Signalbox on the London Underground!


We chose to do it not because it was easy but because it was hard!

Today Signalbox incorporated the London Underground into our API. This represents an important demonstration of our technology as it is one of the most hostile environments for location-based technologies. It is no secret that GPS and other kinds of satellite systems don’t work on the London Underground. The problem is that railway infrastructure and underground tunnels upset the ambient signal environment, meaning it is not possible for the smartphones to derive the user’s location using GPS satellites or gain an adequate data connection from cell towers or Wi-Fi.

But why the London Underground?

Signalbox enables apps to build new types of functionality that improve passenger experience.  For example, apps can now offer instructions based on the exact stage someone is in their journey, allowing them to implement highly accurate turn-by-turn navigation. This will be of particular benefit to the 19 million tourists who visit the London each year. It will also benefit those with hearing or sight loss, who account for a significant proportion of daily journeys. More generally it will enhance the experience of the 4 million Londoners, who use the system each day (Transport for London 2016), around 90% of whom own smartphones.

Bringing out the best in apps

By using Signalbox, apps can now accurately pin-point a smartphone’s location and determine other relevant information, such as what train a user is on. This can be done across the entire London Underground, including in hard-to-reach areas such as tunnels. Using this information, it is possible to automatically inform the user of the next station so they can prepare to alight, notifying them about delays or line closures so they can take an alternative route, and informing them of the best places to stand on the platform to avoid congestion and minimise interchange times.

What’s next?

Signalbox is a deep technology product, meaning it uses new innovations to solve a complex problem. This means we can take the technology to new levels. In the coming months, we will be refining our algorithms to achieve even better performance and rolling the technology out to more transport networks.