Why is connectivity so critical for the future of train travel

Author: Tony O'Brien


Consumer hunger for connectivity and data is changing the transport market globally. The average passenger experiences a range of potential engagement points and different technologies as they move through a transport hub onto their mode of transport to reach their final destination.

Airlines have invested in collating and assessing data from the connected journey for several years and other industries - especially rail – can learn a lot from some of the techniques adopted by the more advanced carriers.

Key to improving passenger engagement is knowing what the customer wants and when to deliver it for maximum impact and a more streamlined, personal, service.

We recently hosted an industry forum with leading rail figures to discuss the future vision for the rail industry. Collectively we found that while the future of rail looks optimistic, rail networks all over the world need to be more connected to make the train experience a more satisfying one for the passenger.

One of the learnings from the event was that train passengers can manage delays easily, if they possess enough accurate information to allow them to work out their alternative travel options. There are many smartphone train travel apps using lots of freely available train data such as the National Rail Enquiries App or Trainline UK App popular in the UK, and the EuroStar Trains App and the Rail Planner Eurail App in Europe, that provide some very helpful information.

However, the ideal scenario is one in which passengers have access to a single trusted source of information for their personal journey. This would proactively tell a passenger whether their journey is likely to be smooth or not, and if not it should provide the best alternatives for them. This information needs to be available via all media including smart phones, notice boards and staff to ensure passenger information is available and consistent, however they choose to consume it.

Interestingly, the level of connectivity which is now provided by Panasonic satellite Wi-Fi systems on most long distance flights hasn’t arrived in the rail network. But it was not that long ago that airlines asked passengers to switch off their mobile phones. Today, on-board entertainment systems allow live streaming of events direct to the aircraft. More importantly this type of connectivity addresses the desire from passengers for continuous data exchange such as e-mail and other social apps. This innovative approach by Panasonic is bringing a whole new meaning to cloud services.

When we think about the airline industry our interaction with technology happens almost without thinking. Reservations, check in, boarding passes, delay information, gate location, inflight services and frequent flyer programs are all located in one place on a smartphone app. Airlines aren’t stopping there; according to SITA, virtually all airlines will have mobile notifications in place within two years and there are plans to implement more big data based connectivity into smartphone apps.


So what activities is Panasonic Business doing to address these key market requirements?

At Mobile World Congress this year, we showcased our concept of the ‘Connected Airport’ which featured a number of examples of how connected technology is transforming the passenger experience; enabling better communication with passengers and a revolution in customer service.  For example LinkRay, Panasonic’s light-based 1-2-1 marketing technology, enables passengers to access on-demand service information and detailed descriptions for maps and departure information at airports or train stations. When combined with HD Beacon technology we can also provide location-specific information to passengers, guiding them through foreign transportation hubs, where little is available in their native tongue.

The key to the connected passenger journey is to collate the different pieces of information to get a seamless picture of what the customer wants and when, and then deploy the technology for maximum impact and a more streamlined, personal service.

Transportation represents an ever increasing proportion of Panasonic’s global turnover. We are committed to developing the intelligent, connected technology solutions for the future of transportation, delivering a revolution in connectivity and customer experience. 


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