Smart bus stops have taken cities by storm. As we become more connected as a society, cities need efficient ways to engage with their local communities. In large cities and highly connected areas, it is crucial that travelling residents and tourists have the most up to date information. Whether it’s when the bus is going to arrive, how to stay safe from germs and viruses or simply being kept up to date with changing services, it is critical that cities deliver this information in an engaging, relevant manner.
Thanks to digital signage technology, cities, councils and bus companies have been able to supercharge the digital bus stop scene.
When we say digital bus stop, don’t just think of a bus timetable that’s been copied + pasted onto a digital display. Thanks to a range of features and data integrations, users are able to enhance passenger and resident experience, engaging with them like never before…
In this blog, we’ll explain what a smart bus stop actually is, how live data integrations can transform the commuting experience forever, how much you can expect to invest, and how these digital bus stops are installed. We’ll also take you through our top 7 ways Smart Cities are using these bus shelters right now. All this and more in our Ultimate Guide to Smart Bus Stops.
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What Are Smart Bus Stops And Smart Bus Shelters?
Put simply, a smart bus stop (or smart bus shelter) is a bus stop that features an integrated digital screen. The digital screens are often installed at bus shelters that feature rain cover and a bench. In most cases, the digital screen will replace print advertisements or print material that previously existed on the sides of the bus shelter. See below for an example of a typical smart bus shelter you might find in a town or city.
The digital screens are fully weatherproof and vandal-proof giving users peace of mind regarding lifetime value, content deployment and maintenance costs.
Although going digital, the bus stop will still include classic features you’d come to expect. These include lighting, solar panels on top (for more eco-friendly light powering), seating, security cameras and more.
Smart bus stops will be fully connected to the internet by WIFI, ethernet, or 4G. Through a powerful media player, users are able to control the content that is shown on screen from a remote location.
Live Data Integrations for Smart Bus Schedules
Data is powerful. With data integrations and live APIs, users are able to see live weather information for anywhere in the world, traffic delays, live machine performance, live sea tide times, and the list goes on… and it really does. With data, organisations are able to visualise nearly anything and optimise their services for employees, staff and visitors alike. So how can live data enhance bus stops?
The main goal of a bus stop is to inform passengers when a bus is due to arrive. But what if you could do one better. With live bus information APIs, smart bus shelters can not only display when a bus is going to arrive in real-time, but can also let passengers know when the bus will arrive. It can also let passengers know of any expected delays such as road closures, live road accidents, or road works allowing them to plan their journey more efficiently.
Smart bus schedules are helping bus companies and councils mould the perfect bus commuting experience. In the past, passengers would be left with a static bus timetable that would give the times of day the buses are due to arrive + arrival times for significant stops. We all know that the times given are aims and hardly. Paper can’t predict or tell us that there has been an unexpected accident on the A115 adding 15 minutes to the journey time. In contrast, data can indicate bus service statuses, give live updates of routes, and more.
Want to learn more about how live data and API’s are being used with digital screens? Speak to our experts today and see how you can optimise your organisation.
How Much Do Smart Bus Stops Cost?
On the whole, prices for screens in the digital signage industry and consumer-grade screens have fallen noticeably in the last few years. This has made the technology more widely available, allowing more users to take advantage of the technology.
In terms of the screens used at digital bus shelters, this is also the case. However, bus stop screens will sit on the higher end of pricing compared to a standard digital display. This is because these screens aren’t ones going inside in your living room, these are specialised screens that are required to have additional features to help with performance, weather, safety, and security. Furthermore, these screens will require a more permanent and specialist installation including integrating inside existing bus stop shelters, or re-wiring internet lines etc.
When it comes down to it (and excluding installation) the smart bus stop screen is essentially an outdoor kiosk with a specialised integration into an existing or new structure (bus stop). Outdoor kiosks will require an investment of a few thousand pounds. However, the price will ultimately depend on screen size, quality, and any additional features.
You are able to use the same digital signage software you use for your other screens. For example, if you’re a city council who manages the local bus routes you should be able to add licences to your account for the digital bus shelter screens and control these from the same account.
Each screen will be controlled via a media player. This connects to your screen and the internet. When changes are made in your software the media player displays them on screen. Yup, it’s that simple.
In terms of pricing, software ranges from free to thousands and thousands a month. Although we all love “free”, in software it often means a restriction on features, limited support, forced advertisements, bugs, lack of updates and more. On the other end, if you’re being charged tens of thousands for software, it’s likely you’re overpaying for something (obviously you’ll need to consider how many licenses you’re buying – I.e. if you need 1000 licences, your software fee will likely be in the thousands). Therefore, we recommend looking at the monthly fee for software and factor in how many licences you require.
