BMW, Meta (formerly Facebook), and Ross & Baruzzini are the three companies featured in a recently published Forbes article on how augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies will change how businesses operate.
Our Mobility Systems project, HoloRail, led by Megan Huff, PfMP, Vice President, Managing Principal, is a groundbreaking case study on how AR interfaces for train dispatchers can disrupt the future of railway. This Transportation Research Board-backed project examined the usefulness of AR technology as a train dispatcher’s user interface.
What is HoloRail?
Most train dispatchers use multimonitor 2D displays to keep trains and crews moving safely and efficiently across the railway network. However, the bulky equipment limits the layout of controls and ties dispatchers to one location.
HoloRail uses AR technology, which enhances the real world with computer-generated information, enables train dispatching in an interactive 3D environment. Virtual reality typically blocks users’ vision. But with AR, train dispatchers can still see and hear what’s going on around them. HoloRail lets dispatchers see informational panels above trains and get a more holistic view of track layouts thanks to the additional planes of movement the tech offers. HoloRail also enables dispatchers to use head and hand movements to manage track diagrams, alarms, train and station information, and so on.
Why are Tools Like HoloRail Important for Our Future?
The Forbes piece highlights how AR/VR tools can help connect people and processes as we move into the next normal. By imitating real experiences, AR/VR opens doors to new opportunities to bridge gaps that were previously too wide to navigate.
As the article reports, “It’s unlikely that things will return to the way they were before the pandemic, so leaders need to take note of what the future of work entails. Only by adopting new technologies and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible will businesses be able to secure competitive advantages.”
Though the initial HoloRail system is a proof of concept, Megan Huff believes that the widespread adoption of AR technology in the transportation sector is fast-approaching. “About 90% of the dispatchers who used our pilot could complete the test procedures without assistance only after a 10-minute training tutorial on using the equipment and software, and 80% said they felt they could use the platform to complete their job duties,” she says.
“The gesture interface was easier for dispatchers to learn and use than anticipated. AR will change how the control room functions and the everyday work experience for all aspects of the transportation industry.”
Ross & Baruzzini was the only engineering firm to have recognition in the article.
Please visit the Forbeswebsite to read the full article or click here to read our HoloRailreport.
To get in touch with our Mobility Systems team, send us a note here.
If you had to assign a letter grade to the United States transportation industry, what would it be?
You might be surprised to learn that America’s transportation infrastructure has failed to score higher than a C-minus for several years, but if you look closer, the reason becomes clearer. In the transit sector alone, about 19% of vehicles are in poor condition, and most railways are made up of legacy infrastructure. Even if more Americans decided to take public transportation, 45% don’t have any access, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Government officials realize this, which is why a $1 trillion infrastructure bill secured a bipartisan win in Congress this year. The deal will expand and modernize roadways, bridges, public transportation, and digital infrastructure — all of which are pillars of an efficient, connected society.
Modernizing transportation infrastructure is a massive undertaking that involves large-scale technology integration. Luckily, the technology is available, but enormous volumes of data are still trapped in silos. Breaking down those silos and utilizing the data to fuel change management will improve the customer journey and drive operational efficiency.
This blog post will specifically look at U.S. railroads and what transit organizations can do to bring them up to speed, but know that these problems extend across all modes of transportation. The entire U.S. transportation industry needs to realize its vision of a smarter system — one where all modes are integrated with each other and additional pieces of city infrastructure (electric, water, trash collection, etc.). Only then will a region truly be able to function in real-time and move its citizens where they want to go, all while minimizing congestion and pollution.
Improving the Customer Journey
It’s possible to build smarter rail infrastructure; technology is not the issue. What’s really preventing transit organizations from closing gaps is siloed people and processes. Data analytics that are integrated across an entire organization’s assets and mined for insights through artificial intelligence can be incredibly powerful. Siloed data and teams, on the other hand, promote deficiencies in the customer experience. In the latter case, the result is a bloated, inefficient transit service.
Think about a hypothetical transit agency in a large city that offers regional rail and light rail options. The agency has implemented operational systems and hired staff for each of these modes of transportation. But it’s rare for them to share actionable, timely data on passenger journeys — even though many people use multiple modes in a single trip. As a result, passengers are subject to lengthy wait times at some transfer stations while the rail lines duplicate each other’s routes in other areas. All that translates to wasted time and money and disincentivizes people to regularly use public transportation.
By breaking down silos and encouraging technology integration, agencies can better understand the customer journey and improve the design of the transit experience. But technology itself won’t solve the problem; it’s only an enabler. Agencies need to thoroughly invest in change management. Even if an agency pledges $100 million to collect and analyze more transportation data analytics, nothing will change if it doesn’t use the data to drive behavioral changes across the entire organization. That’s a people problem that must be addressed through strategic thinking and cooperation.
Achieving Operational Efficiency
Data silos also have an enormous impact on operational efficiency. Consider how complex public transit is in the U.S. Agencies must manage the flow of passengers in and out of their stations, the maintenance of their equipment and infrastructure, and the logistics of getting equipment out — all on top of day-to-day operations. Not only are these systems siloed off from one another, but they also often have silos within them.
Without an environment driven by connected data, it’s difficult to determine what maintenance work needs to be done, where that work should be concentrated, and when it should be performed, among other factors. For instance, let’s say a public transit agency needs to temporarily take a rail out of service to repair a portion of the track. Unbeknownst to the team in charge of the physical track layout, the rail also needs signal repairs. But because the two systems are siloed from one another, the repairs are completed one at a time. This means that the rail is out of service for more time than it needs to be.
