AN IDEA IS BORN
Around 2013, after serving association and corporate customers for numerous years, ETS recognized a few key issues related to transportation service that needed attention. While transportation schedules were posted in official hotels, attendees did not have real-time information about hotel shuttle pick-up times, which created anxiety about getting to the convention center on time. And this anxiety was compounded during bad weather when attendees did not want to wait for their shuttle outside in the cold or rain.
From an operations perspective, if buses were caught in unusually congested traffic, thus creating schedule delays, that information might not be communicated quickly enough from drivers to the operations team. This in turn could create additional delays throughout the overall transportation system.
With the rapidly increasing prevalence of smart devices in our interconnected world, ETS decided to figure out how new technology could solve these transportation challenges. While several GPS-powered transportation solutions had been developed in the marketplace, none were able to solve the unique challenges of event shuttle systems. It was then that ETS decided to build its own suite of technology tools with the ultimate goal of improving the customer experience.
The vision for the system was a two-part solution – one focusing on improving operational efficiency and safety, and one focusing on improving the attendee experience. The operations tools would include portable smart devices that were mounted in the front of buses and could quickly be activated and deactivated. These tablets would send information back to the operations team, providing exact bus location and enabling operations to make adjustments to the transportation plan in cases of delays or other unforeseen circumstances. The attendee solution would be a transportation app, similar to Uber and Lyft, providing real time information to attendees about the next shuttle arriving at their hotels.
DEVELOPMENT PROCESS AND CHALLENGES
During the development phase, some challenges were anticipated, and others were not. Initially, ETS planned to have bus drivers use an interface on the smart devices to count passengers and follow routes – but training was time consuming, not all drivers were willing to use the technology, and device batteries drained quickly. Ultimately ETS decided that drivers needed to focus on driving, and the smart device batteries lasted much longer if they were used solely for tracking buses, which in turn powered both the operations tools and attendee app. In addition, the number of unique requirements for each major city exceeded expectations and delayed the launch of a production-ready system.
Over the 6 years of development, ETS completed 3 complete system re-writes to arrive at the current product, much of which had to do with improving scalability and performance.
Utilizing modern smart devices for GPS tracking has worked very well. The devices are portable, and the combination of data triangulation and conventional GPS provides the most accurate and robust positioning data.
Now ETS has a reliable, scalable product that powers ETS-Next-Shuttle (the attendee app) and ETS-Shuttle-Tracker (the suite of tools that assists operations), both available to all clients who partner with ETS for transportation planning and management for conventions, tradeshows, and other major events.
MOST HELPFUL FEATURES
On the operations side, the ETS-Shuttle-Tracker suite of tools provides an incredible leap in efficiency and safety. When the operations team can see the location of every bus in real time, it not only drives more efficient bus service, but it also serves as a unique tool in dealing with emergency situations. If a bus has mechanical issues, for example, the operations team can pinpoint the location of that bus, and immediately dispatch resources to address the incident.
To add value for our customers, the ETS-Next-Shuttle significantly improves the attendee experience by providing real-time shuttle information. This results in delivering relaxed and happy attendees to their meeting destination.
ETS’ goal is to provide industry-leading service and efficiency. In keeping with this goal, ETS is committed to continuous improvement, and always looking for ways to further advance this technology. The system is running better now than it has ever been, but improvements are always in progress. In looking to the future, ETS envisions the possibilities of individual passenger tracking, providing real-time manifests on every bus. This would improve everything from tracking lost items, to enhanced safety, to post show reporting. Stay tuned!
Contact Us for more information about Event Transportation Systems (ETS) and the full suite of services ETS provides.