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The Intelligentization of Airport Shuttle Buses Improves Service Efficiency


With the emergence of the Internet of Vehicles, airport shuttle buses are no longer merely vehicles for transporting passengers. Instead, they are becoming key factors for increasing efficiency and service quality in the highly competitive air travel industry.

By Liao Peijun with images provided by Advantech. Interview with Angus Shih, Business Development Manager of Intelligent Logistics 

Improving Passengers’ Airport Transit Experience

Shuttle buses are among the many services provided at international airports to ensure passengers can quickly and conveniently get to the necessary terminal and boarding gate. In the past, shuttle buses simply transported passengers to and from locations.However, nowadays, with the evolution of the Internet of Vehicles, airport shuttle buses are moving towards intelligentization and becoming key factors for increasing airport efficiency and service quality.
INFORM GmbH, a German systems integrator,adopted Advantech’s TREK series of in-vehicle computers as the foundation hardware for developing their fleet management system software Ground Star. They successfully created a smart shuttle bus solution that allows dispatch units to monitor vehicle locations and flexibly adjust bus schedules according to the number of passengers. Their solution also provides shuttle bus drivers with easy access to necessary information,including the daily route schedule, vehicle status, and GPS navigation directions, via a single touch panel interface. Moreover, with Ground Star software, in-vehicle smart displays can be used to provide passengers with relevant information, such as airport amenities, boarding gate numbers, and baggage carousel details. The results of implementing the GroundStar smart shuttle bus solution at a prominent five-star airport included enhanced service quality, increased commercial effectiveness, improved compliance with airport safety regulations, and optimized fleet management.

In terms of enhanced service quality, in-vehicle computers installed in the shuttle buses are used to play automated airport welcome greetings in multiple languages. In-vehicle smart displays are used to present relevant transit information, including all departing and arriving flights, boarding gate numbers, baggage carousel details, shuttle bus stop names, and estimated shuttle bus travel times. Push-based content delivery ensures that the displays always show the most relevant information. Additionally, digital signage displays located throughout the airport are used to broadcast promotional videos and advertisements for airlines, duty-free merchandise, taxis, and local tour operators for increased marketing and brand awareness.    Regarding improved compliance with airport safety regulations, multiple surveillance cameras were deployed on every shuttle bus, both internally and externally, to increase driving and passenger safety. Drivers are able to use the touch panel interface of the in-vehicle computers to view footage from the external cameras to reduce blind spots and facilitate maneuvering. 

Meanwhile, the in vehicle surveillance footage is streamed to the back end management center to allow vehicle monitoring and remote support. In cases of emergency, drivers can also use the in-vehicle device to call for assistance.    In regards to optimizing fleet management, the in-vehicle computers allow the centralized dispatch unit to remotely monitor the location of all airport shuttle buses.Additionally, by installing passenger counting sensors at transfer gates and terminal doors, administrators are able to estimate passenger numbers and dispatch additional buses if necessary. The implementation of at ire-pressure monitoring system and CAN bus network enables vehicle data to be collected in real time. Dispatch managers can also send information to the in-vehicle computers to provide drivers with instructions, updated work schedules, and navigation guidance. Moreover,managers can use the collected vehicle data to monitor driver behavior in order to increase driving safety and minimize vehicle wear and tear.Superior Management and Airport Service.

According to statistics provided by INFORM GmbH,the average airport can recoup the initial costs of implementing smart shuttle buses in as little as three months. However, smart shuttle buses can provide long term savings of up to 20 million (approximately US$23 million). Not surprisingly, many airports in Europe have adopted the Ground Star smart shuttle bus solution to improve the management and efficiency of their shuttle bus services.    For example, at Zurich International Airport in Switzerland, this smart shuttle bus solution has been used adjust airport operations in accordance with the Schengen Agreement. The Schengen Agreement effectively abolished most of European Union’s internal borders, enabling passport-free movement for EU nationals throughout all member states. Accordingly,Zurich International Airport now has separate areas and procedures for passengers traveling to Schengen and non-Schengen destinations. With the Ground Star smart shuttle bus solution, if a shuttle bus carrying passengers from non-Schengen countries parks in front of a gate designated for travel within Schengen countries, the fleet dispatcher can notify the driver and direct them to the appropriate gate. Additionally, in-vehicle LED displays can be used to inform passengers which stop corresponds to the appropriate terminal for their travel.    

At Frankfurt Airport in Germany, the smart shuttle bus solution was adopted to improve fleet management efficiency with the collection of comprehensive vehicle data, including gasoline consumption and maintenance history. This data allows administrators to identify areasfor improvement, such as reducing gasoline consumption by minimizing engine-idle times, in order to optimize operations. Administrators can also monitor the location of every shuttle bus for flexible and efficient vehicle dispatch to handle peak traffic, effectively reducing passenger wait times.    

The many benefits experienced by these international airports demonstrate that airport shuttle buses are no longer merely vehicles for transporting passengers.Instead, the Internet of Vehicles and smart airport shuttle buses are key factors for increasing airport efficiency and service quality. The integrated hardware and software solution jointly created by INFORM GbmH and Advantech have given shuttle buses the intelligence to support real time communication with back end management systems,optimizing fleet management and enabling improvements to all aspects of airport service.