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Passenger Wifi

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A guide to protecting passenger data using onboard WiFi

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

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll be aware that data laws in Europe are changing with the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The past few years have seen stories surface from every industry about companies using user data for purposes other than originally specified, and that’s exactly what GDPR is designed to bring an end to.

GDPR requires companies across every sector update the way they process and share personal data. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however. As the UK information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham explained: “The GDPR is a step change for data protection,” she says. “It’s still an evolution, not a revolution”.

So while the new laws don’t mark a drastic change in the way companies handle data, updating outdated personal data laws across the EU has been long overdue. The previous data protection laws, brought into place in the ‘90s, have struggled to maintain pace with the developments of the past decade. It’s worth noting that it’s not just companies based in the EU that are subject to the new data protection regulations. GDPR isn’t directed at European companies but at the data and information of EU citizens. 

Man using his smartphone on a coach hire service

Data protection in transport

Of course, any company that provides WiFi as a secondary service will already have a data protection plan in place. For transport companies with onboard WiFi services, protecting the data of its passengers is essential to maintaining trust. For companies operating across EU countries (and even for those operating in the UK, providing services to EU citizens post-Brexit), it’s vital they ensure all of their services align with the new regulations.

In the transport industry, it’s essential when seeking permissions from passengers to be transparent in what data is gathered and how it’s used. Transport networks can ensure this by updating their terms & conditions on the initial login page. These T&C’s must also provide clear instructions on how passengers can opt-out of providing this data at any time.

Providing they agree to some form of data gathering, it must not fall into the category of personal data, which includes:

  • Basic information such as name, address and ID numbers
  • Web data such as IP addresses and cookie data, Health, biometric and genetic data
  • Racial, ethnic and sexual orientation
  • Political opinions, religious beliefs, and union memberships

Prior to GDPR, companies still had to adhere to collecting only depersonalised information. Transport companies such as Transport for London (TfL) gather information like an encrypted version of the device MAC address, the date and time the device broadcast its MAC address, the access point it’s connected to, the device manufacturer and the device association type.

Commuters using smartphones while travelling on the subway

Protecting passenger privacy

Of course, protecting passenger data should be an integral aim of any company. Numerous data scandals have weakened the public’s faith in corporations’ ability (or willingness) to use their data responsibly. In transport, where thousands of passengers can connect for a short period every day, the need to maintain an open and transparent data-collection process is just as vital. After all, when passengers can trust the company they are travelling with is using their data responsibly, they’ll be more likely to consent to provide it.

The anonymised data gathered through onboard WiFi use can be useful for both passengers and transport companies. Bus and coach networks can use it to better understand the passenger journey, which can then go on to inform schedules, routes and the size of vehicles. Meanwhile, passengers can benefit from the increased efficacy of routes and enjoy wider access to different services. With GDPR in effect, passengers will need to specify the kind of data you can gather, but this doesn’t necessarily mean transport networks will have access to less information.

One of the most significant aspects of the new data protection rules; if there is a data breach of one of your customers, all parties responsible must report the breach within 72 hours to relevant authorities. A breach is defined as any loss, alteration or unauthorised access of personal data.

Always seek permission

GDPR explicitly forbids restricting access to a wireless network on the basis of a customer providing personal data. That means wireless network services must be provided without the condition of providing personal data.

The central aim of GDPR is to prevent companies from providing the personal data of its users to third party marketing companies, without first seeking consent. Consent can only be given when the user is provided with specific, clear information on how this data will be used.

For passengers, the new GDPR rules will likely have little effect on the overall browsing experience. Users will be asked to decide the amount of data they wish to provide when they first connect. With their chosen settings, passengers can enjoy secure browsing without the need to worry about who has access to their personal data.

Transport companies have an array of tools to make their business data compliant. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) website includes a section on understanding GDPR with a dedicated advice line. The ICO also includes a handy document on GDPR guidance and a ‘lawful basis’ tool that aims to give businesses tailored guidance on the legal basis’ for the different data processing protocols.

Woman using smartphone airline app to book flights

What it means for your business

Of course, companies that previously relied on revenue gained from third-party marketing companies to offset the cost of providing WiFi will now no longer be able to do so. Whilst some wifi providers have a case for processing some user data, public transport networks rarely fall under this category.

