Interesting conversation with SI Urban – the magazine for urban cable cars:

Whether communication, security, advertising or customer retention: There are many reasons to make an urban cable car into a digital system. Increasingly, these are about extending system-critical communication between passengers and staff through entertainment provisions.

The essential focus is on the cyber-security of networks for communication with passengers in an emergency and on process monitoring in cable car operation. “What is important, is an operating system that has no backdoor, is protected by a firewall, and can withstand hacker attacks,” says Markus Todt, country manager Austria from LANCOM, a leading network provider from Germany.

Together with Austrian company LOOP21, the hardware manufacturer has already fitted out numerous cable cars in the Alpine and urban environment, including systems in La Paz (Bolivia) and Haifa (Israel).

“There are only a few companies that can overcome challenges like terrain, dead spots and lack of connectivity, such as occur in the case of cable cars. Solutions to legal barriers also have to be found,” says LOOP21 Marketing Manager Wolfgang Frajuk.

As part of local public passenger transport, the Wi-Fi in urban cable cars must work 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“Communication between operating/emergency personnel and passengers must be guaranteed. The Wi-Fi therefore becomes safetyrelated equipment,” LOOP21 CEO Manuel Urbanek explains. Control, monitoring and surveillance on public transport are essential nowadays.

“Ongoing operation of the cable car is optimised with a specially developed mobility communication system,” Urbanek continues. The Wi-Fi provision to the entire route enables staff in individual gondolas to call and have a conversation, to play music or information announcements, to control the light in the individual gondolas and to access security cameras. The control is managed centrally from a touch display in the control room.

The key elements of the network solutions are access points, which are fixed to masts and gondolas and which connect to the Wi-Fi. “Highperformance radio modules also ensure secure and fast reception even under difficult conditions,” Todt emphasises.

As the access points have been designed especially for outdoor use, they are able to withstand even harsh weather conditions and work at temperatures from minus 33 to plus 70 degrees.

“The gondolas on the urban cable car network in La Paz are equipped with a mobility communication system. In addition to Wi-Fi access for passengers, this system also has a call and intercom system with emergency function, a security camera and a control unit for autonomous power supply to the units, including by means of solar panels. Moreover, the city benefits from real-time analyses of Wi-Fi hotspots.”

ADVANTAGES FOR OPERATORS AND PASSENGERS

In urban cable cars, Wi-Fi has advantages particularly for the operator. With the intercom system, staff can call the gondolas and have a conversation. Even fully automated self-testing is possible. Furthermore, the safety of the cable car operation can be improved with security cameras (CCTV) and pinpointing of the vehicle location along the route.

“Through the network, the operator has access to air pressure, external temperature and wind strength sensors,” Frajuk elaborates.

Together with the monitoring of columns, sheaves and the cable span, this results in a high level of reliability over the entire cable car network. In addition, fibre optic / directional radio, obstruction lights and digital signage as well as audio infotainment are available if requested.

Indeed, passengers in urban cable cars can also benefit from Wi-Fi and network solutions, which give them public internet access via hotspot and allow them to use location or userdependent information services. Sound systems, digital signage and audio infotainment as well as emergency buttons are also available.

The key elements of the network solutions are access points, which are fixed to masts and gondolas and which connect to the Wi-Fi.

OUTLOOK: INTERNET OF THINGS (IOT)

Under the slogan “Internet of Things”, Wi-Fi networks in urban cable cars could potentially have a lot more to offer, as Urbanek emphasises: “From personalised location-based advertising in the gondolas through the ordering process and pricing to prepayment information – with a smartphone, there are many application areas.”

It is even possible to measure the power supply using Wi-Fi, as the cable car operators in La Paz have already demonstrated. Urbanek is therefore looking optimistically to the future: “Smart City and IoT are the drivers for more Wi-Fi in urban cable cars.”