«Houston»: the first VoIP communication system for Swiss public transportation

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«Houston» is the innovative communication system developed for and used by the TPF, Fribourg’s public transport provider. It consists of several apps that let bus drivers and the control room communicate via VoIP.

TPF’s previous radio system uses 20th century technology, has a network coverage of under 60%, relatively poor signal transmission quality, and is pretty expensive to maintain. To mitigate these problems, TPF has long used mobile telephones. «Houston», though, goes one step further by using an app-based VoIP communication system.

The new solution, which is a first for the Swiss public transport sector, offers a network coverage of close to 100% and much better call quality. The mobile devices are embedded in the bus hardware and come with standard applications like GPS. Thanks to «Houston», Fribourg’s buses now are part of the Internet of Things.

Adapted range of functions

Usability is tailored to the user and simplifies routine tasks, which in turn reduces the amount of training required. For the bus drivers, all central functions are one click away and feature voice feedback. It should be noted that all of the apps in the «Houston» system comply with road traffic regulations.

«Houston» is in fact a collection of assorted applications. For example, the control centre uses a web application which uses data from the planning system and real-time data from the bus apps. TPF management and Fribourg’s funicular railway also have their own specially customised apps.

Thanks to «Houston», communication is not only easier but also better. In addition, conference calls and geolocation-based calls will facilitate the management of major incidents or emergencies; operators and the police can be incorporated into the system at any time via standard telephony.

Cutting-edge technology

The apps were developed for the Android platform. Liip used the development software Xamarin, while authentication, roll-out, updates and device management are handled by Android4Work. The backend and the control room-specific web application were implemented with Backbone.js and the Django Framework

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