On first glance, the options for transport networks looking to provide WiFi are extremely limited:

  • Provide WiFi on a pay-to-use basis
  • Continue to provide WiFi without the benefit of revenue from third-party marketing companies
  • Stop providing WiFi altogether

While none of these options is ideal, they aren’t the only choices available. The introduction of GDPR has seen an uptick in the use of Federated Identity Management (FIM) technology among public Wi-Fi providers. FIM relies on an independent common federated authority to manage the identity of a user. With no need to store any customer data, FIM offers a solution to WiFi providers looking for cost-effective GDPR compliance.

Using mobile ticketing service on public transport

Besides this, transport networks can still gain valuable insights from anonymised metrics. Providing passengers consent to non-personal data-gathering through your WiFi, you can use that data to better understand elements like:

  • The average number of users at key times
  • The average browsing time
  • Onboard data usage
  • Mobile ticketing uptake

The insights gained through these diverse datasets can go on to improve passenger experiences and ultimately develop a more streamlined, passenger-focused service; and that’s something everyone can agree to.

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Using your mobile smartphone device on public transport

Integrating mobile ticketing on your transport service

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

Mobile tickets, otherwise known as mTickets, are fast becoming a popular onboard technology for transport networks. But what are the benefits of switching to mobile ticketing, and can they be integrated into your network without disrupting services?

What does it mean for payments?

Payment systems can be set up easily through online payment platforms like Stripe, Braintree or Paypal. The cost of payments to transport companies is minimal, and can actually reduce overall costs. Additionally,  companies can centralise their revenues and better track how variant factors like national holidays, sporting events and even weather conditions can affect takings.

Providing all revenues go through a secure platform, online payments can reduce the risk of passengers underpaying or providing outdated and obsolete currency.

Onboard WiFi for mobile ticketing

Of course, passengers won’t use WiFi to load their ticket before they board, largely because WiFi becomes available when they board and waiting for everyone to load their tickets would add too much time to the boarding process.

However, the mobile ticketing machine can connect to the Sygnal server, which in turn communicates with a database back at the bus HQ to ensure all passenger information is up-to-date.

That’s why more transport companies today opt for an app, in which new tickets can be activated and cached beforehand. In this way, passengers can download their latest ticket before leaving the house, ready to show to the driver or scan through an m-ticketing machine.

For passengers, downloading tickets in advance enables them to check times and avoid using data. The same app can be used onboard (using Sygnal onboard WiFi, of course) for anything from real-time journey information to the latest ticket deals.

Using mobile ticketing service on public transport

Using mobile ticketing to reduce costs and drive revenues

Of course, adding m-Ticketing can be a daunting prospect to bus and coach companies, but it doesn’t have to be a disruptive addition. Many transport companies have opted to retain the ‘ticket on sight’ system, whereby passengers simply show the driver their ticket. Providing tickets are purchased through an app system, this won’t prevent companies from gathering data on the type of tickets purchased, at what time and by whom.

When a company does integrate mTicketing into their business, the rewards can be significant. Companies use less paper without the need to print tickets onboard. Less fuel is wasted as people don’t have to look for cash, which also benefits the environment.

With the addition of a mobile app, transport networks can more easily keep track of who’s using their services and offer personalised deals. For instance, if a bus company sees that someone commutes every morning and night, they can target that customer directly through the app with a special weekly ticket offer.

Streamlining your coach service

Not only can mTicketing reduce overheads, it can also streamline other aspects of the service. Because mobile ticketing reduces waiting times, services become more punctual, encouraging more people to use the transport. Passengers can be updated on new developments, including delays to services, changes to routes and new offers.

As national transport networks shift to multimodal travel services, mobile ticketing will be an essential element of this cross-transport technology. Integrations with other forms of transport such as ride-sharing and metro services become simpler when all the required access tools are centralised. For a passenger arriving by train in a new city, a transport service that functions on the same platform as their train ticket will be infinitely more attractive than one that does not.

Passengers on public transport

Issues

Of course, with the introduction of any new technology, there will be challenges. It’s true that not everyone has a mobile, or access to the technology to regularly download tickets.

Some critics have suggested the introduction of mTicketing shuts out poorer people in society. However, mobile usage is roughly the same across all social groups, and the proliferation of WiFi in public spaces has made the connection required to download tickets more accessible than ever.

For those without a smartphone or whose smartphone breaks or runs out of battery, presenting a ticket can become more challenging. That’s why many companies retain some kind of paper or ‘flash pass’ ticketing system.

