How Buses can use Beacons to Streamline Ticketing, Enhance Commuter Experience and more
Last Updated:  May 22, 2018
Transport services today face quite a few challenges, one of the most significant challenges being – fare evasion. That’s true! According to Wikipedia, operators of the New York City Bus system lose millions of dollars a year to fare evasion. Another recent article on Melbourne’s transport system reveals that around 250,097 passengers were busted for not having a valid ticket in the last one year alone! These numbers are a serious concern for bus operators.
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In this age of technical innovation, where connected travel experience is becoming a reality like never before – what can buses do to salvage themselves? Beacons are the answer! In this blog, we will discuss how buses can use beacons for ticketing, fare calculations and generating revenue for themselves. And, at the same time, how commuters can have access to real-time information on bus arrivals/departures, route maps and more. Here are a few ways beacons can be used in buses:
1. Automate fare calculation and collection via the app By integrating your bus’ app with a popular Map’s API, you can calculate distances, have access to real-time information on passenger location and more. In order to make sure that passengers are not evading fares or that they are paying the correct fare amount, you can place beacons within the bus. A simple way to do this is to place two beacons, one near the entry of the bus and other near the exit. As soon as a passenger enters the bus, the entry beacon triggers a notification on the passenger’s phone, via the app. This also triggers GPS location services (Map API integrated with the app) thus registering the ‘start of the trip’, with the current location on the map. When a passenger is about to reach the destination, another notification can be triggered, informing the passenger that he/she is about to reach the destination. When the passenger nears the ‘exit’ beacon, the app calculates the distance travelled and hence the fare for the trip, which can be directly deducted from the passenger’s account on the app. All this happens even without a bus operator’s intervention! A very valid question at this point could be, what if passengers close the app on their way? (Well, you never know with perpetual fare evaders!) There’s an easy solution to this – you need to factor this in while designing the app! In case of the Beaconstac app for example, the Android version will work even if the app is closed, while in iOS it will work if the app is in the background.
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2. Keep passengers informed about bus arrivals/departures, route information, bus stop names and more By placing beacons on buses, passengers can be made aware if the bus they are waiting for is nearing the bus stop. Similarly, they can check bus routes, distance travelled, bus stop names and more. A passenger travelling in the bus can be notified about the destination bus stop being near and so on.
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3. Scope of revenue generation Bus systems can collaborate with advertising networks that are aiming to send targeted offers to commuters on the move. Buses are a great place for advertisers to connect with and influence commuters’ buying decisions. Buses can thus generate revenue from the fees they charge these advertisers.
A recent example of this is the installation of beacons on 500 buses in London, by advertising business Exterion Media. The advertiser is hoping of monetising over 300,000 bus riders every day. After a successful six-month trial in Norwich, England, the business is all set to target customers with highly relevant messages. For example, commuters could receive discount coupons on their mobile as they pass a particular branded chain or a trailer for a movie as they get closer to a cinema.
[Tweet “Beacons installed on 500 buses in London, commuters to access targeted content on the move”]
4. Provide ease of accessibility to visually impaired Visually impaired passengers often have to rely on a friend, passenger or transport official to tell them when their bus has turned up, when they will reach the destination bus stop etc. With the help of beacons and an accompanying bus app, such commuters’ travel experience can be much smoother. The recent installation of 500 beacon devices on buses in Bucharest is a step in this direction. Called the new ‘Smart Public Transport’, the initiative will make the city safer and more accessible for the estimated 12,000 visually impaired citizens who live there. This is the first first large-scale technological solution in the world to help visually impaired passengers that has got past the trial stage. [Tweet “How beacons can provide ease of accessibility to visually impaired commuters”] Thus, when it comes to public transport, beacons can help you provide a range of improvements for travelers, by making it easier for them to locate public transportation vehicles in real time. You can use these proximity-detection devices to deliver relevant messages on arrivals and other real-time schedules such as information on incoming vehicle and its location with respect to the traveler.
Are there other ways beacons can be used in buses? Let me know in the comments below. If you are planning a beacon pilot, take a look at Beaconstac, that includes everything you need to get started. Using Beaconstac you can set up your own campaign, without a developer’s help!