AV and the Transport sector
We all expect to see and hear messages on our daily commute to work, yet cutting-edge AV is rarely used to do it.
Transport has always had a rather conservative relationship with technology. It has been a reluctant and unenthusiastic partner for AV at times. One reason for this is that train stations or bus terminals don’t really compete with each other in the way than say the retail sector does for our business.
The latest technology won’t draw you in off the street to use a bus or train if you didn’t want to travel in the first place, transport is a truly functional pursuit. Also, if you need to get to Brussels from Paris you will go to Gare de Nord for example, because that is where that train leaves. You are not choosing Gare de Nord station because it has the best audio or displays in Paris, like you would choose a cinema or nightclub or bar in the same city.
That is one reason why we are rarely wowed by technology at points of travel. But there are other reasons too, money inevitably plays a part, the vast majority of transport projects across EMEA are public sector-funded. Stringent legislation requirements and durability/lifetime requirements placed on technology also play a part in the transport sector’s reluctant to push technological boundaries.
Yet we live in a modern world and technology is unavoidable these days. People expect technology to be there on their commute, whether it is on a bus or a train station or airport. If we start at the beginning of a transport project we can get an immediate feel why this sector is a tricky one for integrators and consultants. Getting project approval signed off has always been a slow and arduous process, is this still the case? Yes, is the unequivocal response from the industry. Getting final signoff is a big challenge. It can take a year to get something through a committee and passed.
There are different issues depending on the project, but generally speaking they are long-term projects with difficult sign-off procedures. If it takes so long to get the money together how do you deal with that delay as an integrator, consultant or manufacturer? Always put a caveat in your contracts that the technology might change but the spirit of what it will deliver will remain.
Transport sector want the best, but the budgets are small and purchasing (decisions) are made from contracts with limitations on what products can be used. Once budgets are in place, albeit probably less than you would like it to be, is getting access to the site still as tricky as its always been? Availability of the site is more of an issue in these types of projects because of the nature of the environment in which they are deployed. More specifically, there is a limited interruption of service and also usually have much tighter security constraints than in other environments.
Has what clients are asking for in transport projects changed at all in the last few years? The role of AV, in general, has evolved from being purely functional to something that contributes to the identity of aesthetics of the space; it contributes to the passenger experience in different ways than purely informational applications.
We see a switch to pure IP solutions. Transport projects are trying to use the IP infrastructure they are developing for other usages. Although EN54 is not used extensively in our markets, we see more and more adoption especially in transport projects.
Things are changing…the drivers for RFP are coming from the engineering department and the IT department, rather than the maintenance department, who only cared about how technology would last from a liability standpoint.
If things are changing how is that manifesting itself in new technology? Is intelligibility still the number one issue around audio in transport venues for example? Or are they now looking at newer advancements such as directional or object-based audio? Intelligibility is an important issue, but it is not really a priority for electrical consultants for example. Also, many systems are designed by non audio consultants, which makes it far from a perfect sound system.
Regarding of targeting the audience, should digital signage, so often just a basic offering in transport, be doing more than just showing a few (non-targeted) adverts to commuters? Should we now be looking to link signage with data applications? In the context of digital signage, content should be more data-driven, its shouldn’t only be linked to big data but should also generate data by understanding traffic flows,deliver messages better, which makes the experience more personalised.