World Wi-Fi Day 2023: An Interview with Mats Karlsson

To celebrate World Wi-Fi Day 2023, we spoke with Icomera’s Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder Mats Karlsson to discuss how technological advances are helping meet the growing data demands of both passengers and transport operators…

What Benefits are Ever-improving Wi-Fi Connectivity Bringing for Public Transportation?

Firstly, reliable, high-speed connectivity clearly enhances the appeal and convenience of using public transportation systems for passengers. Nowadays, travellers expect to be able to use the Internet, on demand, wherever they are, turning their journey time into productive time. With the ability to send emails or take part in conference calls, commuters can work beyond the office, while leisure passengers can communicate with friends and family via social media, shop online, or catch-up with the latest news.

As an increasing number of other onboard services beyond Wi-Fi go digital, they too are becoming connected. These services range from real-time journey information for passengers, to onboard entertainment and digital video surveillance. These solutions are being deployed to improve the flow of information for passengers and staff, and condition-based monitoring of vehicles to intelligently predict and pre-emptively resolve issues to prevent service disruption. Leveraging the data from these different onboard systems allows both passengers and transport operators to gain maximum benefit and Return-on-Investment, especially when multiple connectivity solutions are utilised together.

What Challenges does the Industry Face Due to Evolving Passenger and Operator Connectivity Expectations?

It’s impossible to explain the recent connectivity-related challenges brought to the transport industry without making some reference to the impact of COVID-19. The pandemic undoubtedly hit the sector hard; there remains a need to restore passenger confidence and, beyond that, to meet the increase in demand that comes from shifting society’s travel habits further towards sustainable, green mobility.

However, the pandemic also massively accelerated the timelines for mass adoption of certain digital technologies, driven by changing passenger behaviours. When it comes to catering for the evolving needs of travellers, increased Wi-Fi connectivity on vehicles is helping address the shift to hybrid home / office working patterns that’s occurred. Employers are becoming more open to employees working from any location, and employees are keener than ever to take advantage of their commute to carry out work-related tasks. But to remain productive while they travel, it’s vital that the Internet connectivity on offer on public transport vehicles not only works, but works well; a quality, reliable Wi-Fi connection can prove as important as seat availability or punctuality in enhancing the passenger experience.

It’s positive to note that in the last 12 months, Icomera’s X-series platform connected more passenger Wi-Fi sessions globally than in any previous 12-month period. We’re currently at 125% of pre-pandemic levels, which is even more impressive if you consider that overall passenger numbers in some countries have not yet returned to where they were in 2019.

Finally, transport operators are increasingly expected to do more with less, delivering these additional passenger and safety-focused services with the limited budget and resources that they have available. Icomera’s mobile connectivity and application routers have the necessary connectivity and computing power to support multiple resource-intensive systems simultaneously – e.g. passenger Wi-Fi, passenger information, onboard entertainment, and digital video surveillance systems can all reside on Icomera’s centralised connectivity platform, reducing the amount of hardware that needs to be installed on board the vehicle.