5G in Public Transit and Commercial Transportation Systems

Steve Mazur Steve Mazur, Business Development Director, Government
October 15, 2021

In the early days of the 5G rollout, "5G ready" devices emerged on the scene. Today, 5G native devices with 4G fallback are becoming the norm — which means these solutions work with 5G out of the box, but provide seamless connectivity with 4G LTE in places where 5G connectivity is limited or unavailable.

Does this mean the time is right to migrate to 5G solutions? You may be asking this, and a number of other questions, if you manage connectivity for public transit or commercial rail systems. How will these advanced devices with cutting edge network speeds and data throughput impact the transportation sector? How do next generation 5G networks support mobile vehicles like buses and trains - especially when they go through tunnels and under long concrete underpasses?

In this blog post we introduce the newest 5G transportation solutions from Digi and describe how 5G, the latest cellular technology advances, and integrated features for transit and railway applications can support your migration planning and digital transformation.

5G for Transportation is Ready to Roll

Digi TX64 5G and Digi TX64 5G Rail
Digi offers an ever-expanding set of 5G solutions designed to meet the needs of the transportation sector. Today these solutions include the following:

  • Digi TX64 5G is Digi's first 5G-native cellular router, offering public transit organizations with buses, light rail and paratransit vans an opportunity to realize major improvements in both the uplink speed and throughput of their data, as well as other advantages that come with 5G. 
  • Digi TX64 5G Rail recently joined the family, focused on supporting the critical needs of subway. light rail transit operators and commercial heavy railway systems. This solution provides a range of advanced features such as unteathered dead reckoning to support mission critical communications, no matter how remote the location.

Digi TX64 5G and TX64 5G Rail are designed to provide mobile connectivity for buses, commuter rail, paratransit vehicles for mobility and commercial railways. In addition to built-in 5G connectivity with 4G fallback, these advanced cellular solutions deliver several new capabilities and advantages and the most sophisticated remote management tools available today. 

Features of Digi 5G Cellular Solutions for Transit

Let's dive into some of the key features of these all-in-one cellular router solutions, and how they can help transit authorities reduce complexity, cost and risk, while future-proofing their systems and IT infrastructure.

5G for High-Resolution Security Cameras

Transit system security cameraA key application for the Digi TX64 5G solutions is to enable transit organizations to upgrade to high-resolution video for security cameras. Security footage can be transmitted in real time and from more than one camera. Many municipalities are moving in the direction of higher resolution 2K and 4K security cameras. Improving the uplink speed and throughput to 5G levels is an obvious step for any organization making these changes or increasing the number of video cameras in their vehicles. 

GNSS Dead Reckoning

Train tunnel demonstrating need for dead reckoningAn important enhancement to the Digi TX64 5G comes with the addition of a GNSS dead-reckoning module, which provides a more accurate location for the vehicle than is possible with GPS. Untethered dead reckoning (UDR) is a capability that is especially helpful when vehicles are going through tunnels or underneath an overpass. Anytime something is blocking the GPS signal, dead reckoning uses inertial sensor data on the router to help maintain the continuity that dispatchers and traffic management centers need to track their vehicles continuously.  
Dead reckoning technology uses algorithms and other tools to determine a vehicle’s location, rather than simply trying to pinpoint the closest GPS towers. For example, if a vehicle is traveling at 65 miles per hour and connectivity is disrupted momentarily, the dead-reckoning system will assume that the vehicle is continuing to go in the same direction for those few seconds. The alternative involves re-computing the location and direction from scratch once the connection is established again, which is how traditional GPS works.

