Complex transport operations require interoperating tech that provides not only data, but actionable information. Journeo helps by applying IoT technologies with an open platform, standards-based approach
Journeo is synonymous with connected systems in the bus sector. Previously known as 21st Century, it began over 25 years ago as an installation business, focused on CCTV systems on buses. As those systems changed from analogue to digital, it evolved into being an integrator of other third-party equipment onto vehicles, making use of its nationwide team of skilled auto-electrical engineers.
Russ Singleton invested and joined the company as CEO in 2013, after researching the market looking for service-based businesses in the coach, bus and rail sector. He reveals he was interested in developing an established business with a trusted position in the UK public transport market and growing it by bringing the research and development and software capabilities required to link onboard systems with in-street infrastructure. He describes this as a convergence situation, where in the future, multi-modal travel and public information infrastructure will interoperate on cloud-based networks.
A new journey
In 2015, 21st Century acquired Region Services, a Coventry-based business which specialised in passenger information systems. From 2016 onwards, the company operated as both 21st Century Fleet Systems – the vehicle service and support side of the business – and 21st Century Passenger Systems, which delivered information and displays for the benefit of passengers.
“The acquisition marked the beginning of our transition as it enabled us to build more complex solutions we previously would have been unable to do,” explains Russ. “It accelerated our Fleet Systems business by adding development capabilities and enabled us to support customers with more complex infrastructure projects
including airport bus transfer systems.”
Shortly after, a new strapline – “connected systems for connected journeys” – was adopted, and the need for integration and connectivity would lead to a new identity for the company.
“We realised that the business was on this new journey,” Russ explains. “That mirrored what is happening in the whole industry, whether it’s from the fleet operators having to decarbonise, or to a member of the public looking for multimodal transport opportunities. From our point of view, we were no longer two businesses. We needed to be a unified entity. The idea of journey, and new – neo – was being mentioned thematically throughout the business for quite some time. Everyone started to use it: Journeo.” Unifying the two brands under Journeo, according to Russ, meant it could add new areas of capability and share a common research and development team, yet still offer specialist services to the transport infrastructure sector and fleet operators. “It’s moved us closer to our customers, and put more of our resources right at the front edge of what we do,” Russ adds. Crucially, the ethos of the company has evolved, he adds. The service has shifted from installing third-party technology to complementing this with Journeo’s own internet of things (IoT) solutions to empower customers with critical insights into the data produced by their onboard systems.
An essential service
Providing real-time insight into the operating conditions of fleet vehicles and their systems while in service – whether passenger numbers, vehicle performance or driver behaviour – has been one of the most visible changes according to Russ.
It is not just new systems that can be monitored, either: Journeo will integrate to legacy systems too. Journeo’s ability to remotely monitor so many aspects of a vehicle’s operation has been a catalyst to launch the Journeo Portal, a subscription cloud service that allows fleet operators to see the condition and performance of their onboard systems, assets, drivers, and connected devices in one place.
“We base our solutions on open standard protocols,” Says Russ. “Enabling interoperability on board the vehicle and ensuring that data can be reliably delivered to the Portal, irrespective of the original manufacturer of the equipment through our on-board intelligent IoT gateway: the Journeo Edge.”
Through the Portal, each customer has secure, authenticated access to a relevant set of apps, depending on the type of operation it runs. For example, a bus fleet operator in London may have the remote condition monitoring solution and the ability to remotely access and download CCTV footage, whereas an airport bussing transfer service will have further apps that allow it to manage the headway and despatch of its vehicles and monitor occupancy levels as service demand grows with the operational need of the airport.
Each individual user has their own profile, with a personalised dashboard, so that they can see everything they need at a glance. Fleet and vehicle detail can be accessed through an easy to use map.
The Journeo Portal was launched in 2019 and has grown to over 5,000 connections, which are expected to double by the end of the year. This demonstrates how rapidly the business is growing and changing, according to Russ. “We work closely with a wide range of operators, and their experiences help us define and develop new tools. In a lot of cases, it is our customers asking how we can help solve a problem. These closely-bonded relationships are driving our business.”
Where is all this headed? For Russ, the future is about the smarter use of data, driving efficiencies for operators and a better travel experience for passengers.
“The amount of data generated from the growing number of sensors on the vehicle is increasing exponentially and we are using artificial intelligence (AI) to extract meaning from it,” Russ explains. “Using machine learning and AI tools is providing new insight that can inform future solutions, such as predictive maintenance. This is just the beginning.”
Another goal of this technology development is, ultimately, to improve patronage and get more people onto public transport. “We are not doing it because it’s clever, or technical,” Russ emphasises. “We are doing it because it improves reliability and reduces cost for operators at the same time as enhancing safety for passengers and pedestrians.”
And as the nature of vehicle technology changes, the necessity of gathering and analysing data is only expected to increase. “I see the future of Journeo as very positive,” Russ adds. “We have been able to help transport operators address many new challenges, by working closely in partnership with them and deploying intelligent and integrated solutions.
As the industry becomes even more connected, the need to create actionable information out of data will only grow. Journeo will be there to support our customers with the transition, identify the information critical to their operation and help in unlocking the benefits data insight can bring.”