How technology is revitalising transportation and delivering a comprehensive platform for the next decade of innovation and efficiency

In the past, transportation was the industry of innovation. Railroads were instrumental in settling the United States and then turning it into an economic power. Companies found ways to take to the skies in ever-more complex, comfortable and fast airplanes that could, eventually, span the globe. Bullet trains then improved on the railways to turn far distances into a short trip. And yet, in recent decades, transportation has stagnated when it comes to innovation. The aircraft that was pioneering in 1969 is still the standard today. Car engines remain the same, carbon-intensive combustion machines from many decades ago.

And many transport systems still use creaking old technology, making its best effort to run modern networks.

CIOs working in the transportation sector have to manage an increasingly-complex environment with current IT systems that are increasingly incapable of coping with it. There are more cars on the road, and yet, at the same time, people expect to get to places more quickly – meaning, an increased competition in the means of transportation. Ports are struggling to get all the containers in and out of the country, to generate the international trade that all nations desire. Domestic logistics are being stressed because consumers are also now expecting that the things that they ordered online, to arrive almost as quickly as when they press the payment button.

And, perhaps most disruptively of all, the pandemic of the last year, has changed how society views mass transit entirely, and it will force new health and hygiene mandates on busses, trains and airplanes, with implications that we’re still only beginning to understand.

Through all these challenges, CIOs and business leaders are coming to the realisation that technology, digital transformation, and “smart transportation,” is the only viable solution to the challenge. According to research by Forrester, more than 80 per cent of transportation leaders believe that “smart transportation” will make logistics more efficient and personalised. Meanwhile, the aviation industry is looking to improve operational efficiency and customer experience through data integration, railways are looking to increase safety by upgrading equipment and improving data collection capabilities, and most transportation companies are looking to accelerate their transformation over a very short period of time - the next one to three years - by shifting from focusing on single business areas to a comprehensive capacity building.

How transformation in transportation looks like

As with any sector, transformation in transportation is enabled through the adoption of a solid network and foundation, leveraging fast and resilient connectivity options, such as 5G wireless, as well as the application of cloud-orientated, data driven technologies, such as the IoT (to collect data via sensors across the distributed environments that transportation operates within), edge computing (to allow real-time processing at satellite sites away from the central datacentre), and AI/data analytics to drive and execute on meaningful insights.

For many enterprises in the transportation sector, a “1-2-3” approach towards a comprehensive transformation solution is the best strategy:

  • Firstly, holistic planning and deployment of technology solutions across the whole environment, which will help to break down silos within the organisation and minimise sporadic tinkering from impacting on the transformation results.
  • Secondly, organisations should focus on two areas of digitalisation in particular – one on the infrastructure itself, and the other on business processes, to ensure that the organisation is operating across the newly transformed environment in the most efficient manner possible.
  • Finally, the focus can shift to the three key flows – passengers, goods, and vehicles, which can now be streamlined through the transformed environment, and this is where the enterprise will see the new value come from.

What this means is that many transport companies should be first focused on building out digital cloud platform infrastructure. Currently, much of the effort in digitalisation, when it occurs, is being directed towards customer service, marketing and business partner support, but by taking a more holistic, all-of-environment approach, transportation companies can deliver far greater value back to the organisation than the focus on individual applications can achieve.

The Huawei vision for transport

In August 2020, Shenzhen Metro Lines 6 and 10 became a first of their kind, in the way that they leveraged Huawei’s Urban Rail Cloud Solution in China. This solution brought together cloud computing, data and analytics, AI and 5G technology to replace the previous silo-based vertical architecture that the train system has leveraged to provide the rail operator with a complete picture of everything – the Passenger Information System (PIS), security systems, the backup for the Automatic Train Supervision (ATS), as well as the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system.

This streamlining and simplification process has meant that platform security has increased by 80 per cent, and the system itself utilises IT resources 50 per cent more efficiently, saving CNY 2 million in power costs. Furthermore, as an added customer service benefit, passengers can access 5G services while on the train line.

Each smart transport project needs to be handled differently, according to the sector and the customer. For example, and as a significant contrast to the Shenzhen Metro Lines project, Huawei also assisted Tianjin Port to become an all-5G green smart port, with improved turnover efficiency in container processing via intelligent scheduling. This increased capacity by 10 to 20 per cent, allowing the port to plan and dispatch with far greater efficiency.

For Huawei, smart transport cannot be about products, but rather it needs to be holistic solutions, driven by transformation and digitalisation outcomes.

For more information on how Huawei is driving innovation and competitive advantage for the transportation industry, click here.

Additionally, from March 24 to 26, Huawei hosted the Industrial Digital Transformation Conference 2021 online, exploring the power of the resilient and innovative digital world from three perspectives: business, technology, and ecosystems. Featuring a series of activities – from keynote speeches to forums and roundtables – the Industrial Digital Transformation Conference 2021 was an open and inclusive platform that served as the backdrop for in-depth, ambitious dialogue. For more information or to catch up on the event, please click here.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.