Internet of Things drives operational gains for Indian public transit

Internet of Things drives operational gains

A just-launched program in one of India’s sprawling urban areas is now proving the potential of Intelligent Transport Management Systems to transform the way cities manage their transit challenges.

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green bus on the road

As cities around the world attempt to tame traffic gridlock, and invest heavily in public transport systems, they often struggle to operate their new transit networks cost-efficiently, and deliver a passenger experience that will satisfy demanding commuters.

A just-launched program in one of India’s sprawling urban areas is now proving the potential of Intelligent Transport Management Systems - powered by Internet of Things-connected devices onboard city buses – to transform the way cities manage their transit challenges.

This is the case in Thane, India, a growing metropolis adjoining Mumbai, where KPMG in India is supporting the Thane Municipal Corporation in developing its own smart public transport platform.

Transforming public transport with IoT devices

The City of Thane faced mounting pressures as its 470-vehicle public transit fleet operated around the clock to meet the demands of 1.8 million residents. Routinely stranded in grid-locked road conditions, the overworked buses suffered unexpected break-downs, leaving commuters waiting at transit stops wondering if and when their bus would arrive.

City officials recognized the potential to improve bus performance and passenger satisfaction. By equipping Thane’s buses with GPS-based tracking devices, connected by the Internet of Things on an open data channel to a command center web application, transit officials would be able to track the buses in real-time, to alert commuters to schedules and route changes. In addition, the city would be able to monitor vehicle health, to schedule maintenance before break-downs occurred, and gain extensive analytics reports on fleet efficiency.

Collaboration to calm commuter chaos

Once Thane officials put the wheels in motion for the Intelligent Transport Management System, the first of its kind in India that includes preemptive maintenance features, they selected KPMG in India to design the solution, including architecture for the necessary data algorithms, selection of technology partners, and oversight of system roll-out.

Thane chose KPMG in part because we offered a bigger, holistic view of how the technology could transform their operations. While the competition just offered a product to fix a problem, KPMG in India explained how the whole science would work, and how data from the connected devices would create predictive ability for future challenges. This spirit of innovation complemented Thane’s involvement in India’s Smart Cities Mission, a government initiative to invest in urban technologies to drive economic growth and improve citizens’ quality of life.

We worked collaboratively with the city to develop a solution, engage technology partners to integrate with non-standardized devices, and enlisted experts across the KPMG network to get involved.

One example is how the team went about designing an algorithm that could make sense of the seemingly-unpredictable travel data coming from buses, which alone would have been a very difficult task. So, KPMG brought together a team of data scientists from other projects, and consulted experts from Indian academic and state institutions, including external contacts KPMG had made through work on other Smart Cities programs.

We also worked alongside transit maintenance crews to draft precise plans to install the GPS tracking devices without taking buses out of service or disrupting schedules. This often meant assigning technicians to board buses between stops and install the devices while vehicles travelled with passengers onboard.

Smart Cities eye Intelligent Transport Management

As the city continues to install devices on its buses in phases, to amass greater data volumes in the new command center, the system has shown its early potential to provide in-depth reporting and analysis, accurate passenger schedule alerts and more efficient fleet maintenance planning.

The city is considering ways to sustain project momentum, such as leveraging the system to enable location-relevant advertising to bus passengers, to create ongoing revenue for transit improvements. Also, as many Indian cities confront their urban transport challenges, the city and KPMG could jointly advise others on strategies to introduce Intelligent Transport Management Systems as part of their Smart Cities agendas.

While word is spreading about the Thane project - and KPMG firms are becoming ‘go to people’ to advise on smart systems for many modes of transport - it’s extremely gratifying to introduce innovative ideas and technologies to help deliver innovative public services that will greatly benefit Indian society and the economy.

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