Syncromatics Featured As Cloud-Based Improvement to ITS Systems
February 15, 2018 - Published in Metro Magazine by Alex Roman, Managing Editor. (Source)
Moving to the Cloud to Improve Agency Efficiency, Customer Experience
In its 2017 Transit Survey, transit communication systems developer ETA Transit found that 75% of North American transit agencies’ ITS solutions are still housed on a local server and that 85% have considered migrating to a cloud-hosted service.
The reasons agencies are finding cloud-based systems more appealing are many, but chief among them is the high cost associated with maintaining their current server systems and the ability to continually make upgrades to the system to keep up-to-date with all the latest features and solutions ITS providers can offer.
An even bigger reason, though, is the growing trend to integrate public transportation with other modes of transportation, using open application program interfaces, so users can more easily plan complete trips that may only use public transportation for part of their trip, as well provide more accurate real-time vehicle information on the agency’s website, smartphone, or signage.
METRO took a look at some of the latest ways tech providers are integrating more options to help transit agencies take advantage of cloud-based open architecture to improve their offerings to passengers and improve efficiencies.
Syncromatics offers a suite of cloud-based solutions, including automatic passenger counting, real-time passenger information, and web-based annunciation systems. Starting out in university operations 10 years ago, Syncromatics now focuses on small and mid-sized transit agencies.
“Our sweet spot is a city that has an airport but no professional sports team, so that seems to correlate to agencies with around 50 to 150 buses in their fleet,” explains Alex Fay, VP, business development, for Syncromatics. “Those size of fleets are where you begin to get into some complexities of the operating profile and agency structure, but it’s not so big that you have a huge organization with multiple bus yards and layers of management and bureaucracy.”
Bringing “big city technologies” to smaller and mid-sized agencies, the company brings back-end solutions to help agencies run more efficiently as well as provide real-time bus arrival info via easily branded websites, apps, and signage.
Deviating from its typical focus, Syncromatics recently landed a $4 million contract from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) to design, install, and operate a network of 300 real-time bus information signs at the busiest bus shelters across Los Angeles County. The electronic signs, the first to be deployed widely in the Metro bus system, will provide real-time arrival times, service alerts, and other information about Metro buses, as well as those operated by other regional transit agencies that share bus shelters.
“What makes this project unique is that there are close to 30 transit agencies that pass through Downtown Los Angeles,” says Fay. “To accommodate all of those agencies, many of whom share bus stops with Metro, we had to build a system that could get real-time data from a number of different sources and make sense of that to be able to put that out on a sign in a way that is seamless for the passenger.”
Metro teamed with Syncromatics for the signage project after a survey found that more than 60% of the agency’s riders do not own a smartphone.
“The signs will not only bring real-time arrival info to those without phones, but will also enhance the rider experience for those who do,” says Fay.
The new signs, which include a back-end software system that will be able to provide the agency updates on device health and possible power outages, will feature text-to-speech technology to make audio announcements for visually impaired riders, and roughly 100 locations will include solar panels to eliminate any impact on the electric grid.
That text-to-speech technology is another important feature Syncromatics is adding, not only to meet ADA requirements, but also to do such things as send service alerts or promote community events in spoken form directly to the bus, without driver intervention.
“In a lot of ways, riding transit can be like airplane travel,” says Fay. “There are going to be issues now and then, and that is OK, but it is not OK when the operator doesn’t keep passengers up to date. These dynamic voice announcement systems enable agencies to do just that in real-time.”
Los Angeles Metro selects Syncromatics to deploy real-time signage
August 25, 2016
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) board of directors today awarded a $4 million contract to Syncromatics to design, install, and operate a network of 300 real-time bus information signs at the busiest bus shelters across Los Angeles County. The electronic signs, the first to be deployed widely in the Metro bus system, will provide real time arrival times, service alerts, and other information about Metro buses, as well as those operated by other regional transit agencies that share bus shelters.
