Finding a Place for Dynamic Information in Public Transport Environments

Hand in hand with digital technology is information that is dynamic. But why is this necessarily a better way to present what customers need to know compared with traditional, static signs?

the system could identify where a person is going to or coming from, and when they pass a screen you could show the exact information they need.

It’s not that static signs are ineffective in sending messages – indeed, in some situations they may be preferable. But when information is dynamically presented, more accurate information can be given to customers which in turn may lead to greater perceived efficiency of the network. Dynamic information allows for response to particular service changes, the time of the day, and can give alternative messaging (if there are service interruptions).

It also allows for the potential to eventually show personalised information. While the above examples already happen throughout Sydney’s transport system to an extent, a newer idea is that dynamic signs could show information that is relevant to a particular person at a particular moment. This could be done by having smarter sensors – for example, the system could identify where a person is going to or coming from, and when they pass a screen you could show the exact information they need.

From a customer experience perspective this represents a number of sensitive issues, such as the issue of privacy. Not everyone might feel comfortable to see information linked to his or her personal profile on a public screen akin to how the movie ‘Minority Report’ envisioned the future of advertising. There are a number of ways how these concerns could be addressed through careful interaction design. For example, customers might be able to opt in and out, or the information might be displayed in a way so it cannot be linked to any individual, while still making sense to the person it is intended for.

Sensors could identify who is lost and displays (rather than a moving robot) could offer them particular information.

New transit interfaces enriched with smart sensors may also be able to do things like detect people who look like they are lost. In Japan, research has already been conducted in this area – a team built a robot that categorised people based on their behaviour and went to assist those who appeared lost with instructions on how to get around.

In essence, dynamic information is much the same – just not embodied into a particular form like a robot. Sensors could identify who is lost and displays (rather than a moving robot) could offer them particular information. Or, as we proposed in our initial project proposal, the ticket machine could read gestures like a person putting their hand in their pocket and realise they’re getting their wallet, and then ask them if they’d like to pay now.