This story first appeared in The Fast Mode.
In 2023, the transportation industry focused on securing funding to invest in new infrastructure — including new onboard Internet connectivity solutions / to improve the passenger experience. In 2024, the focus will be on making sure those investments were worth it, resulting in more positive, productive, enjoyable journeys.
The 2024 approach to transportation infrastructure investments begins with maximizing value: improving efficiency, delivering increased value to passengers, and future-proofing each investment for the long term. Planning, designing, and building a public transportation service (like a new high-speed rail line) is an incredible feat in and of itself, but we cannot afford to simply check the box and move on. As an industry, we need to do everything we can to maximize performance and ROI.
Here are five prominent trends our global experts anticipate for the transportation market in 2024.
#1: SATELLITE ENTERS THE MIX
The future of mobile connectivity lies in a holistic approach that embraces and aggregates all available networks. Enter satellite hybrid solutions: a game-changer that seamlessly integrates different networks into a single platform, slashing hardware expenses while enhancing efficiency.
Expectations are high for modern connectivity: passengers expect to be able to watch streaming videos, join Zoom meetings, and conduct their regular business while commuting to and from the office. No single technology, whether that’s satellite, mobile networks, or trackside base stations, can guarantee the reliable connectivity passengers demand for an entire transportation corridor. Hybrid solutions are taking center stage, integrating all those technologies to deliver the necessary connectivity performance along the complete route.
By taking this hybrid approach to connectivity and aggregating all available networks, transportation operators can achieve more throughput with the same amount of onboard hardware.
#2: FASTER SPEEDS FOR TURBO-CHARGED CONNECTIVITY
When designing seamless onboard connectivity for public transportation, one needs to determine the desired throughput – the amount and speed of data to transmit across the network. This essential metric should set the foundation for every decision that follows.
Smarter processing capacity allows transport services to do more with less when it comes to throughput and connectivity. Modern solutions enable more computing resources to be allocated towards other Internet-enabled onboard applications, allowing for numerous services to operate smoothly and responsively, improving the overall transportation passenger experience, and making operational systems even more reliable.
The Icomera SureWAN 4.0 aggregation protocol supports multi-Gbit/s speeds by increasing throughput, lowering latency, and reducing data packet loss. Passengers using onboard Wi-Fi for services such as Internet browsing, VOIP, and video conferencing calls can benefit from a “snappier” user experience, while connectivity for Internet-enabled onboard systems such as Digital Video Surveillance and Automatic Passenger Counting is faster and more dependable than ever before.
#3: DESIGNING FOR WI-FI 7
By the end of 2024, the Wi-Fi 7 conversation will reach a fever pitch.
Since the creation of the first 802.11 standard back in 1997, Wi-Fi has continuously evolved to meet the increasing global demands for faster, more reliable wireless connectivity. Wi-Fi 7, also known as the IEEE 802.11be or EHT (Extremely High Throughput) standard, marks a significant step change; its introduction will deliver far better performance in high-density environments, making it perfectly suited for Wi-Fi on public transportation.
Wi-Fi 7 facilitates faster web browsing, streaming, downloads, and video conferencing for passengers, allowing them to stay connected more easily while they travel. Wi-Fi 7 can deliver up to 4.8x faster speeds, double the maximum bandwidth, a 20% increase in data transmission, and up to 100x lower latency than previous generations of Wi-Fi.
This is set to be a transformative technology, and transportation agencies need to plan accordingly. The industry’s long-term visions and technology choices should be built around Wi-Fi 7; anything less risks becoming obsolete sooner rather than later.
#4: LIMITING THE HARDWARE AND REAPING THE BENEFITS
Today’s transportation vehicles are loaded with various onboard systems that rely on seamless, dependable connectivity. To maximize the value in their technology investment, we expect transportation agencies to pare down those systems and do more with less hardware. Transportation agencies will opt for a single connectivity solution in 2024 instead of juggling multiple hardware solutions. By investing in a single source, agencies can achieve more benefits while using less hardware, all while enjoying improved performance, investment longevity, streamlined maintenance, cost savings – and of course, fewer holes in the roof of a train car.
#5: SHIFTING TOWARDS A MAINTENANCE-FIRST MINDSET
The way we design our systems today will affect both the transportation passenger experience and maintenance for years to come.
During a recent industry seminar, a transit operator shared their frustration with the abundance of technology in vehicles. When an individual solution fails, maintenance becomes much more difficult. In the operator’s ideal world, there would be minimal technology on board and less complexity in maintenance and upkeep.
In 2024, transportation operators will start to adopt a “maintenance-first” mindset, where system design decisions consider not just function but also ease of upkeep. Fewer complex systems, more durable materials, and easier access points – these are the hallmarks of a future where maintenance teams and passengers alike can breathe a sigh of relief.