Syncromatics has installed and operated electronic transit signs in cities across the United States, and this project will expand the Downtown LA technology firm’s local footprint. “Not knowing if or when your bus is coming can be very stressful, so these electronic signs will remove a barrier for new riders and deliver peace of mind to the millions of our neighbors who rely on Metro buses,” said CEO Ian Sephton. “This contract validates the scalability of the Syncromatics technology platform, and we look forward to taking on more big projects like this in the future.”
Improving the bus rider experience is a top priority for Metro. The new signs will feature text-to-speech technology to make audio announcements for visually impaired riders, and roughly 100 locations will include solar panels to eliminate any impact on the electric grid.
"Live bus arrival times and service alerts remain out of reach for the 62% of Metro who don’t own smartphones," said Board Member and Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Bonin, citing an internal Metro survey. "Bringing real-time information to the bus stop is a common sense technology solution to an age-old problem, and it will improve the transit experience for all."
As the prime contractor for the project, Syncromatics is responsible for the design, permitting, and construction of the signs, including providing electric service to many locations that currently lack power. Syncromatics will provide data management services to process real time and scheduled bus arrival times for thousands of vehicles and distribute the information to the electronic signs over the cellular data network. The company’s software will also allow for dynamic messaging on signs to inform transit users of delays, detours, and special events. Spread across more than 25 cities, the phased roll out of new electronic signs will be completed in 2018.
Syncromatics acquires demand response software partner Mobilitat
August 15, 2016
Syncromatics, today, announced its acquisition of Mobilitat, whose Easy Rides dispatch and scheduling software enables demand responsive public transportation. Easy Rides will join Syncromatics’ existing portfolio of fixed route technologies offering comprehensive solutions for public transportation operators.
Syncromatics and Mobilitat have been collaborating for over a year in a non-exclusive partnership to provide technology solutions for transit agencies requiring both fixed route and paratransit software. The acquisition builds on this successful track record and will enable closer coordination of technology development and marketing efforts.
Cindy Johnson, the founder and CEO of Mobilitat, will become the president of Syncromatics’ newly formed Demand Response Division and join the Syncromatics Board of Directors. Syncromatics will retain all Mobilitat employees and the company’s Wyoming office to ensure continuity of service to all Easy Rides customers and to accelerate the development of new products.
Syncromatics CEO Ian Sephton heralded the acquisition as a major step in Syncromatics’ expansion strategy: “The Demand Response Division extends our toolkit to serve a new segment of the public transportation industry. Our clients tell us they want integrated solutions and fewer vendors to manage, so we answered the call. Mobilitat’s team has a tremendous ‘customer first’ attitude, and they’ll fit in perfectly at Syncromatics.”
“Mobilitat’s focus has always been on empowering public transit operators to run more efficiently and provide better service to their riders,” said Johnson. “The Syncromatics team shares these values, and together we can make an even greater impact on the transportation landscape.”
The first newly integrated product resulting from the partnership is Open MDT, a Mobile Data Terminal that can seamlessly switch between fixed route mode and demand response mode. This flexible design enables transit agencies to provide more rides with fewer spare vehicles to reduce overhead costs. Open MDT can also run third-party apps on the Android operating system to extend its functionality and ensure a “future proof” technology platform.
The deal closed at midnight on Monday, August 15 for an undisclosed amount.
Syncromatics provides tracking technology to move thousands of DNC attendees
July 29, 2016
In addition to delegates and elected officials, California also sent an important piece of technology to the Democratic National Convention (DNC). Los Angeles-based Syncromatics’ bus tracking technology played a key role for the team that provided safe and reliable transportation to delegates, media, and VIP guests at the DNC in Philadelphia.
The Democratic National Convention Committee turned to Event Transportation Associates (ETA) to implement a temporary transit system capable of moving people from hotels scattered around the city and New Jersey to various convention sites. As a contractor to ETA, Syncromatics provided computer aided dispatching and automatic vehicle location software as well as a real time passenger information website so delegates could quickly check the location of their bus and transit time to their convention venues.
“With tens of thousands of delegates, media, staff, and other honored attendees descending on Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention, Syncromatics was proud to provide leading-edge technology that allowed convention-goers to navigate the city safely, quickly, and easily,” said Syncromatics CEO Ian Sephton. “This experience at the DNC showed we can deploy our proven public transit technology to help event organizers set up turnkey transportation dispatch and passenger information systems. If we can make it work for the DNC, we can make it work for any event.”
