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Interactive Locations and Intelligent Digital Signage (iLIDS)

The Department for Transport has awarded UK technology company, Enable International, together with The Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB), Arriva UK Trains and research partners the University of Surrey, funding through its £9m Innovate UK ‘Accelerating Innovation in Rail’ programme. The money will be used to research, develop and test new technology to improve information, safety and accessibility on railway station platforms.

The project, named ‘iLIDS’, which stands for ‘Interactive Locations and Intelligent Digital Signage’, aligns with the UK government’s ambition to improve customer experience for rail passengers. Specifically, it is being designed to optimise passenger movements through stations, and improve boarding and alighting procedures.

Unprecedented rail demand and near continuous heavy-duty vehicle traffic are making the safe and efficient management of the railway stations and platforms increasingly challenging and expensive. At the same time, overcrowding at busy times increases the potential for delays and can lead to a suboptimal journey experience for customers.

“iLIDS aims to improve boarding, alighting and on-time performance of trains, by combining information from sensors installed on station platforms and on trains, with customer data. It is intended to transform transport interchanges into ‘responsive user-interfaces’, improving safety and customer experience by relaying tailored customer information to passengers via state-of-the-art digital signage and responsive lighting systems, as opposed to smartphones.” explains Chris Thompson of Enable, the programme’s technology lead.

The iLIDS system responds to volume of footfall, seating availability and knowledge of customers’ requirements (e.g. the need to accommodate a pram, bicycle, wheelchair or venerable group, such as a party of school children), in order to guide people through the environment and help them navigate railway station platforms more efficiently, whilst preserving their individual identity and privacy.

Prototypes of the iLIDS system will be installed at Harrogate Station on the Northern network and Quinton Rail Technology Centre in Stratford-upon-Avon, with demonstrations scheduled to take place during February 2019. During trials, the project team will measure iLIDS impact on platform congestion, customer satisfaction and ‘Passenger Delayed Minutes’, a key performance indicator across the rail industry, for both peak and off-peak services. Stakeholders expect the results of these demonstrations to determine iLIDS potential to augment newly built transport interchanges, though better integration with rail operators and their customers.

The EU General Data Protection Regulation compliant solution also aims to build confidence in the notion that personal information can be shared, securely and responsibly, by taking a ‘privacy-by-design’ approach to improving services. This is a key pillar in achieving the government’s digital economy policy objectives.

Enabling more efficient people movement through rail stations in this way, minimising disruption and enabling ‘intelligent trains’, according to the Rail Safety and Standards Board 2017 Rail Technical Strategy Capability Delivery Plan, will improve customer experience and unlock over £1 billion of financial benefits for the industry.