5G enables facial recognition at Málaga station

Facial recognition gives access to areas in a train station, and maintenance workers have a real-time digital model of elements directly on their phone. These are some of the possibilities of 5G, which Vodafone and Adif have concluded a project about at the Málaga main train station in Spain. 


Imagine this: you’re at a large station for the first time, and want to go to the nearest bathroom or ticket information desk. Instead of searching and looking at all the signs, you can open an app, select the facility you want to go to, and an arrow on year screen guides you directly to the right place. Meanwhile, another application guides maintenance workers in the same way, and in a digital model of station elements they can find real-time information about their status. Entering a facility that is restricted for passengers can be done just by showing their face.

These futuristic sounding features were developed at a project in Spain at the main station in Málaga. In recent months, Vodafone has worked with infrastructure manager Adif at the Málaga María Zambrano station on four use cases to show how 5G technology can be usefully applied in environments such as passenger stations.

Facial recognition

One of possibilities of 5G that is developed at Málaga station is transparent biometric passenger access to the departure lounge. This project, based on dasGate technology (developed by dasNano and Veridas), involves deploying a biometric access solution by which the traveler can access the boarding area through facial recognition. It is also possible to make this a double factor recognition, with an additional validation of the ticket linked to the facial biometrics by presenting a so-called Aztec code.

The same concept can be used for the digital registration system and control of access to the facilities and restricted areas of the station and working hours of different railway personnel, such as from Adif, railway companies, and maintenance and cleaning personnel.

Facial recognition combined with a personal code gives access to an area in Málaga station, source: Vodafone

A 5G network is a must for these type of applications, providing a connection with sufficient bandwidth to be able to transmit images with the necessary quality in real time and with low latency. Another, more straightforward use case is the improvement of the Wi-Fi service at the Malaga train station, so it can handle more devices and have higher speed internet with 5G.

Combining 5G and Building Information Modeling

Another objective of the project is to have an interactive map of facilities used by the maintenance personnel of the station, by combining Building Information Modeling (BIM) and 5G. With BIM, all physical and functional characteristics of a building, component or infrastructure project are represented in a digital model. Maintenance personnel have a special application which helps to carry out the preventive and corrective maintenance tasks of the station. Based on the BIM information it displays the 3D model on the real image of the phone’s camera and provides access to the information related to the element to be maintained.

This principe can also be useful for travellers, where another application guides them towards the destination point by superimposing a virtual arrow in the device’s camera, indicating the direction it must follow to reach the destination. The engineering and technology consultancy Ayesa developed the two applications based on augmented reality (AR). All modifications, both geometric and data, are made in a single source of information, the BIM model, and are automatically updated in the applications.

Complete station model

The BIM model is not in its final stage yet, the objective is to obtain a digital model of information and 3D geometry of the station and its surroundings. This should be a complete, centralised, updated and geo-referenced source of information that helps to develop work or subsequent actions that arise in the station building.

This project is part of the “Andalusia 5G Pilot” initiative, promoted by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation, through Red.es, and which is being developed by Vodafone and Huawei. Once the project is completed in collaboration with Vodafone, Adif will assess the suitability of 5G connectivity and its possible applications for its final implementation in the station.

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Author: Esther Geerts

Editor of RailTech.com

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