Bus technology ‘world first’ in Oldbury

Electronic ‘book-style’ technology showing bus timetable, ticket price and real time service information has gone on trial in the West Midlands in what is thought to be a world first. Transport authority, Centro, is trialling an information suite featuring eight e-paper screens, similar to those found in gadgets such as the Kindle, at a bus stop in Halesowen Street, Oldbury. If successful, the screens could eventually replace traditional paper timetables and electronic displays. It allows scheduling updates to be sent directly from a control centre to the device without the need to send someone to the stop to replace paper timetables. Passengers with NFC (Near Field Communications) enabled smartphones can ‘tap’ their phone on each of the displays for more detailed information on the services and the wider public transport network. It also provides ‘next bus’ information in the same unit. The £50,000 prototype is being claimed by Birmingham consultants IBI Group as a world first.

E-paper is designed to limit glare from sunlight and can be read from wider angles to make it easier for passengers to read even in bright conditions. The displays only require power when being updated and once refreshed, can retain information without needing any additional electricity. In the future, the technology could be used to provide key public messages, including updates on service disruptions and information on nearby tram and train services. The device’s low energy consumption means solar powered versions could be used at remote locations.

Intelligent Transport Systems consultant with IBI Group, Gareth Tyler, said, ‘This is the first implementation of e-paper technology of this kind in the public transport arena. It opens the door to enhanced information being readily available to public transport users at bus stops and public places as well as offering significant cost savings and operational benefits to transport authorities such as Centro.’

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