/>
X

Photos: Thirty years of technology on the buses

From pen and paper to GPS tracking
By Nick Heath, Contributor on
40152700-1-newfirstday.jpg
1 of 5 Nick Heath/ZDNET

From pen and paper to GPS tracking

When it opened 30 years ago, staff in London Buses' emergency control centre CentreComm relied on a radio and pen and paper to do their job.

There were just two operators, who wrote down bus movements as they were radioed in by drivers - the control panel and handset for the Band II radio system can be seen in this shot of CentreComm from the early 1980s.

The nickname for the Band II system was "steam radio" - it allowed multiple drivers to call in at once, meaning operators had to ask drivers to stand by at busy times to stop them from calling in over the top of each other.

The band 2 radio did not have selective calling so during busy periods you would have to continually ask drivers to stand by as they would all be calling in over the top of each other. The nick name for band 2 was steam radio.

Today the centre is manned by 45 people and relies on GPS tracking to manage billions of bus journeys across the capital each year.

Thursday was the 30th anniversary of CentreComm's lauch and Transport for London has released these pictures charting its evolution.

Photo credit: Transport for London

40152700-2-centrecomm-early-1992.jpg
2 of 5 Nick Heath/ZDNET

In 1992, the lack of any GPS functionality meant that operators spent a good deal of time on calls trying to establish where the bus actually was, relying on a map and the driver's knowledge of their whereabouts.

However, that year the growing number of operators at CentreComm did have new technology to help them in their jobs, following the introduction of computer systems to log calls from drivers.

Photo credit: Transport for London

40152700-3-centrecomm.jpg
3 of 5 Nick Heath/ZDNET

More technology was added in 1997 in the form of CCTV feeds from major bus stations and roads, used to help manage the fleet.

Today feeds from about 2,000 CCTV cameras around London also help operators keep tabs on the buses.

Photo credit: Transport for London

40152700-4-centrecomm-200.jpg
4 of 5 Nick Heath/ZDNET

Today staff at CentreComm can monitor the location of every one of the fleet of 8,200 buses on a computerised map, as seen here.

This is thanks to a customised tracking system called iBus, tailored to work among the capital's high rise buildings which block signals from GPS satellites.

The iBus system was developed by Transport for London and Siemens and relies on a variety of remote sensors to complement the GPS tracking. These include gyroscopes which count how many corners a bus has turned and an odometer to measure how far the bus has travelled.

A TfL spokesman told silicon.com: "Previously 40 per cent of the duration of the average call to CentreComm was consumed by identifying the location of the bus.

"Now this information is immediately displayed for controllers on an on-screen London street map."

An iBus system was fitted on every London bus as of April this year.

Photo credit: Transport for London

40152700-5-centrecomm-2009.jpg
5 of 5 Nick Heath/ZDNET

Staff at CentreComm take around 1,300 calls every day from London's 23,000 bus drivers, responding to any incident that has an impact on the bus network, setting up diversions and coordinating any necessary emergency response.

Photo credit: Transport for London

Related Galleries

Holiday wallpaper for your phone: Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year's, and winter scenes
Holiday lights in Central Park background

Related Galleries

Holiday wallpaper for your phone: Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year's, and winter scenes

21 Photos
Winter backgrounds for your next virtual meeting
Wooden lodge in pine forest with heavy snow reflection on Lake O'hara at Yoho national park

Related Galleries

Winter backgrounds for your next virtual meeting

21 Photos
Holiday backgrounds for Zoom: Christmas cheer, New Year's Eve, Hanukkah and winter scenes
3D Rendering Christmas interior

Related Galleries

Holiday backgrounds for Zoom: Christmas cheer, New Year's Eve, Hanukkah and winter scenes

21 Photos
Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6: Electric vehicle extravaganza
img-8825

Related Galleries

Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6: Electric vehicle extravaganza

26 Photos
A weekend with Google's Chrome OS Flex
img-9792-2

Related Galleries

A weekend with Google's Chrome OS Flex

22 Photos
Cybersecurity flaws, customer experiences, smartphone losses, and more: ZDNet's research roundup
shutterstock-1024665187.jpg

Related Galleries

Cybersecurity flaws, customer experiences, smartphone losses, and more: ZDNet's research roundup

8 Photos
Inside a fake $20 '16TB external M.2 SSD'
Full of promises!

Related Galleries

Inside a fake $20 '16TB external M.2 SSD'

8 Photos