Tens of millions of viewers around the nation will flock to television screens and plates of buffalo chicken dip this weekend for the Super Bowl. Every year, the game also brings tens of thousands to the stands and hundreds of thousands to the host city’s bars and viewing establishments.
Every year, the host city has to grapple with the increased demands that those fans place on public transit. A major northeast state found this to be all too true, leaving its transportation agency to grapple with a new challenge. Leveraging an innovative application solution, the state’s transit network discovered a new way to monitor the tracks for safety and security.
State Leverages an Innovative Monitoring Solution
The transit authority is one of the largest in the United States, operating thousands of trains and buses and servicing hundreds of millions of passenger trips each year. Monitoring activity and ensuring safety across all service lines is no easy feat.
The Super Bowl’s uptick in traffic and ridership meant the state needed to increase its physical camera infrastructure by about 30 percent in 90 days. The state agency lacked the budget and runway to add an expansive network of physical cameras, which would have required millions of dollars in investment.
So the transit authority turned to WebHouse, its long-time provider of IT infrastructure support and services, for a creative fix to the problem. WebHouse is a Service-Disabled, Veteran-Owned Small Business that helps store, manage, leverage, and protect state transit’s most valuable assets: data and information.
Over the years, WebHouse had grown into a role of trusted advisor to the transportation agency CIO, and the CIO levied the unique ask: grow the camera ecosystem without growing costs.
WebHouse’s out-of-the-box solution was to find hundreds, if not thousands, of free cameras. Not from a junkyard or pawnshop, but by turning transit workers’ smartphones into additional cameras for their network. In two weeks, the team was able to develop a mobile application that effectively turned workers into “human sensors,” explained WebHouse CEO and Founder Dan Kerning. Kerning then broke out the team into its own company that would then continue to enhance and develop the solution.
VisualC3 (Command, Control, Communicate), as the app came to be known, was quickly rolled out to state transit workers in time for its Super Bowl debut. Employees could post photos and videos – tagged to geolocations – and report incidents or highlight other staffing/support requirements. The benefits were a flexible and extensible platform that could go wherever there were employees. The state agency could ingest all of the information, via the mobile app, directly into its security operations center.
After a successful first run during the Super Bowl, the transit authority realized the potential of VisualC3. Kerning explained the app is now being used to help monitor more than just security on the trains. It provides crowdsourced intelligence, and a way to quickly identify and report maintenance or operational needs and deploy a fix quickly.
“Employees were taking pictures of icing on the platforms, overflowing dumpsters, crowding at a gate. [The transit authority] was able to ingest that information into headquarters, then deploy the right personnel to take care of those issues,” Kerning said. The VisualC3 team coined the new solution “Situational Awareness as a Service (SAaaS).”
On Track for Even More Public Safety Benefits
The success of the application has allowed VisualC3 to continue to evolve and support the state, and is now being used to promote greater public safety.
After a series of fatal rail accidents between 2002 and 2008, Congress passed the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008. Upon enactment, the law implemented several regulations designed to promote railroad safety and gave the U.S. Department of Transportation the authority to implement the law. The law placed compliance demands on the aforementioned state – and all other states – requiring the implementation of new safety protocols known as Positive Train Control (PTC).
Field personnel now use the VisualC3 app to meet PTC standards by managing the deployment and maintenance of transponders that monitor train movements. The app also allows workers to command, control, and communicate incidents and security risks, a welcome addition in light of new findings regarding transit worker safety.
Mass Transit reported that the rate of security events reported to the National Transit Database increased 17 percent on average annually between 2010 and 2020, and assaults on transit workers have increased approximately four-fold since 2009, according to the Federal Transit Administration.
In light of these concerns, FTA has placed an increased emphasis on crime prevention, issuing a request for information in late 2021 on “potential transit worker safety mitigations.”
VisualC3 is working to provide solutions that contribute to greater safety for public servants and transit workers alike. The concerns raised by FTA are areas where the company’s crowdsourced intelligence and SAaaS solution can be utilized for numerous benefits. VisualC3 recently honed its focus on designing an optimal mobile panic button solution that is easily deployable across both large and small organizations.
The focus is on a simple and easy-to-manage application. which can be deployed to thousands of users in a matter of seconds, and allows all of them to simultaneously enjoy the peace of mind provided by a remote monitoring solution. This solution is nimble and dynamic enough to support one time use – for an event like the Super Bowl – or even 24/7/365 personal safety monitoring, depending on the agency’s use case.
To ensure peak performance, WebHouse utilizes Amazon Web Services to provide additional speed, agility, flexibility, and security. VisualC3 was developed on AWS’s scalable and secure infrastructure, using a modern, event-driven, serverless architecture providing innovation and flexibility to address the ongoing needs of WebHouse state and local government customers.
With support from AWS, WebHouse has enabled VisualC3 to provide a higher level of situational awareness to its transit customers, as they continue to help organizations in a wide range of industries protect their people and business through mobile applications.