For those of you fortunate enough to be reading this blog post from the comfort of a high-speed train, racing towards your exotic destinations; we salute you. Sincerely, all the travelers sleeping overnight in airport lounges.
But if you really are stuck on a train with poor WiFi, you must be thinking “why and how”
did you end up like this in the first place.
In the following lines we’ll look at the WiFi situation on trains, the future of commercial rail marketing and what ride share companies are doing right now to get you a ride home - for a fraction of the price.
Out of all the belongings carried by a person it would be safe to assume that a smartphone can rank top 3 in practicality and everyday use. One possible explanation for this is that we have designed our phones to keep us connected to the world around us.
We save time by doing important things on our agendas while on route to where we need to be next.
According to an article by The Economist -around 1.7 billion passenger journeys were made by rail in 2016/17. Judging by the figures, the demand for rail services is at an all time high since the 50’s -and it’s still growing.
So why do rail operators offer largely poor internet services (compared to home broadband) when there is both demand and practical usage for onboard WiFi ?
Is digital marketing the solution?
While the majority of us don’t understand the technical requirements behind offering internet onboard a train, perhaps we can place ourselves in the position of the rail operators and see what they would stand to gain if they did
-or stand to lose if they don’t
Besides the obvious benefit of having customers happily scrolling on their devices instead of worrying about arrival times, rail operators could potentially earn money by allowing more relevant partners to provide more relevant services via the onboard WiFi.
With the rise of social media and online advertising it is not hard to imagine a future in which better internet service is provided on trains coupled with relevant local ads in order to make the journey as engaging and enjoyable as possible.
One of the immediate effects of implementing this strategy is that the passengers would be able to save more time planning their next move in advance and avoid congestions.
Saving time and money to get home
Speaking of time saving, a study at MIT uncovered the fact that all the 15.000 New York city cabs could potentially be reduced to approximately 3000 ride-sharing cars.
The study is based on data gained from tracking passengers traveling behaviour and shows how a carpooling service dedicated to operating at full capacity (4 people car) would serve to reduce congestions and waiting times for customers.
And with sharing a ride with multiple travelers the price of a ride is expected to drop even further.
Commuterhive.com a London startup is working on this very challenge; to identify real time surges in demand and group commuters based on common destinations at good price.
Coming back to our brainstorming about better WiFi access on trains; Is it possible to assume that the future of transportation relies in providing (us) the customer with the tools to make better and quicker decisions?
That’s for us to keep guessing and for you to let us know what you think.
Purple Realtime is a small design and development startup located in the south coast city of Portsmouth. Our passion is creating realtime applications for the web which do not require you to download an app from an app store but work just the same from a browser. This gives our users a better experience when using our apps and also enables just about anyone to quickly access and use their features.
We were very excited when we first heard about this project and that super-fast Wi-Fi was finally coming to trains so that passengers could actually use the internet like we have all come to love on our home broadband connections. Internet connections on trains have traditionally been very flakey at best. This opens up a whole new range of users that would now be able to use our web apps instantly on the go.
After signing up to 1to1.link, we dove straight into trying out their API and developing a few quick prototypes to see how the system worked. This quick, rough coding turned out to be invaluable to us as we got the opportunity to give feedback to Wittos on what we thought could be improved upon, then a few hours later something was ready for us to further test out.
Having this knowledge of what data we had access to helped us to decide what we could do with our own proposal and how we could make it useful for passengers. We went through many ideas hashing out what could be useful and practical for a passenger-train environment, asking friends and family what they thought as we were processing through. Naturally, the route we went down was to display this information in an intuitive way so a passenger can easily find out what time their train is due in and receive a reminder when it's getting close. We are currently refining our idea and preparing to make our pitch on it. Cannot wait to see it live on a train up in Scotland.
If you would like to find out more about us and what we do, please visit our website www.purplerealtime.com.
Here I am, sitting on a train, waiting for my stop. I’ve unfortunately forgotten to bring a book and only have my phone for entertainment. Though signal isn’t great, so what I can do with it is limited.
Wait, don’t they have WiFi on trains now?
I connect to the service, not expecting much. However, I am greeted with numerous possibilities. A service which notifies me of deals at my destination; whether they’re restaurant deals or events going on, is one of them. I can also snooze in peace and be engrossed in a book knowing that I will be alerted a few minutes before my stop. I don’t have to keep checking if the train is on time, as I will be notified through my phone. No more struggling to decipher the voice over the intercom over the wailing of children.
I look out the window and see a beautiful building. I do not know what it is. However, on the WiFi, I can find out instantly. Perhaps even book a tour. Though the option also exists for making this journey an adventure; landmarks pointed out on a map, with some historical nuggets added in for good measure as well as the ability to follow the journey on the map in real time. All wrapped up in an elegant and intuitive interface.
Technology is exploding in exciting new ways, making lives easier for the consumer. We, as consumers, must remember to always try new things with open eyes because innovation is inevitable. Additionally, the Department of Transport has stated their expectations that 90% of all trains will have access to WiFi by the end of 2018, with virtually 100% by 2020, making the scenario above a likely future reality.
Stay tuned for insights into how Frugl and Firefly are rethinking 1-to-1 on-board destination experiences in the Project SWIFT Open Innovation Challenge.
Congratulations to our 5 finalists Frugl, Purple Realtime, Firef.ly, DigiRail and CommuterHive for making it this far. We are beginning the second of 8 exciting weeks and I, for one, cannot wait to see the end product.
The Project SWIFT Open Innovation Challenge is part of the Innovate UK & RSSB supported project to enable super-fast Wi-Fi on trains to enhance passenger experience in rail travel. The finalists have submitted and pitched ideas of applications which will work hand-in-hand with 1TO1 Link’s APIs to disrupt our traditional views of train travel.
The 8-week incubation period will allow the SMEs to develop their ideas while receiving mentoring and access to Project SWIFT partners: RSSB, Cisco, Level 3 Communications, CGI, Wittos & Intersection Analytics. At the end of the 8 weeks, the finalists have the opportunity to pitch their final app to interested parties. The stakes are high and the clock is ticking..
So, let’s meet the finalists!