Smart Transport: The Future of Transport on Earth

The benefits of space exploration and new space technologies stretch wider than you might think. Space technologies have a growing impact on our lives on Earth, especially when it comes to transport and logistics. Exciting new developments in satellite technology are improving the way we use transport and have lots of untapped potential.

In preparation for space week, we are here to tell you all about smart transport and how it’s the future of transport on Earth. 

Firstly, what is Smart Transport?

Smart transport, put simply, is the incorporation of modern technologies into out transportation systems. It’s sometimes referred to as Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) and includes things like traffic signals, car navigation, and container management systems.

These technologies can help with things like giving drivers directions, rerouting traffic during weather disasters, and adjusting speed limits based on real-world conditions.  All in all, improving safety and efficiency in all areas of transport and logistics.

What Has Space Got to Do with It?

In order for smart transport to work, it needs to be able to communicate huge amounts of data. Satellite technology allows for the communication of data and makes its transmission more reliable and far-reaching. By using these technologies, transport can become more efficient and better able to respond to real time changes swiftly.

Some of the areas this information covers are:

  • Temperature sensors
  • Vehicle battery life         
  • Routes and diversions
  • Speed sensors
  • Weather conditions
  • Congestion


Smart Transport in the Future

While this technology is being used in some areas of the transport industry today, in the future, we can expect a whole lot more. Satellite communications have the potential to revolutionise the way we use transport, improving efficiency, safety and making it kinder on the environment.

We want to share with you the future potential of these technologies and how businesses are developing new ways of incorporating it into improving commercial transport services.

Rethinking Public Transport

Satellite technology has the capacity to give public transport a much-needed makeover whilst lowering costs.

For example, catching a bus in the future could involve a signal being sent from the passenger to the bus with their location and time of pick up so the nearest vehicle can diverge from its route to pick them up.

Maintenance and repairs could also be improved by this communication of data. Trains could send data to a transfer hub to inform the relevant train company if repairs are needed and in which carriage.

Driver and Vehicle Communications  

In the near future, vehicles will receive data from transfer hubs via satellite technology to avoid dangerous situations such as adverse weather or road accidents. The use of satellite data means these issues can be dealt with much quicker.

Weather patterns will be detected by satellites, so notifications can be sent to all vehicles in the affected area and drivers can be re-directed to a safer route or rest stop.

Transportation of Shipping Containers

Goods being transported by ships can be more easily protected and tracked through the use of satellite technologies.

Sensors can be used to monitor goods which need to stay at a certain temperature, while satellite navigation can improve tracking and prevent theft, saving companies time and money. With the advantage of real-time information, changes and corrections can be made with ease.

Satellite data is also being used to track the transportation of hazardous goods by unpowered assets which are tricky to monitor in real time. This development is about more than just preventing loss, it will provide a wealth of information to help optimise the transport and logistics industries as a whole.

Handling Traffic and Accidents

Satellite technology can improve the safety of road users by spotting congestion and traffic accidents early. Information can be related to the transport hubs and action can be taken, such as notifying all vehicles in the area. If a traffic accident does occur, cars can notify the transfer hub of the severity via signal so that emergency services can respond.

One project aiming to improve winter road maintenance, The Assist WRM Project, is developing satellite navigation and satellite imagery to speed up maintenance processes and reduce the man power needed for repairs. This should improve safety and allow the drivers of the vehicles to focus on driving. As this sector is worth an estimated €75 million in Europe, there are real opportunities for innovation.

Delivery Drones and Space Data

In the future, we will come to rely a lot more on drones in our everyday lives. Imagine receiving your Saturday night take-away via drone! However, drones can be used for much more important purposes such as delivering documents or being first to the scene at traffic incidents.

Satellite communications will track the drone to ensure a safe journey and delivery of the product, as well as monitoring battery life.

A courier robot is being developed by TeleRetail to deliver products around cities. Satellite navigation will improve location accuracy as well as making deliveries cheaper and greener.

Space Data for a Greener World

With global CO2 emissions rising, partly due to the transport sector, investing in environmentally friendly technologies is more pressing than ever. Data shows that companies are starting to prioritise environmental monitoring when it comes to their exchange of data.

Data collected by Inmarsat from 100 global transport companies demonstrates that 44% of companies said they were prioritising environmental issues, while 15% had already improved theirs through this technology. 65% expect to become more environmentally sustainable in the future through space technology. 

Supporting Space Technology of the Future

For these exciting projects to come to fruition, we need to help them on their journey.

ESA-BA offers support to businesses hoping to use space enabled technologies for new commercial services in the form of funding, project management assistance and access to their network.

Heleana Neil

Be sociable; support the BIS!