The Shuttles Project – Building an IoT Transportation Solution

Posted by on Dec 14, 2015 8:00:00 AM Drew Johnson  
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shuttles-sims.jpgIn our last entry, “The Shuttles Project – Using IoT to Get to Work,” we talked about connecting the shuttles which take employees in Aeris’ building back and forth to an off-site car parking lot. We mentioned that this is an ideal use case for an Internet of Things (IoT) solution. Every IoT solution has pretty much the same ingredients:

  • Sensors in a thing – Here, our “thing” is the shuttle, and we want to know (or sense) where it is, how fast it’s going, and in which direction
  • Connectivity – In this case, we need a Wide Area Network (WAN) connectivity technology such as cellular since no Wi-Fi solution covers the area we want to track the shuttles in
  • Data Ingestion – We need to accept the data from our thing in such a way that it can be stored and further analyzed. We also prefer to accept it in a normalized way so that we could interact with other similar things with the same data processing and visualization or swap out the current connected sensor with another one without re-working the entire solution.
  • Data Storage – Of course, we want to store the data online for a period of time for processing and visualization. We will also want to store historical data in cost-effective, longer-term storage so we can review it later if we want.
  • Data Processing and Analytics – To gain insights from the data, such as when is the peak customer usage, how long trips are taking on average, and how fast drivers are driving, then we need analytics capabilities.
  • User Experience Visualization – The whole solution is about providing information to our stakeholders (the employees in the building, the property owners, and the shuttle drivers). We need a user experience that works for each stakeholder.

At Aeris, we don’t make hardware … the physical things or the sensors. However, we have solutions for pretty much every other part:

  • AerPort/AerCore – Provides cellular connectivity and connectivity management which is optimized for the Internet of Things and is highly reliable and secure
  • AerCloud – Provides data ingestion and storage services for IoT data, making it easy to collect a large amount of data from a large number of sensors
  • AerVoyance – Provides IoT data processing and analytics services, allowing us to gain valuable insights from the data
  • AppExpress – Provides a jump-start on the user experience, including maps for tracking connected devices, charts for visualizing parameters such as speed, and alerts for monitoring 

This project is ideal for using all of these Aeris components with Neo SIMs. That will make building the solution fast and easy. The only component left is the "thing." Since the thing is actually the shuttle, we just need to add some connected sensors that will collect information such as location and speed.

Because Aeris works with so many IoT solutions, we always have a good supply of connected sensors laying around. For this project, we considered using a Tessel board with GPS. However, we would have to build an enclosure, and it’s somewhat on the big side for what we wanted. We also considered using an inexpensive Android handset, but we thought it might be at higher risk of getting stolen. We decided maybe the Queclink GT200 could work. It’s originally designed as a personal emergency device, but it has the location and speed sensors we’re interested in. We also have quite a few of them around the office so it’s very handy. They easily get power from a 12V USB adapter in the shuttle. We decided this connected device could work to start with.

The next step is to leverage all these ingredients to create a minimum viable product to start getting feedback as quickly as possible. Find out how we achieve this in the next blog post.

Read part I here and part III here!

Topics: Fleet Management, sensors