Across the globe, metro train travel is having something of a moment. Metro is not only about connectivity – it’s about convenience, too. For time-constrained travelers, it’s easy to see the appeal of riding the metro trains: avoiding the road traffic downtime, arriving directly at your destination instead of having to drive for an hour or looking for parking, and clawing back your travel time that can be used more productively, whether that’s catching up on your emails, or relaxing with a Netflix binge. The destination matters, but increasingly, the journey does, too. Today’s metro train operators have a challenge that didn’t exist in the golden age of the steam engine: keeping all those passengers and their devices online.
Light years ahead
As the leader in lighting innovation, Signify is addressing the challenge of connectivity on board, and amazingly, we’re doing it all through the power of lighting. Not only can lighting now provide connectivity on the go, but it does so at blistering speeds that far surpass the WiFi connections we’re all used to. And this flawless connectivity is of course in addition to great quality lighting.
Signify’s latest offering called Trulifi is a connectivity technology that uses light waves to enable an internet connection that’s fast, stable and reliable. It’s great for super speed internet in the workplace, and for transportation services like metro rail, the benefits are further multiplied. What’s more, unlike the radio spectrum, the light spectrum is license-free. This means no upfront investment for network operations in government-issued spectrum licenses.
Indeed, internet connectivity is one distinct advantage that the metro has over other forms of transport, and it’s a topic on which travelers are unwilling to compromise. Going forward, passengers expect to stream high definition movies, upload heavy files, and make video calls, every kilometer of their journey. And in our connected world, the train itself has connectivity requirements; for example, high definition cameras collect security footage that must be offloaded on physical hard disks for processing.
When you look behind the curtain, how to keep the connection going is a substantial question that operators must face. At home, our WiFi router passes a radio signal to our TV or smartphone in more or less a straight line. A large, moving vehicle however presents more challenges. Trains are full of metal surfaces and also full of people. Both of these elements affect the ability of radio transmissions to reliably hit their destinations. Heavy, constantly-moving carriage couplings that lie open to the elements do not play well with the data cabling needed to link carriages to one another. And linking the train to the outside network requires costly cellular data connections, which are also unable to penetrate tunnels or mountains along the way.
By adding Trulifi to the connectivity mix, seamless connections and stellar speeds become possible. High definition streaming and even online gaming are on the table.
Right now, Signify is already working with Latécoère to provide Trulifi on commercial aircraft, connecting seat-back screens to fast Internet with a speed up to 250 Mbps. Trains and buses are a logical extension.
Connectivity could also be extended to passengers’ own devices through a seat point USB connection in the future. As we witnessed with the adoption of WiFi; when the infrastructure becomes more widespread, we’ll likely see LiFi receivers built into a new generation of laptops, tablets and eventually, smartphones, rendering a wired connection unnecessary.
In future, LiFi can revolutionize the way we make the connection towards the train. LiFi-equipped poles, paced at intervals along the track, follow the moving vehicle, beaming high speed internet underground, through tunnels and even hilly terrain.
Trains that talk
Behind the scenes, Trulifi offers a robust wireless platform to connect the growing demands of digital equipment and IoT sensors between train wagons. It offers the connected train greater reliability and safety and also provides “plug and play” wireless communication when regrouping trains or doing maintainance.
Those chunky security video files that are currently stored on local hard disks in the train along with other data can be downloaded and processed at high speeds the moment the train pulls into a station, improving passenger safety.
Arthur C Clarke famously said that sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. You could also say that really effective technology is completely invisible. For passengers, uninterrupted high-speed internet connection is something that’s supposed to just work. Meeting that expectation is a differentiator that can help keep metro train travel on its upward trajectory – and help people and the planet too.
The Article first appeared in Metro Rail News April 2020 (Volume IV, Issue 40, Page No 39-40) | Subscribe Now