data limit with a bus full of young travellers on a cross-country trip? No need to fear: Sygnal can place a cap on your servers, so you’re never charged for overages. In addition, the Sygnal Portal (available with all packages) allows you to track data usage on all of your Sygnal servers. If you notice a particular server is close to reaching its data limit, you can choose from a selection of add-ons. That way, your data-hungry passengers stay happy and your service gets the great rating it deserves.

Couple chatting enjoying the onboard technologies

Current onboard technologies

Most operators today have at least one onboard technology – whether it be passenger WiFi, GPS or CCTV. But, as we’ve discussed before, technologies are often compiled from a range of sources. Not only does this complicate the process of gathering data from these devices, but it also locks operators into multiple contracts with various companies.

Even if you’re currently signed up to a contract for another onboard technology, Sygnal can install new devices. However, it’s only with a Sygnal package that you can centralise your existing technologies under one easy to manage platform and consolidate your payments under one simple monthly contract.

Of course, any operator already using a mix of onboard technologies knows that requirements are defined by the resources you have at your disposal. Operators who dedicate a member of staff to managing onboard technologies might find it easy running multiple disparate systems. For smaller, independent coach companies, however, this is unlikely. Even large, nationwide operators with a dedicated team could benefit from streamlining all their technologies under one system.

integrating onboard technologies to your vehicles

If you’re still not sure which Sygnal Package is right for your company, get in touch and we’ll find the best option for you. After all, every modern coach company needs onboard technologies, it’s just about figuring out which best serve your purposes.

Sygnal at the Euro Bus Expo

Sygnal returns from successful Euro Bus Expo debut

By | Coach operator, Euro Bus Expo, News, Transport | No Comments

Sygnal showcased a range of new and exciting transport technologies during its first Euro Bus Expo visit at the NEC Birmingham, including the new Sygnal Portal.

The team behind Sygnal’s 4G passenger WiFi and integrated security systems enjoyed the opportunity to discuss potential partnerships with industry leaders and explore commercial opportunities with some of the biggest names in the bus and coach sector. Among these new technologies was the new Sygnal Portal, a remote access dashboard that enables operators to track their vehicles, monitor data usage and upload custom advertisements direct to their Sygnal servers.

As a leading developer of transport technologies, Sygnal was ideally positioned to demonstrate the latest industry innovations at Europe’s biggest bus and coach event. As demand for onboard connectivity grows, passenger WiFi has rapidly become an indispensable feature for bus and coach companies, particularly those typically priced out by the larger wireless internet connectivity providers.

Natalie Crayton, Business Development Director of Sygnal, said:

“Euro Bus Expo was a fantastic opportunity to meet with owners, drivers, operators and industry figures and we couldn’t be happier with how it went. Not only were we able to engage with exhibitors and attendees from across the industry, but we were also able to showcase our unique technologies to a diverse range of prospective clients and partners.”

Onboard WiFi for your coach service

Passengers expect WiFi as standard on their coach service. Likewise, custom services aimed at increasing operational efficiency are now a fundamental feature on all transport networks. Despite launching less than a year ago, Sygnal has already established a reputation for innovative and cost-effective transport solutions. It was this approach to developing reliable, sustainable services utilising the latest technologies that enabled Sygnal to engage with a huge number of exhibitors at this years’ Euro Bus Expo.

Click here to find out more about the Sygnal Portal or any of the other Sygnal transport technologies.

Using dashcams for coaches to monitor driver habits

Dashcams for coaches: The future of commercial transport

By | Coach operator, Dashcams, Sygnal Bites | No Comments

Commercial transport technology is changing at a rapid pace. Wireless charging roads, autonomous coaches on our streets and flying taxis above us; these developments are now within our reach. But in truth, these technologies are still a long way off for the majority of people. Instead, it’s the smaller, less conspicuous technologies that make a difference to ordinary drivers.

Features like inbuilt GPS, driver attention detection software and adaptive cruise control are all changing how we get around in subtle ways. But of all the onboard amenities available today, one of the most overlooked is the humble dashcam. Dashcams for coaches are quickly becoming an essential feature as operators begin to see their value as a tool to lower costs and increase efficiency.

So what purpose do dashcams really serve? The dashboard camera of today can serve multiple functions for drivers and operators, a far cry from the blurry footage and boxy designs of yesteryear.

Reduce insurance premiums

First and foremost, adding dashcams to your coaches will go a long way to decreasing your insurance premiums. After all, if you can provide visual evidence of your driver’s journeys, you technically pose less of a risk to the insurers.

Be warned, your insurance company isn’t obligated to lower your insurance rates simply because you’ve bought a dashcam. However, it’s generally accepted that installing dashcams on your coaches can lead to reductions, with some insurance providers offering up to a 15% discount for those with onboard cameras installed.