MAC Address Capture

Train passengers with cell phonesAnother capability of Digi TX64 5G is MAC address capture, using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth through our Digi Accelerated Linux (DAL) operating system. Every mobile phone has a MAC address. As a vehicle travels through an area, a scanning tool can read the different MAC addresses of passenger’s phones and feed that information through the Digi router to determine the number of passengers in the vehicle.  
Transit organizations can then use analytics to examine ridership levels and determine, for example, when vehicles should be departing, the optimum interval between vehicles and even the total number of vehicles needed for the fleet. This information is captured by Digi TX64 and sent via one of Digi Remote Manager’s extensive lists of APIs to provide accurate, real-time feedback about whether or not a vehicle is on schedule, information on the occupancy level, and more. There can also be a safety and security aspect to MAC address capture if there should be an accident or an emergency where people might need medical attention or need to be evacuated.  
Whenever you discuss MAC address capture, of course, it’s important to mention both what it’s doing and what it’s not doing, because of privacy concerns. MAC address capture for transit is done anonymously. It’s strictly about ridership metrics, that is, counting how many passengers are traveling between point A and point B and at what rate of speed. It’s not for collecting information about the people riding mass transit. (Read our white paper, Communications Infrastructure for Mission Critical Traffic Management Solutions.)

5G for Passenger Wi-Fi Connectivity

Passenger Wi-FiDigi TX64 5G has dual Wi-Fi, which helps to segment public and private communications so that passengers can also enjoy the benefits of 5G connectivity. Digi TX64 5G segments public and private data, with onboard systems taking priority and the remaining bandwidth made available to Internet traffic for passenger Wi-Fi. Digi TX64 5G also includes carrier failover so that if one carrier connection goes down, the device will automatically reconnect to a backup carrier.

Ready for FirstNet Ready™

Emergency response on railway linePublic transit systems are part of the “extended primary” category of users that are certified for use on FirstNet® networks in any sort of public emergency. And Digi has already completed the FIrstNet® certification on both the TX64 5G and TX64 5G Rail cellular routers.

FirstNet® enables transit vehicles to stay in contact with their central transit operations in order to route vehicles around an emergency area or do whatever else may be necessary in an emergency situation. Many other Digi products, including the Digi TX54, the Digi IX20, and other Digi TX64 models are also certified FirstNet Ready™ and we are happy to bring this capability into the world of 5G. 

Future-Proofing for Transit Systems

The future of public transitFor any municipality or transit agency, a major benefit of upgrading to Digi TX64 5G is “future-proofing.” While a transit system may not yet be able to do all the things that are possible with 5G, such as supporting high-resolution security cameras, they very likely will be able to these things in the next few years.

Transit budgets can sometimes be structured in such a way that cellular routers fall into one budget year and cameras into another budget year. So, any transit organization whose cellular routers are due for an upgrade should know that Digi TX64 5G will work flawlessly in a 4G environment. In fact, it will work just like a 4G module whenever it needs to, such as when a bus or light rail car is in an area with no 5G coverage, or the coverage is spotty. In these situations Digi TX64 5G solutions will revert to 4G LTE, 4G LTE-A or 4G LTE-A Pro — whatever is available.

Integrated System Management and Industry-Leading Software

Network management
Digi cellular solutions are purpose built for the growing demands of the connected world. Network managers require cutting edge tools for visibility, security and management. Digi delivers. From the sophisticated tools available with Digi Remote Manager® for today's intelligent networks, to the integrated Digi TrustFence® security framework to Digi SureLink® for persistent connectivity, your transit authority will have the complete solution set needed for 24/7/365 visibility and control. 

Digi Remote Manager allows for management of large bus and vehicle fleets from a single pane of glass:

  • It gives you full control over when you push up a firmware update for a critical module or cellular module, based on the status of the bus.
  • It enables you to monitor the data usage and traffic information in dynamic charts via Intelliflow.
  • It lets you utilize our geo-fencing features to take certain actions once a vehicle is out of a certain radius.

Digi Remote Manager is the hub that makes it all happen.

To learn more, download the Digi TX64 5G datasheet or the Digi TX64 5G Rail datasheet.

Bring Your Transit System into the World of 5G!

Light rail buses
As 5G infrastructure continues to be built out in cities around the world, Digi is at the forefront with this powerful new technology. For any transit agency ready to replace its cellular routers in the near future, Digi TX64 5G solutions are an investment will set you up for the long run — for both today and for tomorrow.
Ready to evaluate next generation transit solutions? Contact us to discuss your needs. 

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