Imagine a world where the promise of punctual, safe and convenient public transport is always delivered. Awake Mobility is working to make it happen

Transparency in defect management and maintenance delivers enormous advantages for fleet operators. Right now, digitisation is unlocking that transparency. Awake Mobility, based in Munich, has been developing a maintenance platform for fleet operators which turns buses into smart buses, gathers and analyses vehicle data, and gets to the root cause of failures before they happen – with the aim of improving maintenance intervals, preventing breakdowns and reducing costs.

As well as making operations run smoother now, this predictive maintenance platform also offers the potential to herald exciting future technologies.

Design thinking at Awake Mobility

Awake Mobility is the brainchild of three founders: Mechanical engineer Daniel Sattel, in charge of product development; technical lead and software engineer Houssem Braham; and Daniel Tyoschitz, in charge of strategy and business development.

Daniel Sattel and Houssem bring a background in predictive maintenance from KONUX, a predictive maintenance company for railway infrastructure, and joined Daniel Tyoschitz, whose background is as an innovation consultant in Silicon Valley, Tel Aviv and Berlin. The trio were invited by a bus operator to explore the potential for optimisation in that sector, which led them to wonder – what would a world without breakdowns look like?

After speaking to over 130 companies globally, many operators presented the same problems. “This is how we knew we were working on something meaningful. Our purpose with the company now is to create a world of undisturbed public transportation,” says Daniel Tyoschitz. He takes delayed public transport very seriously: “If a bus is late or doesn’t come at all, this is a very frustrating situation. There are many situations where we lose economic power and our reputation from delays, whether it is a missed job interview or a connecting plane.”

While the passenger may be the primary beneficiary of reduced breakdowns, in order to achieve reliable and safe transportation, operators must be helped to optimise processes: “We have found that processes right now are very traditional, and with the modern internet of things and artificial intelligence, we can create a solution which helps operators do a much better job at preventing breakdowns – fixing things before they go wrong,” explains Daniel.

Increasing uptime means operators have the potential to reduce the cost of breakdowns, which become expensive when replacement buses, drivers and adjusted maintenance procedures are needed.

Pictured (left to right): Daniel Tyoschitz, Houssem Braham and Daniel Sattel

Delivering transparency

Conversations with operators revealed that a problem was the lack of transparency across much of the maintenance process. “We found that the bus would come in for maintenance at certain intervals, which are mostly based on mileage,” Daniel says. “Vehicle diagnostics are processed, and repairs are made based on any failure codes. The other time that there is transparency is when the driver notes down a fault message.”

Keen to offer a solution more fitting for the 21st century, Awake Mobility set to work developing hardware that offers real time condition monitoring. This would allow for real time failure diagnostics and even predictive analytics, which means future technical problems can be anticipated. A knock-on effect of this added transparency is more efficient communication flows.

While many manufacturers now offer telematics system in vehicles, Awake Mobility found that standardised fleet management systems typically do not gather the raw sensor data necessary to offer a platform for predictive maintenance. “Initially, we didn’t want to build our own hardware solution. But the reality is, even if operators have a telematics solution, they need another – this is the only way to do predictive maintenance and get the right data.”

The hardware is then connected to the CAN bus and a variety of interfaces. From there, data is sent in real time to Awake Mobility’s platform via SIM. Algorithms analyse the data automatically, and present it through a portal in a way that suits the operator. When something does not look right, alerts are sent through to ensure companies know what is happening.

With the new systems in place, operators can see the overall health status of their vehicles. Individualised maintenance is allowed for, resulting in better planning of daily work, and proactive maintenance suggestions mean operators can start to worry less about breakdowns. Operators can see what led to breakdowns, and focus on certain topics within their maintenance regimes. Routes can be made more efficient.

Awake Mobility recognises three key stakeholders which benefit: The workshop, which is interested in maintenance data; the control centre, which is interested in what buses are available and which vehicles can be dispatched or need to be brought into the workshop; and the leadership team, which can make better decisions when buying new vehicles.

Awake is currently involved in a 12-month pilot project in Europe and is equipping the first set of buses with the hardware. It is also in the process of building the algorithms, which will get more accurate over time. “It’s a never-ending story,” Daniel says. “There won’t be a stop in learning – the more data the algorithms see, the more failures they see, the better they get.” Monthly workshops with partners allow discussions about expectations of what the platform needs to deliver.

Unlocking the future

Additional pilots are expected to launch in the UK at the end of this year. While COVID-19 may have halted innovation for many operators, Daniel believes predictive maintenance is going to be an essential building block for future technology.

Vehicle, traffic and street data can be shared and connected with city data to allow traffic lights to favour buses, or to detect rough streets or heavily congested areas. And predictive maintenance will become especially essential to the ecosystem of autonomous vehicles.

“We trust technology in so many facets, and we also need to trust technology and data when it comes to our operations within the bus sector,” says Daniel.

Meanwhile, from the passenger’s perspective, the more reliable and safe buses are, the more attractive they become – with the benefits that entails.