In the span of only 48 hours, Syncromatics installed GPS tracking devices on the fleet of more than 400 buses sourced from over 20 private and public fleets in the area. Syncromatics also provided web-based dispatching technology to power the central bus operations command center and feed data to the City of Philadelphia’s Emergency Operations Center. More than just dots on a map, the Syncromatics software provided route based assignments for each vehicle, enabling dispatchers to anticipate service disruptions and take proactive measures to ensure passenger safety and troubleshoot potential issues.
“The Syncromatics technology was a huge improvement over vehicle tracking systems we’ve used at past conventions,” said Janie Hollingsworth, CEO of ETA. “What really set Syncromatics apart was the dedication and focus their staff brought to the dispatch center to help us get the most out of the technology. The security and logistical requirements make the DNC a very complex event, and Syncromatics’ experience in public transit was a tremendous asset for the DNC bus operations.”
In addition to behind the scenes dispatching, Syncromatics hosted a public website to enable convention attendees to track their buses in real-time. The mobile responsive website garnered more than 10,000 users during the week of the convention.
Syncromatics Hosts Youth Leaders from C5LA for Executive Lunch
February 5, 2016
Recently, Syncromatics hosted high school youth leaders from the C5LA organization to educate them on the realities and dynamics of building and working for a technology company. From the orginazation's website...
"C5LA was founded in 1999 as the personal philanthropy of John Alm, former President and CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprise. After years of sending his own children to summer camp, John saw the impact that it had on their lives, helping them develop personal skills, confidence, and improved self esteem. The camp experience was an amazing lesson in life for all that were fortunate enough to attend. Unfortunately, those children who could benefit the most from such programs were unable to afford such an experience.
With this in mind, John and his wife Carolyn began their mission with the idea of providing not only a camp program, but also a leadership development and life preparatory experience to those who simply had no access to such opportunities. After bringing his initial dream to reality, C5LA has grown in scope from a four week summer camp to what is now a 5 year, year-round Leadership Development and College Preparatory Program. Since the inception of the program, John Alm and the Los Angeles program have inspired others to expand C5 which now serves youth in four other cities across the United States.
The mission of the C5 Youth Foundation of Southern California, is to change the odds for high-potential teens from under-resourced communities by inspiring them to pursue personal success, while preparing them for leadership roles in school, college, work and their communities.
The Executive Lunch included sessions on:
- Tech Strategy
- Company Formation
- Software Development
- Hardware Management and Installations
- Project Management
- Company Leadership
Syncromatics Hosted Transit Tech Summit
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
How is technology changing the face of cities and public transportation?
At the Transit Tech Summit, we came together to discuss the latest technology developments affecting transit managers and riders. Round table discussions popped up with our peers in public transit that allowed us to share what works and what doesn't. The afternoon mini-conference wrapped up with a hosted networking reception that exposed us to vendors, customers, partners and friends in a more intimate setting.
PRESENTATION TOPICS INCLUDED
There's an App for That - How do I Get an iPhone/Android App for my Bus System?
Hooray for Real Time Info at Big Blue Bus – But Now What?
Leveraging Transit Data to Create Intuitive and Mobile/Tablet Friendly Websites
The Robots are Coming! Vehicle-to-Vehicle and Vehicle-to-Infrastructure Technology
Data Made Simple: Gaining Operational Insights from Visual Display of Data
Free Wi-Fi: Can it Attract New Bus Riders? Case studies from Los Angeles and Merced
Using Tablets for Live Paratransit Dispatch, Integrated Reporting, and Pre/Post Trip Inspections
Designing the Modern Office: Inside the LA Cleantech Incubator
The LA Cleantech Incubator is Los Angeles’ new innovation hub – a place where entrepreneurs, engineers, scientists and policymakers can collaborate to design the future of cities. The Campus features offices, conference rooms, R&D labs, prototype manufacturing workshop, training center, and event space directly adjacent to the new Arts District Park. The incubator is a beacon of green technology, featuring a 175 kilowatt photovoltaic solar canopy, greywater filtration, bioswale, and microgrid systems, all in the heart of LA’s Arts and Innovation District.
from The Examiner.com, September 17, 2015
Great news from The Bus, Merced’s Regional Transit Authority, which has announced the addition of free Wi-Fi on board all buses. The state-of-the-art 4G network has been installed on all fixed-route and paratransit buses servicing Merced County. Riders now have the convenience of checking e-mail and chatting on social media during their commute.
