All Blogs

The Global Health Crisis Is Accelerating Transportation’s Need for Digital Transformation

Mario Montag
Vice President, Transportation Practice

February 16, 2021

The transportation industry has reached an inflection point – one in which nearly all forms of travel have been met with unprecedented challenges. Transit and airport revenues have been decimated with the lack of passengers, while freight and shipping companies have been overwhelmed with demand from an explosion of e-commerce orders. Despite facing unprecedented challenges, the industry is facing an equally unprecedented opportunity to innovate.

From public transit agencies and city governments to private rail systems and major airports, innovative transportation organizations are deploying technology and digital approaches to keep people safe and healthy. At the same time, they are building the digital foundation to gain new insights into operations and discover new revenue streams, enabling thriving organizations, delighting customers and advancing sustainability.

As we look to build a better future, I’m excited to introduce our latest industry practice focused specifically on the transportation industry. Combining over a century of operational technology (OT) and half a century of IT expertise, we’re bringing together, for our customers, the very best solutions, which focus on solving real problems and improving our everyday lives in truly meaningful ways.

Transit ridership has plunged on the order of 70-90% due to COVID-19, and global railways are forecasted to lose $125 billion in 2020 and 2021 combined.[1]

Air travel is down 73% since COVID began, costing airlines $4 billion per month in losses.[2a], [2b]

Annual US e-commerce sales increased over 44% in 2020 compared to 15% in 2019.[3]

Now Is The Time To Make Smart Transportation a Reality

As with many other industries, COVID-19 has greatly disrupted transportation. Public transportation ridership and commuting have drastically changed, international travel is largely restricted and even discouraged by many. Meanwhile, the industry is facing fundamental shifts due to innovations in technology. Demands for sustainability and the rise of electrification are reaching new heights, and autonomous vehicles are cruising the streets of cities like San Francisco, Paris, Tokyo and Dubai. In addition, testing for larger rollouts and new forms of rideshare and micromobility are pervasive across cities, worldwide. And that’s not even considering age-old challenges like transportation equity.

The good news is – help is on the way. In the United States for example, $1.9T of COVID relief funding is being made available, representing 20-25% of annual federal discretionary spending. In the past year, through multiple COVID response bills, we’ve already seen this spending increase by an extra $72 billion (including $39 billion for transit and $12 billion for airports), with additional spending projected in the next stimulus bill. This past summer, the EU also announced the largest green stimulus in history, earmarking more than $550 billion, spanning electric cars, renewable energy and agriculture, which represents a fundamental shift in spending priorities.

Looking to the future, digital health and safety solutions will be foundational to restoring passenger trust and confidence, providing a bridge to the smart transportation solutions that will solve longstanding challenges in the industry and make mobility more sustainable.

Even more promising, the technologies that support digital transformation have matured, moving from proofs of concept to proofs of value. Solutions like Smart Spaces and Lumada Video Insights are already solving real customer challenges in the world and proving the value they can provide, not just the technology itself.

Hitachi Vantara Customers Are Leading the Way

Hitachi has helped a wide variety of transportation companies around the world to improve health and safety, operations and customer experience. A few of these projects include:

  • Hitachi Vantara and AT&T are providing advanced temperature screening technology to the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC) that can detect elevated body temperatures for employees, contractors and visitors at company facilities. The deployment of thermal analysis units throughout five RTC employee facilities enhances the organization’s health and safety measures to help safeguard staff and riders in the Southern Nevada community.
  • Team Penske [Corporation] was intent on mitigating potential COVID-19 exposure for staff and visitors in its facilities. Following public health guidance, the company sought a solution to quickly and easily check the temperature of everyone who enters their facilities and chose Hitachi’s Lumada Video Insights to provide a targeted, mobile and adaptable temperature monitoring solution that could be used in various limited facilities.
  • PT. Angkasa Pura II (Persero), one of the State-Owned Enterprises engaged in the airport services and airport-related services in the Western part of Indonesia, uses video analytics to improve operational management, increase awareness and provide an excellent customer experience for over 100 million passengers annually.
  • MetroTransit operates across multiple cities and districts in the Minneapolis/Saint Paul area, and needed to modernize and unify disparate systems in order to better protect the safety of its average 210,000 daily riders. Hitachi delivered an updated system with real-time data coming from 91 light rail cars and a single pane of glass for disparate systems and multiple organizations to simplify collaboration of safety and operations.
  • Network Rail owns and operates rail infrastructure in the UK, including Manchester Piccadilly station, one of the busiest stations in the UK. Using Hitachi 3D Lidar, the station team has taken part in a trial to understand whether they can automatically monitor crowding on platforms using a mobile app, and guide passengers to the right areas. It is envisaged that this monitoring will help (if fully implemented once Covid-19 restrictions are reduced) to better manage crowding, while improving the passenger experience and flows at the station.
  • Geneva Public Transport uses intelligent solutions to monitor and control part of the power network for bus, e-bus and charging stations, maximizing asset availability and usage. The real- time system proactively manages critical assets, enabling more timely and effective decisions, providing operational efficiencies and cost optimization. This means minimal service interruption for commuters.
  • Metro do Porto in Portugal is working with Hitachi to detect fare evasion and gather passenger flow insights at Casa da Música station to enhance safety and operations. The Hitachi 3D Lidar Sensors respect privacy while gathering valuable information.

Hitachi Vantara’s Transportation Practice Is Here To Help

As I alluded to above, Hitachi has a long history of innovation and expertise in transportation. We delivered the first Shinkansen bullet train in Japan in 1964 and the first high-speed rail line in Europe in 1981. And we continue to manage over 250 kms of driverless metro rail systems across the world. Further, we pioneered the Autonomous Decentralized Transport Operation Control System (ATOS) to safely and efficiently manage 24 of Tokyo’s busiest metro area lines, covering 380 stations and 1,300 kms. In early 2021, we successfully tested the first battery-powered tram, which offers the benefit of requiring no overhead wires or other electrified infrastructure, saving on costs and visual impact.

As we continue that tradition, our beacon is to build a world where everything and everyone can seamlessly move where they need to go. To do that, we need to make transportation safer, smarter and more efficient with data-driven approaches to innovate in:

  • Health and safety: automating detection of PPE (personal protective equipment), elevated body temperatures, social distancing and accident prevention, while enabling incident alerts and reporting.
  • Sustainability and efficiency: delivering insights on operations to reduce waste and improve processes, maintenance and asset management.
  • Customer experience enhancement: providing insights into queue times, flows and crowd management, as well as social media intelligence.
  • New revenue streams and data monetization: building new business models that provide new services and offerings for passengers from in-station or in-terminal retail.
  • A strategic and open ecosystem: enabling partners, including telcos, tech partners, local system integrators (SIs) and industry point solution providers to utilize Hitachi’s open approach to partnerships to deliver complete, end-to-end solutions to real problems.

By leveraging the power of our people, technology and IP, as well as the capabilities of our extensive partner ecosystem, Hitachi Vantara is solving customer challenges with cutting-edge digital solutions and expert consulting services. Let’s get transportation back on track, keeping people healthy and safe, improving sustainability and delighting customers – but most of all building a better future together.

For more information on Hitachi Vantara’s transportation practice, visit:

Mario Montag is Vice President, Transportation Practice at Hitachi Vantara.

Check out the interview with Mischa Wanek-Libman from Mass Transit magazine and Mario Montag to learn more about how we’re helping the industry to recover and thrive.

Mario Montag

Mario Montag

Mario Montag is Vice President, Transportation Practice at Hitachi Vantara.