CLR Analytics


Smart Onboard Passenger Information System

This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) project, overseen by the Federal Rail Agency (FRA), aimed to provide a customizable real-time train status, value-added travel information, and entertainment services through a smartphone application. 

The proposed  Smart Onboard Passenger Information and Entertainment System obtains onboard passenger information from multiple data sources including the Onboard Passenger Information System (OPIS) and the train/transit central system and sends audio, visual, and vibrotactile alerts to users to ensure Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance. The system also has the potential to include more attractive services, such as customized traveler information and alerts, a two-way communication platform between passengers and between train conductors (or transit operators) and passengers, and a platform for promoting multimodal transportation options to provide first-mile and last-mile solutions, and entertainment options.

We collaborated with the LOSSAN corridor agency, Caltrans, and AmTrak on this project. The product from this project is a Smart Rail solution to utilize information technology to lower costs and enhance commuter safety and security. It will improve the travel experience for all passengers, particularly hearing and vision-impaired passengers, as well as provide valuable information during emergency situations.


The detailed tasks we conducted through this project include: 

  1. Identified the system requirements based on the needs of rail agencies
  2. Designed the system framework
  3. Developed the system concept of operations
  4. Designed the functions of the smartphone application, including ADA compliance
  5. Designed the TrainAid system hardware and software architecture and the functions needed for the system
  6. Implemented a prototype TrainAid system that includes a subset of functions from the proposed system.
  7. The prototype includes an onboard server and a smartphone application developed for the iOS platform
  8. Tested the prototype TrainAid system
  9. Developed a business model for the TrainAid system
  10. Contacted different rail agencies and received support from the LOSSAN corridor agency to deploy the system in phase II


Sponsor: Federal Rail Agency through USDOT SBIR program

Time Period: May 2017 – Nov 2017


Background and Objectives

Onboard railroad passenger information system (OPIS) is an electronic system that provides audio and/or visual information for passengers on a train, including real-time train status, boarding and station announcements, and safety and security messages. Currently, in the US, the trainline public address systems are mainly used by intercity and commuter rail systems to send information to onboard passengers and onboard signs and big-screen monitors have started being utilized to improve information dissemination. However, the information received by passengers is not guaranteed and consistent since the information and service from existing OPISs are diverse and without a common standard and platform. It is especially the case for those passengers who are distracted by their onboard activities (e.g., using smartphone), vision or hearing impaired, language-impaired, or less familiar with the train services. The goal of the project is to address the above needs and provide quality passenger information and add-on services through a smartphone application with ADA compliant design.