The addition of a high speed Wi-Fi network is just the latest in improvements made to the service. In the past year, routes and schedules have been streamlined to make service faster and more convenient for passengers. New stops have been added, weekend service hours have been extended and security monitors have been added to all buses. The Bus has expanded its service area with the addition of direct routes from Los Banos to Merced and Los Banos to Turlock.
Efforts have also been made to improve passenger communication. Bus stops are now clearly marked with signs, taking the guesswork out of riding the bus. The website has been redesigned to provide riders with more comprehensive information. Passengers have instant access to real time maps, arrival times, fare information and news alerts via “thebuslive.com”.
Transit Manager Rich Green stated, “One of the goals of The Bus is to provide riders with a convenient, user-friendly system that’s easy to understand and navigate. In the past year, we’ve made a number of enhancements to the service to improve our riders’ experience. The addition of Wi-Fi on all buses will allow passengers the convenience of staying connected during their commute. Not only will these service improvements make riding The Bus more convenient for current riders, but we also hope it will encourage non-riders to consider using The Bus as an alternative means of transportation.”
About Merced The Bus (Transit Joint Powers Authority)
The Bus, Merced’s Regional Transit Authority, is the single public transportation service provider for all of Merced County, serving the communities of Atwater, Dos Palos, Gustine, Hilmar, Le Grand, Livingston, Los Banos, Merced, Planada, Winton and also Turlock. The Bus is dedicated to delivering quality, affordable transit services that link people, jobs and communities. The Bus strives to provide increased mobility to the transit-dependent population by offering cost-effective, safe and efficient service to the residents of Merced County.
from GMV Press Release, September 8, 2015
GMV and Syncromatics Corp, a leading U.S. Software as a Service (SaaS) provider of advanced bus tracking, CAD/AVL, and real-time passenger information solutions, are pleased to announce today that have signed an agreement for a strategic investment in Syncromatics.
As part of GMV’s growth and international expansion strategy, the U.S. market is considered top priority. Running a Space and ICT subsidiary in the U.S. since 2004, GMV had identified the U.S. public transportation market as one with great growth potential. In this context Syncromatics offers an excellent approach to this expanding market, enabling the company to grow rapidly in North America. Syncromatics has an outstanding track record and is highly appreciated by all its clients; moreover, it has a highly qualified management, commercial and technical team that knows the North American market very well; this gives GMV an excellent footing for future growth. Additionally it has a technological offer that is perfectly suited to the U.S. market and is complementary with GMV’s present portfolio. This agreement will also generate significant commercial, technological and operating synergies in the future, enhancing growth and value creation for GMV within the U.S. and elsewhere in the world.
Syncromatics, for its part, will benefit from GMV’s experience, complementary technologies and products and financial resources. With this strategic investment, Syncromatics will now have the resources to accelerate growth and become a market leader in the U.S. Founded in 2006, Syncromatics provides a range of advanced CAD/AVL, real-time passenger information and passenger counting solutions to more than 40 customers in the U.S., among them the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT).
from LA Mayor's Blog, June 25, 2015
Bus shelters are one of those city fixtures that we hardly notice until we need them. I know I'm always grateful for the shade and seat a shelter provides while I'm waiting for my ride. Until now, these shelters have dutifully performed their job: give people a place to recharge until they move to their next destination.
But imaginative people in the City of Los Angeles and at Outfront/JCDecaux Street Furniture are seeing the greater potential of bus shelters as technological service providers. The modest shelter can also be a place to recharge, literally, with USB charging stations for your mobile devices. A shelter can also be a source of light with low-energy LED lighting powered by the sun.
