How To Network-Enable A Bus

How To Network-Enable A Bus

If you want to build a smart transport system, you need to ensure that every single vehicle in the fleet is permanently connected to the network. How do you do that when you’re dealing with a constantly moving, rattling bus?

Picture: Beau Giles

Netcomm Wireless has been dealing with that problem recently. It’s supplying the on-bus 3G Wi-Fi routers for Sydney’s Opal transport smartcard, which is supposed to catch NSW up to the rest of the nation by actually introducing a work on-train smartcard. (Yes, Melbourne, we know Myki is unpleasant, but at least you don’t have an entire abandoned project on the state books the way NSW does with the T-Card.)

As part of a supply contract with Opal’s main developer Cubic Transportation Systems to fit out 5000 Sydney buses, NetComm had to customise one of its existing designs. Many of the features on the router would be recognisable in most networking contexts: it has eight on-board ports, and can switch between using Telstra’s 3G networks when on the road and Wi-Fi signal when in maintenance areas. But it also required some changes.

“We’ve specialised the device so that it copes with vehicles being turned on and off which can cause spikes and currents in the available power,” NetComm Wireless’s Danny Morrison told Lifehacker. “It’s also vibration-proof.”

The bus rollout is currently half-completed (though only two routes in Sydney are active), and scheduled to finish by the end of 2014.

Evolve is a weekly column at Lifehacker looking at trends and technologies IT workers need to know about to stay employed and improve their careers.


  • you can buy Melbourne’s Myki system off us…

    it’s been really good, trust us! We’ll only charge half price….$1.5 billion
    it’s a steal at that price!

    • We already have this for many STA buses and a few private bus providers… albeit, data is still only available to a few key developers (TripView, Triptastic, TripGo, TransitTimes, etc)

      • Certainly doesn’t work at all for the STA’s own Transport Info app, which appears to simply use posted timetables. I stood on City Road for twenty minutes last Sunday while it showed buses passing every minute, when in fact not one passed in either direction.

        I’m guessing many of the buses I use don’t have that data as TripView (which I use as well) still records no-shows as having arrived.

    • Um… we already have that. Almost all buses in Sydney are GPS tracked, and there are multiple apps for getting real-time updates. Download Triptastic, you can see every bus, train and ferry in the city on a single map.

  • I dont see why they need to reinvent the wheel when other states have a similar system already setup. They have already implemented it before so they would know the pitfalls and can probably get it done faster/cheaper because of it.

    • because behind every implementation sits a greedy pig and in front an cow that begs to be milked?
      Synergies and government and cost saving are all mutually exclusive. Where else would the hapless 800 Toyota, 500 Telstra, 700 Qantas, 1000’s from Ford and Holden otherwise go for work?

  • Transperth works really well in WA. Must have cost a buttload but the ticketing system and timetabling system seems to be pretty good compared to the rest of the nation.

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