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.