Stations were often located in less desirable neighbourhoods where anyone visiting would not stay for long. But this trend is increasingly in reverse. Modern stations are becoming destinations in their own right as developers sense an excellent opportunity to enhance these locations and increase their value by offering commercial (retail & property) opportunities.

The addition of shops and a multitude of restaurants in modern stations mean that more and more people who have no intention of catching a train are visiting city centre stations, increasing footfall even further. In this climate, modern day station operation managers and rail infrastructure managers are facing the growing challenge of satisfying the needs of customers in their ever-busier stations.

Unfortunately, many stations are ill-equipped to meet this need. A lack of or outdated ICT means it is difficult to collect sufficient data on assets, operations and faults, and passenger flows making it impossible to show the real-time operating status of transport services. This challenge is set to be complicated further as new technologies such as 5G, cloud computing, and big data are introduced. There are also limited means to analyse potential risks in the station environment, meaning responses are manual and often inadequate to cope with difficult situations. In addition, many trackside terminals and hubs are still equipped with 'dumb' single-purpose devices that hinder the use of smart traffic management and operations and maintenance systems.

There are also limitations with the systems that are in place. These are typically siloed, reducing their overall effectiveness. They can also be more expensive to run with little prospect for efficiency management in energy consumption or staff activities. Maintenance of equipment such as ticket gates or machines is often reactive rather than predictive, meaning something has to go wrong before it is put right, potentially creating more inefficiency.

The desire and need to move to a smart station set-up is clear and work is underway to introduce more and more innovative solutions to improve stations’ operational efficiency and enhance the safety and security of customer-services. This includes the adoption of intelligent vision and AI assisted capabilities. These smart crowd control solutions can provide improved management of passenger flows by predicting reduced train-loading conditions, helping to ease overcrowding on trains and platforms and avoiding congestion in alleyways and busy areas. Technologies can also improve incident management and situational awareness, resulting in enhanced passenger experiences.

Three key areas form the building blocks of the smart station: Connectivity, Cloud-based/digital platform, and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Huawei combines all these technologies and more into its Smart Station Solution, offering urban rail operators and station managers a one-stop-shop for intelligent operations management that is more secure and reliable than previous systems.

The Smart Station ends the siloed approach to such an extent that it can offer one click opening and shutdown of stations. The platform’s operation display screen provides controllers with a comprehensive overview of everything that is going on across the entire station, providing clear indicators of current performance and how this might change as the station gets busier and quieter throughout the day.

This is inevitably beneficial to security. The smart system can automatically identify and report any anomalies such as an escalator incident, loitering, or an abandoned object as they happen. This helps to optimise the response by staff and minimises the risk to other passengers. Any potential incident is carefully assessed with the system optimising the response by advising controllers on the best possible action by analysing the data. Post-event assessment can also help inform and enhance any future reaction to a similar event.

In addition, Huawei’s Smart Station solution can plan and oversee maintenance actions. It can also facilitate the adoption of new technologies that help improve passenger experience by offering a digital connection between all touchpoints, such as intelligent automated fare collection, personalised messaging, and intelligent shopping solutions.

Crucially, the system can bring together relevant actors in the station environment, so they are all working and innovating together, improving safety and ultimately the offer to the consumer.

Huawei has provided smart solutions to more than 170 railway lines in over 70 cities around the world. For example, in 2020, Shenzhen Metro adopted Huawei's Urban Rail Cloud Solution across lines 6 and 10 — the first time that metro lines in China have deployed cloud computing and big data technologies to handle all service systems. Huawei continues to actively support the railway industry in its efforts to digitalise, particularly in the areas of connectivity, cloud infrastructure and artificial intelligence, to improve operational efficiency and enhance customer satisfaction.

To learn more about how your operation can benefit from a Smart Station Solution, click here.