Technology Record - Issue 33: Summer 2024

112 FEATURE Microsoft’s Doug Priest explains how connected data platforms and technologies like AI and machine learning can help city leaders to build, maintain and operate more accessible, efficient, reliable and sustainable public transportation systems, while delivering seamless passenger experiences BY REBECCA GIBSON When Dutch railway operator Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) carried out customer research, it discovered two critical factors affecting satisfaction levels: how crowded the trains are and how easily passengers can find a seat. To significantly increase customer satisfaction and potentially improve resource utilisation with little added cost, the company used several Microsoft Azure services, including Azure Cosmos DB, to build a mobile application that delivers real-time crowdedness indicators and travel disruption alerts to passengers. NS captures data from internet of things (IoT) sensors on tracks, carbon dioxide sensors in passenger compartments and chip cards with passenger check-in and check-out data, then uses artificial intelligence and machine learning models to predict crowdedness and travel patterns for the following three days. Now, 95 per cent of the one million passengers using the railway every day check the app to see the status of their train. With the United Nations estimating that over 60 per cent of the world’s global population will live in urban areas by 2030, Microsoft’s Doug Priest predicts that more public transportation providers will be developing similar solutions to optimise their own operations and accommodate increasing passenger numbers over the next few years. “Public transportation providers are already experiencing ever-increasing demand for their services as more people move to cities and numbers will continue rising beyond 2030, into the next few decades,” says Priest, public transportation lead for worldwide government at Microsoft. “This will put extra strain on public transit networks, and many operators are looking for ways to scale up their services, run them more efficiently and improve how they manage infrastructure to minimise downtime.” Building efficient and resilient public transport systems that scale to accommodate the rise in demand is challenging. Delivering intelligent transportation