Next stop announcement technology is going live in Wellington

Somar Digital in partnership with Radiola is revolutionising the public transport experience for Wellington passengers with its latest next stop audio and visual announcements, utilising modern text-to-speech technology.

This innovative technology is being rolled out on buses run by Metlink, the public transport wing of Greater Wellington.

This new on-bus technology improves the customer experience for Metlink bus traveller’s especially members of the low vision and audio impaired communities by providing passengers the ability to see and hear next-stop and transfer information in real time via screens and audio announcements. It also provides points of interest for tourists and reassurance for infrequent travellers.

Somar Digital CEO Fiona Reid is delighted with the new and vastly improved customer experience solution. “We’ve invested the last 18 months collaborating with our partners Radiola and Metlink on this project and to see first hand the additional independence and freedom this world class solution now provides to less able travellers is both humbling and gratifying”.

Stephen Willson, CEO Radiola explains, “this on-board technology is a real game changer for public transport. It means passengers will be able to see next-stop and transfer information and hear this announced over the public address system.”

“The system operates as a mobile data network which communicates with servers in the cloud. Using text to speech it eliminates pre-recorded voices making it more responsive, cost-effective, and future proof”, says Willson.

Greater Wellington regional councillor and Transport Chair Thomas Nash says Metlink is pleased the technology is being delivered by local companies.

“On board announcements make our public transport network more accessible to everyone, in particular disabled people, visitors to the region and those unfamiliar with the bus network” says Nash.

Somar Digital together with Radiola worked with Metlink to design the customer experience that passengers will see when on buses across the region. Their solution has provided a full administration interface to the council to manage all aspects of the system, including pronunciation sculpting, point of interests for stops, and viewing overall system health.

Somar Digital and Radiola have provided the operating system and the software that will present the graphical information on screen. It has also integrated with the latest text-to-speech technology which will make the audio announcements.

Unlike other text-to-speech tools, this advanced speech technology has been specifically designed to create an advanced neural voice that sounds like a kiwi and pronounces Te Reo Māori correctly.

Metlink plans to add bus display information and audio announcements to the entire fleet by the end of the year.