I love to drive and I take every opportunity to do so. However, driving a car in Delhi or for that matter any congested metropolitan city can’t be a pleasant experience, unless, you are driving a LR.
Well I must confess, I am a huge LR fan and for me to buy one, I have to save money and use public transport . . .
I have used the metro before, but all those were one off occasions and needed no planning. However, I intend to use the service extensively and more than my desire to save money for my LR, I want to understand how IoT can be used to improve and make this system future ready.
Let me spend a moment on the existing infrastructure and how it works. Delhi metro is a feat in itself. I have never come across any project as planned and meticulously executed in India, as the metro rail project. Not only that, it’s been several years and the ecosystem has not cracked under the chaos of our society. It’s clean (which in itself is a feat), punctual, well maintained, air-conditioned . . . The rail cars were initially imported from bombardier and likes, however, I believe they are now manufactured/assembled out of Gujarat. They are the latest models and have conveniences like power outlets, electronic maps showing train position etc. Here is an article from N Y Times that does justice to the fantastic ecosystem that has been set up – In India, Hitching Hopes on a Subway
What can IoT do to improve an already fantastic ecosystem. Well for one, loads of additional data could be generated by connecting objects, using sensors, cross referencing that with existing data. Many problems could be addressed (you can call them first world problems) and efficiencies incorporated.
Lets take a step back and see what happened behind the scene at Google I/O this year. Google deployed hundreds of sensors all across to measure parameters like – Air Quality, Sound, Light, Motion, Humidity, Temperature, RF Signal Strength. Below are some of the examples of data generated by using these sensors.
The graph below shows steps per minute and you can see it peaked at the registration time.
The graph below shows how noise was measured. Clearly Billy Idol and Steve Akoi were the party favorite songs.
You can also have a look at the visualisation map generated for the registration area. Click here . The data that was generated and the hardware, sensors etc that were used are all open source collaboration that many companies are doing in the IoT space.
Here is how using these sensors and more can help commuters and folks who manage something as modern as a Delhi metro.
Some folks can be quite noisy and there are people who would appreciate less noise. Although in a metro you do get outside noise and announcements etc, even after that you can have some cars that are high on noise. With the use of sensors, commuters can get to know if a particular car is noisier at that particular time. They would have information available to board other car.
This is a big one for me personally. I don’t like strong odour and it has happened to me once I was commuting back from my office to home on the metro. The ordour was particularly strong because of some specific people and I could barely stand it. With air quality sensors in each car, we could get to know real time information about a particular car and more importantly we could read patters and draw inferences like – if air quality was a factor of the number of people in the car at a particular time or if air quality was bad from point A to point B at specific times of the day. This data could help commuters make informed choices.
No one wants to go in the metro if it’s jam-packed. Some of the metro stations in Delhi are notorious at specific times. This information is well documented, what is not available thought is the possibility of other stations being full at specific times. With motion sensors, one could get to know exact details on the footfalls at particular metro stations and in particular cars. This data could be correlated with data that Delhi Metro already collects (commuters coming in and exiting the stations). With real time data, heat maps could be generated to enable commuter’s board cars that are less populated.
More importantly it could gives users a choice to leave home when they would know that the station and cars would be less crowded. Metro administration could also gamify this data and incentivize commuters to board the train at specific times so as to spread the traffic.
I live in south Delhi and there are 3-4 metro stations that are more of less at equal distance from my home (INA, AIIMS, Green Park and Hauz Khas) and 2 that are close by to my office (Guru Dronacharya and Sikandarpur)
One which time would be ideal for me to board the train. When I leave for office I have some leverage over my time to commute and when I have to go back home, most days that leverage could be significantly more.
The other equally important aspect is which station to board. This may not apply across board; however, there will be a significant number of commuters who can choose a station to board. In my case it could well be possible that lots of people disembark at AIIMS (which is a large medical facility) and not many new passage’s get back on the metro. I could then choose any of the next two stations to board. However, if an equal number of commuter’s board, I may then be tempted to take a chance and board at AIIMS itself.
IoT is at a very nascent stage and it has its loyalists and opponents who don’t believe in it. I truly believe that urbanization is a well established fact and as more and more people move to the city, we will demand more. Cities needs to get efficient, smart and they need to start now . . .
On the metro specifically, it a world class ecosystem and serves its commuters well. It needs to get many basics right like enabling mobile broadband, seamless ticket recharges (I tried it today and it did not work), using mobile phones as smart cards etc.
Another important aspect is connecting metro to the Delhi Bus service (Grid). Commuting to and from the metro station is equally important. All the aspects of the metro service can be incorporated into the Delhi bus service, making it a truly connected ecosystem.
I will write more about about how we can connect the public transport system in cities like Delhi, create a model and then deploy it across numerous Indian cities.