In 2015, insurers began accepting dashcam footage as evidence when settling claims. That means recorded journeys can give operators leverage in the event of an accident. Clear, incontrovertible evidence can be used to expedite investigations and reduce the amount of time a vehicle is off the road.

Using Analytics to increase your domestic tourism marketing range

Protect against fraud

It’s a sad truth that some road users are willing to cause a crash for a quick cash settlement. It’s also a sad reality that fraudsters increasingly target company vehicles in a bid to extract bigger payouts. But with a dashcam, drivers can be assured that

These ‘cash-for-crash’ scammers often stake out their victims in advance. The very presence of dashcams on your vehicles could be enough to deter anyone from trying to scam you. Of course, if they do try to instigate a crash when your vehicle is stocked with CCTV, they’ll soon discover that their luck has run out.

Increase safety

Dashcams are also a handy addition for operators looking to integrate another layer of security to their fleet. While onboard CCTV gives operators total visibility of anything that happens on their coaches, it doesn’t capture the action outside. Capturing external footage won’t protect drivers and passengers in the event of a crash, but it can make drivers think more about how they’re driving.

While it’s true that some insurers suggest drivers cover or hide their dashcams when the vehicle is empty, a visible camera can act as a vital deterrent to criminals. Even the presence of a camera can be enough to make thieves think again.

Dash cams can increase more than just driver and passenger safety. With integrations for Pedestrian Auto Emergency Braking technology, coaches can potentially alert drivers to vulnerable road users and reduce the impact speed of a crash.

Navigating on transport with onboard wifi

Track journeys

Front and rear dashcams for coaches are increasingly being used to track journeys and identify congestion points. When used in conjunction with tools like the Sygnal GPS and Engine Tracker, operators can begin to build up a detailed understanding of where vehicles are most likely to experience delays. From these insights, operators can begin to cut down on fuel consumption, reduce journey times and increase passenger satisfaction.

It’s not just about data analysis and route optimisation. Drivers are also in a unique position to capture stunning views. Picture driving through the scenic Scottish Highlands or exploring the twisting country roads of the Lake District; these images can be used to sell your journeys to new passengers and update your company website.

Improve training programs

Dash cams can also be a great source of information for new drivers in the form of visual training material. Offering visual instruction on how to manoeuvre tight spaces, respond to high-speed incidents and adhere to local driving regulations when on an international coach tour; dashcams can capture real-world illustrations of all these and more.

Video footage gathered from different driving situations can inform new practices and define standards for a new generation of drivers. Simultaneously, new drivers can record their journeys, then receive feedback from instructors on where they need improvement.

Using dashcams for coaches to improve driver training

Things to bear in mind

While dashcams offer a great range of solutions to some big transport issues, there are some details every operator should be aware of. For instance…

  • It’s an offence to cover or obscure front or rear windows in your vehicles, so any dashcams must be positioned correctly. That’s why Sygnal provides a handy guide to setting up and placing your cameras with every purchase of a Sygnal dashcam.
  • As the operator, you are obligated to inform passengers that you have recording equipment on board. This can be done easily, however, with the addition of a clearly displayed vinyl sticker on your vehicles.
  • Not every insurer will agree to use dashcam footage in a claim, particularly if the footage only provides a one-sided view of the incident. Of course, having a dashcam system is still a better option than not having any kind of footage protection.

Even with these considerations, dashcams are an invaluable investment for your coach company. With Sygnal’s centralised onboard CCTV system, operators can monitor footage from all of their vehicles and roll-out updates at the click of a button. Likewise, footage can be downloaded and stored on an external device as and when it’s needed.

To see the full range of Sygnal products and packages, click here. To find out more about installing dashcams on your coach fleet, get in touch with Sygnal today.

Women using smartphones on a bus

Cost or connection? Modern bus passengers shouldn’t have to choose

By | Coach operator, Feature, Passenger Wifi | No Comments

At the risk of stating the obvious, we live quite the connected existence in 2018. These days, connectivity is deemed as essential an amenity as electricity, running water and gluten-free alternatives at breakfast. Our craving for internet access is intensified when we’re required to remain in the same place with no other means of distraction. Companies unwilling or unable to provide this access are finding more and more that customers will look elsewhere.

For transport companies, this should come as no surprise. Passengers expect onboard WiFi as a standard feature on their journeys. Local bus and coach operators, however, often feel that to provide WiFi will mean an increase in fares. Every onboard amenity, after all, costs money. But there is another way – providing companies have the tools to optimise their connectivity. Thankfully, Sygnal provides more than just onboard WiFi; it also gives operators the means to reduce operational costs and improve overall service.

Enriching the passenger journey

What’s the most important element of a transport service to passengers? It used to be that you could sum up the passenger’s expectation for a transport service in three words: Convenience, comfort and cost. But in the past few years, a new word has crept into the passenger lexicon; connection.

