Red Funnel works with IBM to deliver smart ferry service using Twitter

15-09-2009 Analytics aids business efficiency of trade and goods movements to and from Isle of Wight

LONDON, September 15th, 2009 - IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced the deployment of messaging technology to keep travellers and road transport operators informed of the timing and whereabouts of the Red Funnel ferries operating on the South Coast using Twitter. This information now makes the transport link more predictable, and improves the opportunity for greater business efficiency for many of the island’s trade and goods operators  by avoiding unforeseen delays at the ferry port.

Using on board sensors on the ferries and applying data analytics, the imminent arrival or departure of all ferries is able to be sent to customers via Twitter, retrieved as an RSS feed onto a mobile phone, or computer, or visible in real-time on the ferry operators’ web site.

Medical emergencies, adverse weather, and technical problems can all lead to unplanned cancellations, and although very rare, less than 1% of crossings in 2009, it can greatly impact planned users of the service. This new ability to view the actual movements of the ferries means that small goods transport operators and service providers, who prefer to just “turn up and go”, can now anticipate delays and make alternative arrangements. They might wish to divert to the other ferry route, or schedule more pickups whilst waiting for resumption of service.

“What is remarkable is that by applying intelligence to information we already generated, IBM is helping us provide a smart service for a minimal investment,” said “Jonathan Green, Sales & Marketing Director at Red Funnel, “.With nearly 14,000 vehicle ferry sailings and 23,000 Red Jet passenger sailings each year, improving the information flow to help our customers better plan their journeys and avoid unnecessary delays is of tremendous value. In the future we expect to be able to further develop the system to provide real-time information on how the service is operating against the schedule, and also be able to SMS customers booked on the service to advise of any delay.“

The solution was the inspiration of Isle of Wight resident, IBM Master Inventor and Distinguished Engineer, Dr. Andy Stanford-Clark, a regular commuter to the mainland. Describing how it works, Andy explained that “ IBM’s WebSphere messaging system MQTT is used to bring together all the information with the analytics applications, and IBM Lotus Expediter micro broker then manages the communications  between the radio-based data feed from the ferries, the applications, and the gateway to Twitter. Twitter provides the RSS feed which is used to display the live ferry positions on the Red Funnel web site.”

Red Funnel has been operating passenger and vehicle ferry services for nearly 150 years, between Southampton and Cowes, Isle of Wight, offering a vital life line for IOW residents and businesses, carrying about 112,000 commercial vehicles, 600,000 cars, and 5000 coaches each year. They have an active community following on both Twitter and Facebook., and this latest innovation extends their existing social media presence, and now brings a new level of predictability to ferry movements, improving customer service and business efficiency

IBM is actively building smarter transportation systems around the world including high speed rail networks, inner-city traffic congestion solutions, and more intelligent air travel operations. These intelligent systems are designed to address the economic, societal and environmental issues linked to the rise of traffic congestion in countries around the world.

Notes to Editor:
You can follow ferry movements by following red_ferries and red_jets on Twitter, or viewing the data on the Red Funnel website.