At TrouDigital our pricing starts at £48 for 3 licences (£16 per licence). When researching the different software’s on offer, it’s important you make sure you’re getting good support and all the features necessary to ensure your digital signage project is a success.
Installing a Smart Bus Shelter Network
So, you’ve picked out your screens, designed the bus stops and purchased your software licences. Now it’s time to get everything installed and set up. But where do you start and what do you need to know?
If you’re a council and reading this, this section might not be so much of an issue for you. However, some outdoor screen projects may require prior planning permission from your council or city. This is especially the case if you’re looking to add in completely new structures or remove any pre-existing structures. We recommend you contact your local planning permissions office to discuss the project. The last thing you want to be doing is ripping out your brand new kiosk from the floor!
An extension to planning permission. You’ll actually want to ensure that the area you’re looking to install your smart bus stop and screen is suitable. For example, without a prior site survey, you might start to dig and hit an underground pipe, leading to all sorts of issues. A site survey can also help determine the most optimal place to install the smart bus stop for maximised visibility and engagement.
Wherever you’re planning to add your smart bus stop screens they’ll need adequate power. This may mean locating power cables or adequate power sources. In some cases, you may need to do some digging and run a fresh powerline to your new bus stop. If you’re simply replacing a static poster with a screen this shouldn’t be much of an issue. Again, it’s an important point that must be considered.
The magic behind the screen. No not our media players! We’re talking about the internet. With the internet, your media player (that controls the bus stop display) can play the latest content you’ve applied in your digital signage software. But how can you connect your smart bus shelter to the web?
WIFI – If you’re lucky enough to have a strong WIFI connection in reach, simply find the wifi network on the media player, enter the credentials and press connect. Once connected, your screen is ready to receive content and be controlled remotely.
Ethernet – Essentially a wired connection. If possible we recommend going wired for the internet connection. This often results in a more consistent internet connection and in most cases, faster speeds. The faster and stronger your internet connection is, the more quickly your screen can download the latest content updates.
4G Sims and Routers – Another popular option for connecting your smart bus shelter to the cloud is utilising a 4G sim and router. This option is perfect for rural locations, or when getting a wired or WIFI connection is near impossible. 4G routers will give your bus stop screens their own dedicated network, providing a strong, secure connection. Some of our largest projects are being powered by 4G routers including British Airways. Wondering about 5G digital signage? We believe it could be right on the horizon.
No matter what method you choose for connecting your media player to the internet, the most important aspects to consider are speed and connection strength. Not only does this contribute massively to screen uptimes, but it also ensures your screens update ASAP once changes are made in the software. You should pay additional attention to internet strength and speed if you are utilising live data feeds or streaming video.
7 Reasons Why Your City Needs A Smart Bus Stop
1. Live Bus and Travel Updates
One of the most important aspects of a commute is knowing exactly when you are going to arrive at our destination. It helps us let loved ones know we’re safe, give us amicable time to let someone know we’re going to be later, and how much time we have to finish off a book chapter, mobile game, or Netflix show.
In recent years, more councils and bus companies have been improving their services by investing in data. With data, screens at bus stops are being utilised to let passengers know exactly when their bus is due to arrive. This has been a huge step up from the laminated paper timetable. However, we believe more can be done.
With live data and API integrations, a smart bus stop can notify passengers of every detail of their journey. When the bus is due to arrive, depart, service status (Good, Slow, Cancelled, etc.), delays in the road (road works, accidents, etc.), and even weather at the destination. We believe that smart bus stops could soon show additional details such as bus capacity.
Live travel updates are great because they are as relevant as messages can be. I.e. it’s what’s happening right now. For example, if a traffic accident happens on the A115 route, this could trigger the screen to display different content. The arrival time can be updated, and the passenger can be notified about the additional journey time. This can give them more time to notify employers they will be late for work, or plan another route.
2. Digital Bus Stop Advertising | Smart Revenue Streams for Smart Bus Shelters
Advertising on digital screens is hugely popular, and this extends to screens at the bus stop. Digital bus stop advertising is one of the most recognised channels for marketing and advertising. It provides a huge amount of reach for brands around the world. Whether you’re going through a huge city or small town you know the bus stops will have advertisements on them. Although more are being replaced with screens, a huge amount of sites still use a single poster or a roller poster. This is extremely ineffective as it restricts the amounts of ads that can be shown, and takes up large amounts of time in content deployment.
Although a great channel for companies to advertise on, we’re going to focus on the user themselves (the person or organisation selling ad space). The user is mostly concerned about how much revenue each advertising site is bringing in a week and the profit they are making. The user wants minimal fuss. But upfront, a screen is far more expensive than a poster right? Why should advertisers go digital?