If the agency had technology integration, it could have performed both repairs at once to improve operational efficiency. And with real-time data collection and advanced pattern analysis, the agency might be able to predict when elements of the system needed routine maintenance before breaking down and interrupting service. Considering all the technology available, modern railway systems should function more efficiently — not less.
What’s Next for Public Transit in the U.S.?
Transit currently has the lowest grade on America’s infrastructure report card. There’s currently a $176 billion public transit backlog in the U.S., and that deficit threatens to balloon to more than $250 billion by 2029. Considering the work that needs to be done, the transit sector is a great place to start solving this problem with technology integration.
The Congress-approved infrastructure bill will devote countless dollars to the modernization of infrastructure. However, the country won’t be able to truly ease the transportation industry’s issues without breaking down organizational silos and embracing change. Although we only explored transit in this blog post, all transportation sectors can encourage collaboration and use data to facilitate change management.
Megan Huff is the vice president and managing principal of mobility systems at Ross & Baruzzini, a premier international technology consulting and engineering firm.
Ross & Baruzzini honors those who have served their country and while recognizing their patriotism. Veterans Day began as “Armistice Day” on November 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I. Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance, and November 11 became a national holiday beginning in 1938.
We consider it a privilege to work alongside our military veteran staff every day:
Greg Liles Technology Division Systems Specialist
Mike Maselli Technology Division Principal
Oliver Smith Technology Division BIM Technician
David Liles Aviation Senior Systems Designer
Carolyn Hughes Aviation Project Manager
Victor Gianelloni Medical Equipment Planning Project Manager
Dale Palmer Medical Equipment Planning Regional Director – Clinical Specialist
Mark Crosby Aviation Principal Consultant
Terrance Lackey Medical Equipment Planning Director – Logistics
Walt Lawrence Medical Equipment Planning Regional Director
Kevin Johnson Baggage Handling Site Manager
Craig Toder CEO & Chairman
Jeffrey Venter Security Senior Principal
Brian Lowry Project Services Group Senior Electrical Engineer
Vince Aragon Security Lead Security Consultant
Fred Viera Baggage Handling Technical Analyst
Kevin Fischer Baggage Handling Project Manager
Billie Brush Medical Equipment Planning Vice President – Business Development
Phil Zimmer Project Services Group Director – Plumbing Engineering
The aviation industry was hit hard by the pandemic, but there is a silver lining when this issue is viewed from an innovation angle. The pandemic is ushering in a new age of digital and automated technologies. This momentum presents a great opportunity for organizations to rethink their digital experiences in ways that are seamless, health-conscious, secure, automated, and personalized.
Airports of all sizes need to have a plan for their digital evolution to take advantage of this time when their board members, passengers, and stakeholders are asking for innovation. The sky is the limit for those with a knowledge of touchless technology and the network to get things done. Consider the following advancements:
1. Adopting touchless technology.
Touchless technology and personalization aren’t new concepts, but they grew more popular during the pandemic and will define the future of aviation. Passengers, workers, and employers desire less person-to-person interaction due to health concerns. And considering the proliferation of smartphones, people are expecting personalized information at their fingertips throughout their days.
This digital transformation of the customer experience has been evolving for years. In 2006, Disney launched a biometric initiative across its parks to streamline and personalize the visitor experience. Another significant milestone for biometrics occurred in 2013 when Apple added Touch ID to the iPhone, which generated awareness, interest, and greater consumer acceptance of people’s digital identities.
Touchless technology isn’t a new concept to aviation, either. The Department of Homeland Security launched the Apex Screening at Speed program to enable a seamless checkpoint experience. Using passive detection technologies, the program quickly and efficiently screens people for threats as they walk through the security portal.
Fast forward to a post-pandemic world, and touchless technology is becoming the norm and a business imperative. Consider how the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport uses facial recognition technology. Future-forward airports should prioritize touchless experiences and redefine the customer experience in the next normal.
2. Welcoming self-service and autonomous innovations.
Self-service is a major component of the evolving passenger experience, and it is maturing at a rapid pace. A full 89% of airports offer self-service check-in options, and technology providers are working with airports, government partners, and the commercial airline industry to roll out solutions. These technological advances in aviation include biometric bag drops, food delivery droids, and Transportation Security Administration screening time reservations.
The most successful technological advances in aviation have been driven through strong partnerships. For example, in 2016, Delta partnered with the TSA and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to deploy the first automated security lanes. The system streamlined security processing by extending divesting points, diverting alarmed bags to a separate inspection area, and automating the return of empty bins. Wait times were reduced, and the solution began rolling out across the aviation system.
Historically, partnerships in aviation focused on coordination among airports, airlines, and government entities. But now, airports and the commercial airline industry are increasingly choosing to form flexible partnerships that promote speed and creativity to deploy new solutions. In contrast to a prescriptive formal approach, open partnerships align toward broader objectives and allow evolving solution deployments. For instance, over the pandemic, Denver International Airport entered a long-term partnership with Daon to deploy contactless solutions that enhance traveler confidence and streamline airport operations.
The aviation industry can make the most of a tough situation by investing in touchless technology, autonomous innovations, and creative partnerships. These opportunities will define the future of aviation, so leaders can get ahead by exploring what’s possible.
Looking for a technology consultant and engineering firm with experience in the aviation sector? Click here to check out Ross & Baruzzini’s work in the space.
Chris Runde is the head of corporate strategy and innovation at Ross & Baruzzini, a premier international technology consulting and engineering firm. He specializes in technology and analyzing its impact on infrastructure and security. Join him at the Future Travel Experience Global 2021 on December 7-9 at ARIA Resort & Casino in Las Vegas as he discusses airport innovation in digital twins, autonomous systems, and robotics.