The Netherlands´ largest and busiest railway stations have turned to Bluetooth/Wi-Fi sensors for modelling visitor behaviour for the purpose of efficient station re-design, optimizing operation and traveller experience, and improving revenue.
In the Netherlands, rail passenger transport has grown considerably during the last decades. Parallel to the increase in passenger numbers, train stations have transformed to places where people travel and perform activities, such as working, shopping and holding meetings. The combination means that space is shared by more and more people. As capacity expansion is costly due to the dense urban environment in which these stations are situated, the need for valid passenger behavioural data to reduce bottlenecks and improve travellers comfort and safety is critical.
To measure, understand and improve the complex visitor flows at Amsterdam Centraal, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Utrecht Centraal and Leiden Centraal railway stations, Netherlands Railways (Nederlandse Spoorwegen / NS) – the largest train and station operator in the Netherlands – has turned to the data collection solution BlipTrack.
Installed and organised by Royal HaskoningDHV, the solution provides NS with exact passenger route and activity location-choice behaviour data, such as:
• Time spent in station before departure and after arrival
• Time spent by non-travellers
• Time spent on escalators, platforms, in retail and other station facilities
• Distribution of passengers on departing and arriving platforms, and transfers to/from platforms
• Entrance / exit usage
The data enables the train stations to add value to existing facilities and new investments, optimise operations, and improve the passenger flow. Ensuring an easy passage through the stations significantly increases the traveller experience and is key to unlocking potential gains, such as recurring passengers and increased non-transportation revenue.
“The main advantage of using WiFi/Bluetooth sensors is the low cost of measurements, especially for longer time frame deployments. Bluetooth/WiFi sensors are the most suitable technology for measuring slow mode traffic flows in an urban network, especially to derive the distribution of flows and route choice in the network,” says Jeroen van den Heuvel, Senior Researcher at NS Stations.
“We can see where the flow of pedestrians enter and leave the station and measure their numbers, walking routes, length of stay, times of day, and how busy the different locations are,” says Eelco Thiellier, SMART Station program manager at Royal HaskoningDHV.
“The success of transportation hub, such as a train station, is heavily influenced by the ability to handle passenger flow smoothly and efficiently. To understand and improve operations, it is important that the visitor’s journey through the station is seen as one process, rather than as a string of isolated events. The understanding that all individual events influence each other is key to unlocking potential gains,” explains Christian Bugislaus Carstens, Marketing Manager for BlipTrack at Veovo.
The solution works by placing sensors at strategic points within the station. The sensors detect mobile devices, such as mobile phones. By re-identifying, the devices at multiple sensors, movement patterns, travel times and visitor occupancy can be measured and calculated—from the moment visitors arrive at train station, to boarding the train, and everywhere in between. Importantly, the solution does not send or track any personal information; it simply monitors the number of mobile phone signals in a given area.
With this information, management is provided with specific and accurate statistical information on the use of retail and facilities, enabling the station to optimise every area to operate optimally.
In addition to measuring passengers at Dutch train stations, BlipTrack is successfully employed in optimisation efforts in more than 25 international airports. It includes Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, JFK Airport in New York, Copenhagen, Oslo, Malpensa and Linate Airports in Milano, Manchester, Brussels, Dublin and Auckland; The solution is also implemented in road traffic in Switzerland, New Zealand, USA, UK, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Canada and Ireland. In recent years, the solution has also been rolled out in ports in Denmark and UK, ski resorts in the US, amusement parks, and at events all over the world.
Ever-increasing global travel volume is having a severe impact on airports like New Zealand’s Auckland International, which saw over 19 million passengers last year. The airport is taking the increased passenger flow and logistics issues seriously, using a unique combination of traffic and passenger flow measurement technology. The result? Faster travel times, acceptable wait times, less passenger stress and a wealth of information that helps the airports and the city to plan resources more efficiently.
Auckland - a growing hub for travel
Auckland Airport expects to host over 40 million passengers annually by the year 2044. To cope with the increase in passenger load, the airport embarked on a wide-ranging and world first combined passenger-flow and road-traffic measurement project, with the goal of obtaining a cohesive real-time view of people movement patterns, to guide daily and long-term operational decisions, maximise capacity and improve flow.
In its build, the airport has opted to aim for sustainability, while ensuring that they will not only have the capacity to handle the extra people, but also the capability to make the passenger journey as smooth and stress-free as possible.
Keeping things flowing
Smooth passenger flow, both in the arrival and departure terminals, and the concession and transit waiting areas, as well as on the roads surrounding the airport, is critical to the successful operation of an airport.
Issues with traffic flows can result in delays for passengers, airport staff and airline crew, resulting in disruptions to airport and airline operations.
To manage both passenger and traffic flow, Auckland Airport realised they needed to have a bird’s-eye view of the entire system, as well as detailed, up-close analysis of ongoing issues. They also needed a way to act when things start to bottleneck.
With several traffic monitoring projects in New Zealand, using the same technology, infrastructure consultants Beca was commissioned to extend the solution across the airport’s roading infrastructure. It now provides the airport with a seamless picture of traffic flow information between the airport and Auckland CBD (Central Business District, also called the city centre).
How it works
On the Road
Outside the airport, the solution measures traffic flow between the CBD and the airport, providing real-time data on reliability, vehicle counts and travel time.
It provides data about the mix of staff and passengers using the Park and Ride facility, enabling the airport to understand the performance better and regularly review how they can improve their facilities. This information is also analysed to help planning decisions for road network maintenance and infrastructure projects.