Number of Advertisers
With a poster or even a rolling poster, the user is restricted to only showing 1 to 4 advertisers at a single location. Although great for the advertisers themselves (because they are getting more exposure), the user is losing out on an unignorable amount of additional Ad revenue. With digital bus stop advertising the user is able to show an unlimited amount of advertisers at one bus stop. Although we recommend to not show to many to ensure he’s advertiser gets an adequate amount of air time for each advertiser.
The user can now break up their air time into slots or periods and charge each advertiser for the slots they take. Multiply this over multiple smart bus stops and you’re looking at a handsome increase in revenue. This is excellent for councils as it can help provide additional funds that can be deployed back into bus route maintenance or other developments.
It’s worth noting that with more advertisers on-screen, payback time is fast. Once you’ve made the revenue back to cover the cost of the screen, you’re looking at nearly complete profit as maintenance costs are minimal. With a network of posters, these routinely cost time and money each time the posters need repairing, replacing, or updating.
Quality of Adverts
Digital bus stop advertising gives advertisers more room to play around with advert design. With traditional posters, and advertisers would be limited to text, images and static graphics. With digital screens, advertisers can now take advantage of animations, videos and even volume to maximise their attention-grabbing abilities.
A great example of digital bus stop advertising being pushed to the max was by Pepsi. Pepsi managed to combine augmented reality with a smart bus stop to create a truly unforgettable experience. Hats off to the marketing team at Pepsi who saw the campaign go viral!
Minimal Maintainance, Maximum Control
Let’s paint a picture. Imagine having control of poster advertisements for 50 bus stops (25 there, 25 back) for a bus stop route. You can currently only show one advertiser at each bus stop at one time. Every time you swap advertisers, or the advertiser wants to update their ad you will need to pay your maintenance team to individually visit each bus stop, take down the existing advert and replace it with the new one. For over 50 locations, this time and money will add up quickly.
Now let’s look at a digital bus stop advertising network for the same 50 locations. Let’s imagine that the user is showing content for 10 different advertisers during the day. One advertiser realises there was a typo in their copy and wants to change their adverts across all 50 sites. So what does the user do? They ask the advertiser for the updated advert, upload it to their digital signage software, press update, and all 50 screens now show the correct advert. Yup, it’s that simple.
With cloud-based software, the user is able to control their digital bus stop advertising network from anywhere. Users can also pull reports for the amount of time adverts have been displayed on screens to give reporting back to advertisers.
3. Transform your City into a Smart City
As time goes on, the popularity of smart cities is on the rise. As cities look to become more optimised and connected, local councils and governments are investing in technologies that benefit tourists and visitors alike. From smart transport to bins that let the council know they need emptying, technology is leading cities into a new digital age.
If you’ve read this far (we thank you!) you’ll know how smart a smart bus stop is. Now we turn our attention to how these digital bus stops are acting as a catalyst for smart cities. You’ll know by now that the screen can display:
- Live arrival times
- Live depature times
- Live destination arrival times
- Live weather
- Live road conditions
- Live service status
- Live traffic
- Live journey fairs
- Live bus capacity
In short, there is an unlimited number of ways digital bus stops help develop smart cities. Most of these ways are achieved through clever data integrations.
These smart bus stops could also be linked to the council or bus company’s information hub, which allows for endless possibilities of what to display. For example, in Southampton (where we’re based) when Southampton FC play at the weekends, traffic increases noticeably. A smart bus stop can have its content scheduled to let passengers and residents know that the game is on and that their journey may take longer than expected. it could also go a step further and give live score updates for the local match.
There are endless possibilities for digital bus shelters and they can greatly enhance smart cities.
4. Environmentally Friendly Local Messaging with Bus Stop Digital Displays
With over 411 million metric tonnes of paper being produced each year, (around 27 football pitches worth of trees every minute), we all need to cut down our paper usage. There are many ways of doing this. The main solution is to replace print media with digital content. For example, housing messages and communications in the cloud, on apps, or on screens, can drastically reduce the amount of paper we consume and as a result, the forests we demolish.
Here’s a fun fact. Did you know there are over 395,000 bus stops in the UK? I was surprised when researching this, but what impact does bust stop’s use of paper communication have on our planet?.
Let’s be conservative with the figures and say a quarter of these bus stops feature a poster advert (98,750). Let’s assume the advert (we’ll assume each bus stop shows a single ad) is changed once a month. That’s 1,185,000 (98,750 x 12) printed advertisements each year. Or just under 6 million every 5 years.
