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CW Innovation Awards: Transdev Sydney Ferries taps 5G to improve public safety

Moving to a 5G network has significantly improved video quality and reduced the time needed to scour hours of footage, enabling the ferry operator to quickly investigate customer cases

With public safety a top priority, Transdev Sydney Ferries (TDSF) realised it had to move to a 5G network infrastructure that could better provide the capacity and speed it needed to act quickly.

The decision has enabled the Australian transport operator to shorten the time needed to analyse hours of video footage and resolve at least 70% of feedback within two business days.

The ability to do so is necessary, as TDSF moves 15.3 million passengers each year across more than 10 main routes and 38 wharves. Running since 2012, it operates Sydney’s ferry network comprising nine classes of vessels.

Under its contract terms with Transport for New South Wales (TfNSW), TDSF must provide high-availability CCTV and emergency help point services. New vessels also must have more CCTV cameras onboard, with access to real-time video footage made available to authorised personnel and New South Wales Police.

With 791 CCTV cameras spread across its entire fleet, there is visual coverage of nearly all parts of the vessel where passengers have access and areas critical to ferry operations. There are no cameras in specific locations, such as toilets, and some older vessels that are slated for upgrading works.

About 40% of customers each year are tourists, so a significant number of people onboard are likely to be unfamiliar with their surroundings and not necessarily as accustomed to water as Australians. This underscores the need to monitor vessels, so the well-being of both customers and staff can be safeguarded.

As ensuring public safety is the number one priority, TDSF must maintain continuous connectivity with its vessels, regardless of rough external conditions, and monitor high-resolution CCTV footage in real time. This will further help protect its assets.

It soon became clear it could no longer deliver this efficiently on the existing 4G cellular broadband solution. The network was unable to facilitate fast data downloads or provide the level of video clarity needed to assist police and ensure public safety.

The lag in download and poor footage further hampered TDSF’s ability to carry out safety operations, such as live investigative and assistive responses from centralised operating centres. These tasks are essential to support emergency services.

Access to clear video footage offers more reliable information and details, enabling more effective investigation of customer feedback, including complaints.

TDSF knew it had to transition to 5G to confidently stream high-definition CCTV footage and cut the time and resources its tech team would have to spend on troubleshooting.

Bandwidth boost to better service delivery

To address the challenges, it used IT consulting firm Australian Sentinel for the deployment, rolling out Cradlepoint’s 5G product suite that included the supplier’s R1900 Series routers and NetCloud Service management platform.

TDSF was able to leverage its existing systems to support IP video monitoring for emergency help point services. The addition of Cradlepoint NetCloud Service, which offers remote management and analytics, allows TDSF to monitor network performance through a single dashboard from its central IT department. This eliminates any IT overhead on its fleet or wharves.

Alongside the NetCloud Advanced Mobile Performance service plan, TDSF also gains security and automatic vehicle locator (AVL) capabilities. These include threat management, web filtering and advanced capabilities, such as location tracking and cellular coverage maps.

Suited up with a 5G network, TDSF is now able to download high-quality video footage and emergency help point data from its vessels to its operation control centre in near real time. Under optimal conditions, its operations team can download up to an hour of footage in five minutes.

With its newest vessel producing up to 330GB of CCTV footage each day, the equivalent of 100 Netflix movies, maintaining fast downloads with large data loads is crucial.

The accelerated speed allows TDSF to more quickly view hours of CCTV footage and obtain the needed outcome, even with a tight deadline. It has enabled the ferry operator to meet a critical requirement from the TfNSW that it resolves 70% of all complaints and feedback within two business days.

Besides improving service delivery, the 5G network also delivers connectivity for onboard and shore public announcements, passenger information displays, and corporate Wi-Fi.

Furthermore, with NetCloud’s location-based services, TDSF’s lean IT team can more easily track vessel locations and routes in real-time.

It was also able to rapidly deploy the 5G solutions as a temporary source of connectivity at certain sites, in particular, where it faced delays transitioning from legacy microwave technologies to fibre connectivity. This was due to various reasons, such as marine environment complications and wharves located near indigenous sites.

As hundreds of connected devices on larger vessels navigate across the network, 5G will ensure the robust operation of critical safety equipment, including tampering alarm systems, speed sensor, fuel and oil meters, and water depth transducer.

Completed in September 2022, the 5G deployment was funded by Australia’s federal 5G innovation initiative grant, which totalled A$418,946.

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