That’s why onboard WiFi is such an essential amenity. Not only do passengers expect it, but they will also actively criticise those companies that don’t provide it. Perhaps even worse than not providing any kind of connectivity, however, is providing subpar WiFi. The fear of providing an intermittent or slow connection (and being pilloried in subsequent reviews) keeps many operators from committing to an onboard WiFi subscription. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Sygnal’s onboard WiFi is designed to maintain constant connection wherever your vehicles are. On the rare occasions when there really is no means of connection, Sygnal WiFi caches key web pages to ensure passengers still have the power to browse.

Woman using onboard technologies to browse bus WiFi

Optimising the travel experience

Onboard WiFi can increase convenience for passengers by shortening journey times through intelligent route optimisation. Simultaneously, part of developing a reliable service lies in keeping passengers up-to-date on the latest information about their journey. With onboard WiFi, passengers can track their journey through location apps like Google Maps. Alternatively, you can integrate an in-journey information system to keep passengers completely up-to-date through on-board screens.

With additional options for mobile ticketing, operators and passengers can enjoy a raft of benefits. As an operator, a move to ticketing through digital channels frees you from the cost and inconvenience of paper tickets. Of course, onboard technologies aren’t always about saving money – they’re also vital to improving the travel experience. For passengers, M-ticketing can expedite the boarding process, making journey’s shorter and more efficient. This might not save your coach company money, but it will increase passenger loyalty, which means more return custom.

Using onboard WiFi as a passenger

Cutting costs with connection

Of course, onboard integrations like passenger WiFi, GPS and CCTV incur some additional costs. But connection comes with a range of additional features to reduce company overheads.

Coach companies have a variety of outgoing costs. As a major monthly expenditure, fuel consumption is a major concern for every operator. Engine monitoring captures the raw data behind the behaviour of a vehicle and provides solutions to how this behaviour could be optimised. By studying when and where an engine sits idle, operators can develop procedures to reduce vehicle inertia and optimise journeys.

Likewise, using GPS to monitor the progress of your vehicles on specific routes enables you to better comprehend where coaches are experiencing delays. The data gathered from your GPS can then shape new routes and save your coach company on fuel consumption.

Using onboard WiFi to improve accessibility on transport

WiFi = Additional revenue streams

Onboard WiFi isn’t simply a tool for passengers to pass the time. It’s a direct line through which you can engage with passengers on a deeper personal level (within the bounds of GDPR, of course). Just as social media channels offer personalised promotions through their platforms, you can promote relevant businesses direct to your passengers.

That’s right, your onboard WiFi can also provide an additional revenue source through personalised advertising. The Sygnal Portal allows you to upload multiple ad-types from local businesses. With options to customise ads according to journey, time and transport companies can deliver personalised, locally relevant promotions at the push of a button.

The analytics gained through your Sygnal Portal can also inform ad-pricing and give you additional leverage when sourcing new advertisers. Through these advertising deals, you can offset costs while providing a valuable platform to businesses on a local and national level.

Sygnal onboard WiFi technology at Euro Bus Expo 2018

Sygnal to exhibit passenger WiFi solutions at Euro Bus Expo 2018

By | Euro Bus Expo, News, Transport | No Comments

Sygnal, the passenger WiFi and integrated security system provider for the bus and coach industry, will exhibit their new range of onboard technologies at this year’s Euro Bus Expo 2018. Taking place at the Birmingham NEC from October 30th to November 1st, the largest event for the bus and coach sector of 2018, Euro Bus Expo 2018 promises to be a highlight for everyone in the passenger transport industry.

As a leading provider of cost-effective transport solutions, Sygnal is well-positioned to platform the next generation of onboard transport products. Chief among these new transport technologies is the Sygnal Portal. With onboard integrations for CCTV, Dash cams, entertainment, analytics and advertising, the Sygnal Portal enables bus and coach operators to manage all of their onboard technologies through one centralised system. Operators can upload content from third parties, track passenger WiFi engagement and even view saved footage from their coaches, all through one remotely-managed, simple-to-use service.

Around 300 exhibitors are expected to showcase the latest passenger transport innovations across the three days at the NEC. Taking in everything from the latest vehicles to training and services, industry insiders will have the opportunity to explore a broad spectrum of new technologies.

Natalie Crayton, Business Development Director for Sygnal, explains: “We’re very excited to be attending Euro Bus Expo 2018 for the first time. With so many new innovations on the horizon, it’s an exciting time for the industry, and for Sygnal. We have developed a wealth of transport technologies specifically for the coach and bus industry and can’t wait to demonstrate these in front of some of the industry’s leading figures.”

Sygnal will be exhibiting at Euro Bus Expo 2018 at the NEC, Birmingham, at stand T38 from October 30th to November 1st.