A shelter can also be a helpful companion that will let you know what buses will arrive when to take you to the myriad destinations served by LA's ever expanding public transportation options. For those with vision impairment, the shelter has an audio interface which will read the bus schedule to you at the press of a button.
The shelters will integrate the schedules from both LA Metro and LADOT DASH through the efforts of the agencies and Syncromatics, the company that makes it possible to know exactly where the DASH buses are.
By providing free Wi-Fi, the shelters will connect your mobile devices with the Internet; and small, broadcast-only Bluetooth radio beacons have the capacity to work with opt-in apps and future innovations to turn your phone into a local guide-- and more. This combination of features turns the shelter into what the tech crowd might call, "a platform capable of unlocking future innovations that we can barely imagine."
That might sounds like an overstatement, but it's true. This is 21st century technology at work--fundamentally improving customer service across our city.
from ArkTimes.com, August 11, 2015
The Central Arkansas Transit Authority officially transitioned to its new name, Rock Region METRO, Tuesday, implementing a new brand to match the adoption of a new service plan.
“The Rock Region METRO brand reflects the citizen-focused, forward-thinking organization we are,” said Jarod Varner, Rock Region METRO executive director. “We want to weave our brand into every aspect of our business, educating the public about our services while also representing a transit system of which they can be proud.”
The Rock Region METRO brand is one of the major recent outcomes of the Move Central Arkansas project, a comprehensive planning effort involving a variety of stakeholders in public transit. The new brand will support a service plan recently adopted by the Rock Region METRO board of directors. The plan focuses on three key areas: service expansion and improvements, comprehensive and consistent branding and exploring funding opportunities to support the former.
“It’s an exciting time for Rock Region METRO,” said Allie Freeman, board chairman, “We want our fellow Arkansans to get excited about immediate and future plans we have for our public transit system. Little Rock can be a leader among its peers where public transit is concerned, and this rebranding is one step toward strengthening the existing system.”
The rebranding process will continue for the next seven months. Immediate changes can be seen on the organization’s website and social media pages, rrmetro.org, Facebook.com/rrmetro and @rrmetro, respectively; on new signage at streetcar and bus shelters and on signage at the River Cities Travel Center, 310 E. Capitol Ave., Little Rock. New bus stop signs sporting route numbers and a customized texting system based on stop locations will appear in September. The most visible aspect of the rebranding initiative can be seen on the fleet’s 15 new compressed natural gas-fueled buses, which will start service Wednesday, Aug. 12. Older vehicles in the fleet will be rotated out of service now through March and painted to match the brand’s new look. By the end of 2025, the entire Rock Region METRO heavy-duty bus fleet will be replaced with the new CNG-fueled bus models.
Passenger service improvements are being planned for the near future. Starting Wednesday, Aug. 12, all fixed-route and express buses will offer passengers free WiFi. The METRO Tracker GPS-based mobile app is in beta testing and will debut in September. A digital screen added to the River Cities Travel Center will display bus departure and arrival times once the METRO Tracker app debuts and will provide an announcement service in the interim. Finally, Rock Region METRO will add 35 new bus shelters across its service area by the end of the year.
The new Rock Region METRO name and brand was developed by the San Francisco-based firm Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, an internationally recognized firm specializing in transportation systems development.
“We are very pleased with the work Nelson\Nygaard has done on behalf of the Move Central Arkansas project,” said Varner. “The research, planning and expertise they have provided has helped Rock Region METRO poise for immediate growth and a positive impact on our community.”
from Viterbi.Usc.Edu, October 28, 2014
In his freshman year, Josh Bigelow, B.S. ’06, took a job as a USC campus cruiser driver to make new friends. But he quickly found he was driven to do much more.
Bigelow, who at 13 taught himself to write computer code by reading a book, soon concluded the cruiser’s dispatch system needed an overhaul. It made no sense, he thought, for supervisors to call him and other drivers with names and addresses of people who needed rides when technology existed to streamline the process.
Nothing if not ambitious, Bigelow told his bosses that he could build a better system. Go ahead and try, they responded, somewhat incredulously.