A tree will produce 10,000 sheets of a4 paper. The average bus shelter ad size is six-sheet. This is equivalent to around 34.63 sheets of A4 (six-sheet = 21,600cm² A4 = 623.7cm²). Therefore, each tree will produce 288.76 six-sheet bus shelter ads (21,600/623.7). Over 5 years to produce the 5,925,000 six-sheet ads for 98,750 bus stops would cost the planet 20,518.76 trees (5,925,000/288.76).
If these bus stops were showing 2 ads at once that’s 41,037.52 trees, for 3 ads, 61,556.28 trees and so on. This effect on the environment doesn’t include the constant fuel consumption involved in driving to each site to replace outdated posters.
Of course, there is some environmental cost to manufacturing a screen. However, once installed you won’t have to touch it again. When content needs replacing, it is done digitally, and no trees are cut down. Updates are also done remotely over the cloud irradicating fuel consumption. To go a step further, councils and bus companies can utilise the often unused roof of the bus shelter to install solar panels. These solar panels can help power the digital bus stop and reduce the power needed from the mains. Alternatively, these solar panels could be separate from the digital bus stop and produce power in a collective smart city project.
5. Engage Local Audiences
Being able to effectively engage with any audience is a powerful skill. It allows more targeted, relevant messaging, leading to more campaign success and more effective spending. Each year there is an unlimited number of events councils, cities, and local authorities are trying to communicate with their residents. From the local fireworks show and park runs to environmental and travel schemes, all these events need to reach the right audience.
When planning a marketing campaign or creating a customer persona one of the most important aspects of your audience to consider is where do they spend their time. This helps ensure your messages reach them. For example, if you are targeting gym enthusiasts, your marketing efforts would be more suited to gyms rather than fast-food restaurants. When thinking about targeting messages to local residents we can use this logic too – where will they be? A good bet is that local residents will be using the bus to get to work, visit friends, and go to the shops in the local area. As a result, they will be spending a lot of their time at local bus stops. Therefore, if you’re targeting this audience, it’s a great place to display your messaging.
Digital screens can display multiple local messaging to help promote as many schemes/events as possible whilst reaching as many local residents as possible. Screens can also react to live events. Thanks to the nature of cloud-based software, users can update content on the day (or schedule content if you’re a pro) to get across the most relevant messages possible. For example, it could be saying well done to local residents who took part in the park run.
6. Promoting Good Hygiene and Safety Practices to Passengers and Drivers
In a world still feeling the daunting effects of COVID-19, it’s imperative we are all kept up to date with the latest hygiene and safety messaging. Having the latest knowledge on how to avoid, beat, or mitigate germs and viruses. During the pandemic methods and advice has been released and updated at a staggering rate. Each day, we were given renewed advice on how to beat the virus. Cascading this information to everyone who isn’t on their phone can be a huge challenge. So often we have relied on print posters to do the talking. However, with the speed information was being released the manufacturing and deployment processes of posters couldn’t keep up.
Digital signage software provided a breath of fresh air here. Minutes after new advice or Public Health England content was released, users could have it up on their screens at all their locations around the country. This ensured they could keep their employees, customers, or visitors safe.
The same goes for smart bus stops. Animated content can be used to capture the attention of passengers and ensure they follow health and safety advice. We’ve found a popular method to do this is to use template software. These templates come pre-made and can be sent to screens in seconds. At bus stops users can deploy eye-catching reminders to wear masks, socially distance, and sanitise.
7. Minimise Content Deployment Times
In this day and age, we want automation and efficiency in everything we do. That’s why we have scheduling software, data feeds, triggers, timers and more. When prospecting new technologies, organisations are asking themselves 4 main questions, does this save time, does this save money, does this make our job easier, and does it help us do our jobs better. These are the 4 questions any person managing a network of paper bus stop advertisements will ask.
You’ll know by now that printing and deploying paper-based ads takes time. Each time the poster needs updating, it needs to be taken down, the new one designed, printed and sent, installed. Multiply this process across the 98,750 sites we mentioned over and you’re spending an eye-watering amount of time updating your network. Swap all these posters with screens and digital signage software, and every single screen can be updated in seconds. You’ve just earned a lot of free time back!
You can further minimise your content deployment times by becoming a master of digital signage scheduling features. With scheduling, you dictate when you want the content to go live on screen in the future. This means you could upload and schedule all bonfire night content in June to go live in October. When October comes around the content will appear on your screens. You can also set an expiry time, so the content can automatically remove itself from your screens. Yup, you just earned even more time back!
We hope you enjoyed our deep dive into how smart bus stops are changing the transport game for the better. From advertising and local messaging to a reduced environmental impact and additional revenue streams, these bus stops are doing it all!
If you have any questions about smart bus stops, speak to an expert today. Call our friendly team on 02380 981110 or Email email@example.com for a no-obligation consultation. Alternatively, click the button below.