So while there may be some initial kinks to be ironed out introducing mobile ticketing, the long-term rewards make it worthwhile.

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Using onboard WiFi to improve accessibility on transport

Increasing your bottom line through passenger WiFi

By | Coach operator, Onboard advertising, Passenger Wifi, Sygnal Bites | No Comments

Aside from providing additional value to your coach hire company, onboard WiFi provides a direct line to your passengers through their personal devices. This connection comes with its own obligations, but, when used responsibly, it also presents a unique opportunity to engage with your customers like never before.

Direct promotion

As old as the internet itself, online advertising offers a platform to engage with a huge audience, with the added value of gaining access to valuable information on the demographics, browsing behaviour and brand preferences of your audience.

Through the Sygnal Portal, transport networks can gain additional revenue streams by sourcing promotional content from relevant advertisers and promoting it through the passenger WiFi.

Because Sygnal enables ads to be customised according to the journey, transport operators can deliver personalised, locally relevant promotions at the push of a button.

Man using his smartphone on a coach hire service

Sourcing advertisers

If you’re not sure where to start finding advertisers, Sygnal is on hand to help you source local and national businesses. Valuable statistics gained from Sygnal server analytics can also help inform your pricing and add leverage to negotiations. Approaching an advertiser with analytics showing over 1000 unique visitors used your WiFi within the past month represents a better proposition than simply offering information on passenger numbers.

For large, multi-region transport operators, Sygnal can help source local businesses for relevant route-specific promotions. Running regular routes between London and Edinburgh, for example, provides a unique opportunity to promote bars, restaurants, live venues and even hotels in the English and Scottish capitals.

Woman using onboard technologies to browse bus WiFi

The Sygnal ad-platform

The ad-management section of the Sygnal Portal is simple and intuitive, allowing your team to upload, edit and push new ads direct to passengers.

The Portal comes with the option to choose from a variety of different ad-formats and upload images, video and text to your Sygnal servers.

Because passengers gain access to promotions through their personal device, they can keep the information on hand when they step off your vehicle.  That’s why the Sygnal Portal comes with the option to include business locations within an ad, enabling passengers to step off and – providing they have data and GPS on their own device – make their way directly to the promotion.

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Retrofitting your public transport

Using passenger WiFi in your international coach tours

By | Coach Tour, Passenger Wifi, Sygnal Bites | No Comments

If you run a tour company in the UK, you’ve probably grappled with the question of how best to accommodate overseas visitors. It’s a tricky task. Tour guides must be ready to adapt to new situations, answer any question and provide information on a huge range of subjects in a way that’s informative, fun and accessible to all.

Fortunately, there are tools to help the modern tour guide, and one of the most recent additions could also prove to be the most significant. Passenger WiFi is already transforming the travel industry, but its value as a device for adding new dimensions to coach tours has been largely overlooked.

For groups participating in guided tours, Sygnal’s onboard wireless server can provide tour information directly to passengers. Not only this, but any information can be delivered in a passenger’s native language through their personal devices. In this way, every passenger has the opportunity to enjoy the tour without the barrier of language difficulties. Passenger WiFi can add an interactive element to coach tours, allowing passengers to engage with materials through quizzes, polls and other activities.

Group sat on coach using onboard wifi

For coach tour companies in the Scottish Highlands, for instance, providing information on the different distilleries, attractions and historic landmarks become more inclusive when everybody is capable of digesting the information in the language they feel most comfortable with.

Sygnal’s onboard server also makes sharing supporting tour guide materials easier. Returning to the Scottish Highlands example, guides can enhance their tour with short, custom videos sent directly to the passengers’ phones. Will the tour involve a trip to a distillery? Share tour materials on anything from the history of whisky to the distillation process to whet the appetite of your passengers. Conducting a tour of Highland lochs? Provide short videos with language-specific subtitles to give passengers an insight into how the lochs were formed. These extra touches show you’re willing to go the extra mile for your customers, something that won’t be forgotten when it comes to their post-tour review.

Tour bus travelling along Scottish Highland road with passenger WiFi

Of course, the coach tour is all about taking in your surroundings. It’s understandable why tour operators want to avoid technologies that encourage passengers to look at their phones. But passenger WiFi isn’t meant to replace the traditional tour guide. By using passenger WiFi as a supporting tool, coach tour companies can enhance the travel experience and redefine the meaning of true hospitality.

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