Drawing on what he calls his “considerable amount of self-taught engineering experience,” along with knowledge acquired at the Stanford University computer science summer camps he attended in high school, Bigelow spent six weeks producing a new-and-improved system. Instead of providing drivers with passenger coordinates over the phone, dispatchers could now communicate that information by text, which showed up on newly installed mobile data terminals. Bigelow’s system also leveraged GPS technology to allow supervisors to remotely track vehicles and make changes to routes as needed.
Josh Bigelow testing out the system designed to make the USC transportation system more efficient
“We were able to haul twice as many kids, and our transportation time was cut in half,” said Brian D’Autremont, the former director of USC Transportation, adding that he arranged for Bigelow to attend USC tuition-free during his time consulting with the agency. “He was a tremendous asset and accomplished things we couldn’t get done any other way.”
Bigelow, who graduated from USC Viterbi with a dual degree in computer engineering and computer science, has leveraged that on-the-job training to build Syncromatics, a multimillion-dollar Los Angeles-based transportation company. The growing firm counts the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, the University of South Florida and Merced County, Calif., among its 33 customers nationwide, with more than 1,000 buses in service.
“I like being able to move the needle in public transit and know that I’ve made a difference,” said Bigelow, 31. “Solving big problems makes me tick.”
Syncromatics’ system benefits both riders and transit agencies.
Passengers can access arrival times from their smartphones that tell them bus location and estimated arrival times. Bus operators receive real-time information about schedule performance, ideal spacing between buses and ridership numbers via infrared passenger counters. Dispatchers can also send texts to buses that voice annunciation software translates into verbal announcements.
Bus fleets that use Syncromatics’ technology have seen ridership increase because of better on-time performance. More people on buses means reduced fuel consumption and emissions.
Bigelow seemed destined to become a business builder. Growing up in Burlington, Vt., his parents owned an insurance company and passed on their passion for business to their son. “I grew up with entrepreneurship at my dinner table,” Bigelow said. “I always had it in my blood.”
He also revered the printed word. An avid reader, Bigelow consumed history, philosophy and computer science books, always challenging himself intellectually. The lessons of John Wooden resonated, especially the late great basketball coach’s “Pyramid of Success,” with its emphasis on poise, initiative, industriousness and self-control.
Bigelow took those qualities to USC. Although he learned much in the classroom, Bigelow said much of his education took place during his hands-on training at USC Transportation.
Based on the technology he developed in his dorm room at USC, Bigelow founded Syncromatics in 2006. (The company’s name is an abbreviation of “synchronized telematics.”) At the time the firm’s sole employee, he quickly secured a $100,000 contract with the University of California at San Diego. Within a year, he won the prestigious Lexus Transportation Prize in the California Clean Tech Open. Bigelow took home $50,000 in cash and $50,000 in in-kind services, including free office space and legal services.
He parlayed that newfound credibility into a meeting with LADOT’s chief of transit, who told him about the city’s problems with “bunching” of the downtown bus fleet, which made some vehicles arrive early and others late. Bigelow, sensing an opportunity, offered a free 15-bus pilot to try to address the problem.
Syncromatics’ vehicle tracking system did the trick, winning the company a lucrative contract. Syncromatics’ business with LADOT has only expanded since then, as has the suite of services it offers. Today, Syncromatics oversees 308 city buses, including the Hollywood and Downtown DASH lines. Bigelow expects sales to double in the next couple years.
“He has that entrepreneurial spirit, that grit and persistence, that X factor,” said Ashish Soni, the founding director of the USC Viterbi Student Institute for Innovation, or VSI2, who taught Bigelow at USC and serves as an informal adviser.
Bigelow is proud of his and Syncromatics’ successes. Now the company’s chief strategy officer, he readily shares credit with his team. More than anything, though, Bigelow says he is grateful to USC Viterbi.
“Viterbi gave me the training of a professional engineer, the business savvy of a USC graduate, the on-the-job experience of the transit industry, and a vital network of friends and colleagues that has served in more ways than I could list, both personally and professionally,” he said.
Our Founder, Josh Bigelow, on the Tonight Show
Along, long time ago...