The insights, collected using a range of technologies, including radar and WiFi sensors, also help the New Zealand Traffic Agency (NZTA) to make informed traffic management decisions and has allowed for the implementation of a number of initiatives to improve the traffic flow to the airport. It includes optimising traffic signal timings, and combined with the recent opening of the newly constructed Waterview connection, has resulted in significant travel time cuts to and from the airport from the CBD and West Auckland.
Also, the real-time and historical BlipTrack data enables NZTA, via their new app RideMate and online, to display live travel times between the CBD and airport, as well as informing about days with a high risk of congestion. It enables road users to plan ahead, reducing both the risk of travellers missing their flight and airport employees coming in late for work.
Besides the benefits of real-time reporting, the historical data is used to detect driving time anomalies. Effectively, this means that the solution can pinpoint road sections and intersections where driving times deviate from the norm as a result of construction projects, incidents, roadwork, faulty traffic lights and other factors. With this information at hand, real-time traffic management can take place.
Richard Young, Senior Associate at Beca, says: “The intelligence that BlipTrack is delivering has already proved its value, by providing automated alerts on delays on vulnerable corridors, real-time counts on traffic flows and delays, and intelligence on the origin and destination of vehicle movements into the airport and to terminals and car parks.”
In the airport
Inside the airport, the solution provides metrics on passenger queue times and volume, as well as insight into passenger movement patterns throughout the international and domestic terminals´ departure and arrival processes.
It helps the airport better manage and support resources by focusing on high-demand locations and periods. Likewise, the data directly benefits passengers by displaying wait times at security checkpoints, managing passenger expectations and reducing queue-related stress.
Mark Croudace, Manager – Operations at Auckland International Airport, says: “BlipTrack was a critical investment. The data has provided valuable insight into our operational performance across both our assets and processes. Most importantly, it has enabled us to have meaningful conversations with our key operational stakeholders and vendors, as we collectively seek to improve the passenger experience.”
Changing the face of travel
Numerous other international airports, including Amsterdam Schiphol, Copenhagen, Dublin, Brussels, Bristol and Billund, are following suit. These airports have recognised that comprehensive, seamless passenger flow data is indispensable in guiding physical expansion plans, and for streamlining operations to accommodate rapid passenger volume growth, without compromising the passenger experience.
“By having Auckland Airport and Beca working together, and by sharing data between multiple solutions, BlipTrack provides a solution that no other product in the industry can currently reproduce – large-scale, seamless, door-to-door movement management between different modes of transport. And because it´s not only limited to certain areas, it can be considered as one of the first real, tangible steps to true multimodal traffic management,” ends Peter Knudsen, CEO of BLIP Systems.
Besides providing airports around the world with seamless passenger flow data, the solution is employed in optimisation efforts in road traffic applications in Switzerland, Thailand, Canada, the UK, Denmark and Sweden. In recent years, it has been rolled out in ports, train stations, ski resorts, amusement parks, and at events around the world.
Auckland Airport Take to the Streets to Boost City-to-Gate Passenger Experience.
“The main advantage of using WiFi/Bluetooth sensors is the low cost of measurements, especially for longer time frame deployments. Bluetooth/WiFi sensors are currently the most suitable technology for measuring slow mode traffic flows in an urban network, especially to derive the distribution of flows and route choice in the network”
Jeroen van den Heuvel
Senior Researcher at NS Stations
“BlipTrack allow us to gain a good understanding of check-point dynamics, and most importantly, our customers benefit directly by getting a better service.”
Project Manager Landside Operations at Genève Aéroport
“BlipTrack helps us manage and eliminate potential problem spots within the facility. Sharing the processing time with our travelers provides them with peace of mind, so they may continue to expect a pleasant travel experience.” Read more
Gert-Jan de Graaff
President and CEO of JFKIAT
“BlipTrack provides us with immediate visibility to the customer experience and resource effectiveness with throughput planning. The solution allows us to put the customer at ease at a critical stress point and reinforces our expectations around superior customer experience.” Read more
Vice President, Customer Experience at CVG
“BlipTrack provides valuable information that helps everyone manage expectations, especially when lines get long. The solution alerts airport employees about developing bottlenecks which allows them to react to the situation more quickly.” Read more
Vice President at JFKIAT
“BlipTrack has enabled CVG to continue our close collaboration with TSA to ensure that the passenger experience is one that enhances the journey experience rather than detract from it.” Read more
CEO at Cincinnati Airport
“BLIP Systems provides us with valuable insights in passenger processes. The insights are used to continuously improve our performance together with our stakeholders. BLIP Systems has proved to be a reliable partner, with a clear understanding of our needs.”
Martijn Van Boxtel
Operational Manager Terminal Logistics at Schiphol Group
“BlipTrack has helped us to resource our operations on the day, and to identify pinch points and potential build ups. The very accurate data is used by our staff to monitor operations, and has enabled us to provide an optimum passenger experience by displaying accurate queue wait times.”
Technology Projects Manager at Dublin Airport Operations
“BlipTrack provides us with valuable real-time insights about passenger queue time dynamics. It helps our managers to secure low queue times at minimum cost, and also provides our Analysis Department with direct feedback on their forecasting performance.” Read more.
Head of Operational and Business Analysis at Copenhagen Airports
“BlipTrack enables us to monitor the quality of the terminal processes to improve resource planning, and to perform consistent reporting to internal and external stakeholders.”Read more
Director of Operations at Brussels Airport