Through its partnership with Rotterdamse Elektrische Tram (RET), Icomera delivers reliable, high-performance connectivity for Rotterdam’s entire transport network.
The multimodal solution is installed on all of RET’s trams, metro trains, buses, and its high-speed ferry, providing connectivity for onboard systems and maintenance services, as well as Passenger Wi-Fi for RET’s passengers to work and play as they travel.
About Rotterdamse Elektrische Tram (RET)
Rotterdamse Elektrische Tram (RET) has been in operation in Rotterdam since 1878, transporting over 650,000 passengers every day. The Public Transport Operator’s fleet is comprised of a range of electric vehicles (trams, metro trains and buses), diesel and hybrid buses, and a ferry. As one of the first electric tram and metro systems in the Netherlands, RET are continuing to work towards greener fuel sources for their fleet. To encourage public transport use, RET is also seeking to interlink private and public transport to provide a seamless door-to-door transport service for Rotterdam. Increased safety is also a key metric as they seek to attract and retain passengers.
Multimodal Connectivity for the Entire Fleet
The formal relationship between Icomera and RET began in 2014 when a contract was signed to deliver connectivity to trams and metro trains. 258 Icomera X6 mobile connectivity and applications routers were deployed to RET trams and metro trains in 2014 and 2015, with an additional unit deployed to the fast ferry operated by RET at a later stage. The need was for reliable, high-performance connectivity for onboard systems and maintenance services. This included video surveillance data offload through Wi-Fi connectivity every time the vehicle visited the depot. Wi-Fi access for passengers was deemed to be an additional benefit. As a ruggedised Rail-grade router, the Icomera X6 was an ideal choice for RET’s Light Rail fleet, and this was one of the first customer deployments of this product.
In 2018, RET were looking for a connectivity supplier for a new fleet of electric, hybrid and diesel buses. Following the success of the previous deployment to light rail, they wished to extend the Icomera connectivity solution to these new road vehicles, providing connectivity to other onboard computers and Passenger Wi-Fi to allow passengers to work and play as they travel. They were also attracted by Icomera’s involvement in the Information Technology for Public Transport (ITxPT) standardisation body. A total of 198 new diesel, hybrid and electric buses were commissioned with the Icomera VTC ICR-2 router, and were installed in 2019-20. The heavy focus on hybrid and electric vehicles demonstrates RET’s ongoing commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Rotterdam as well as noise levels.
In October 2019, Icomera was commissioned to retrofit 76 additional buses with ICR-2 routers, bringing the total of Icomera connected buses to 274. Since the intention is that these diesel buses will also be replaced with Zero Emission buses once they have completed their service life, Icomera re-used the antennas and cables already installed for reduced environmental impact and cost savings. RET chose the VTC ICR-2 for their buses. Containing an Intel Atom Quad Core 1.91 GHz CPU and 8 GB RAM, the VTC ICR-2 has sufficient power to transfer data from other onboard systems to and from the back-end. With 2 LTE-A modems and 2 SIM cards (allowing the router to connect to two different MNOs for increased coverage if required), RET is assured of reliable connectivity for onboard systems. The two Wi-Fi cards can be used for both Passenger Wi-Fi and for offloading system data.
An ITxPT Solution
As mentioned, Icomera’s role within Information Technology for Public Transport (ITxPT) was a significant motivator for RET in selecting an Icomera connectivity system for their bus fleet. RET commissioned Icomera to run the ITxPT Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) location service on both the VTC ICR-2 and X6 units, meaning that the Icomera units are able to provide geolocation data (co-ordinates) to other applications in a vehicle’s onboard network. This data can then be correlated with other available data to produce a more accurate vehicle location, or simply supply the location data to Fleet Management or Passenger Information modules onboard the vehicle.
ITxPT aims to enable interoperability between IT systems in public transport and to allow onboard systems to share data provided by onboard devices. Alongside location data, Public Transport Operators often wish to share real-time information, ticketing, passenger counting and driver/vehicle login data between onboard IT equipment to build a fuller picture and to ensure that onboard equipment is not unnecessarily duplicated. Having a central Vehicle Communications Gateway which provides connectivity to all onboard modules is key to reducing unnecessary cabling, antennas and hardware on board vehicles, which do not have much spare capacity. Icomera is providing secure communications for several onboard systems, such as video surveillance modules, ticket validators, diagnostic data and timetable data. Traffic passing through the WAN tunnel between predefined vehicle systems and central servers is encrypted, allowing data to be safely and confidentially passed from the payment device through the router to back-end systems. This functionality is already available on the bus and tram fleets and will soon be rolled out to metro.
Passenger Wi-Fi may have been a “bonus” application for RET’s connectivity solution, but it has nevertheless proved popular and well-used by passengers seeking to use their travel time productively. In 2019 there were on average 38,000 sessions on Metro trains and 21,000 on trams every day, meaning that 19% of metro and tram travellers use the Icomera Wi-Fi daily. Passengers use the Wi-Fi for 16 minutes on average – which is in line with statistics for average journey length on buses across Icomera vehicles. Total data transfer for 2019 across both metro and tram fleets was 138 TB. In addition, Icomera also supplies Station Wi-Fi to some metro stations via the Icomera X6, allowing passengers to remain connected, and vehicles to offload data over more cost-effective links. As well as utilising Icomera’s cloud-based management suite to manage and monitor the Wi-Fi solution and track vehicle location, RET also has a service level agreement to ensure the performance of their solution is well-monitored.
What RET say:
“As part of RET’s ongoing strategy to deliver the best possible travelling experience for our passengers we are working towards having a single communication platform for all systems across our fleet. This approach really plays to the strengths of Icomera’s platform and we are eager to integrate with this technology, enhancing our operational efficiency so that we may continue to offer a service that our passengers can be proud of.”
Hans van Veen, Team-coordinator Information System Development (ICT), RET
What we say:
“RET has been a valued customer of Icomera since 2014, when our products were first deployed to their Light Rail fleets. We are pleased that they have chosen to deploy our connectivity solution to their Road fleets as well. Our relationship with RET is a good example of how Icomera connectivity solutions can be used not only for Passenger Wi-Fi, but also as vital connectivity for other onboard services.”
Darrell Anslow, SVP EMEA, Icomera
Image Credits: Rick Keus / Rob Kamminga