Published: 15 December 2015

Balancing cyber security with improved rail travel

The University’s research into the cyber security implications of personalised rail travel for mobility- and visually-impaired passengers were presented at Transec 2015.

Cyber security coding

Professor Steve Schneider, Associate Dean for Research in Surrey’s Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, delivered his presentation at Transec (Transport Security Expo), the main global platform for rail security, on 3rd December. During the presentation he shared Surrey’s ongoing research project on the use of data to improve the customer experience, funded by the RRUKA (Rail Research UK Association) and ATOC (Association of Train Operating Companies).

New technology is opening up a number of exciting new developments to support mobility-impaired and visually-impaired passengers who need to book assistance for parts of their journey – such as ramps to get on and off the train for wheelchair users. While these services are currently only offered via phone booking, allowing little flexibility to cope with changes to the journey, mobile apps offer the opportunity to improve them. However this brings a range of personal data privacy issues since passengers will need to provide sensitive information such as their specific medical condition, while the technology also necessitates location tracking, meaning that the user’s location could become known to others.

During his presentation, Professor Schneider presented a range of scenarios faced by a mobility- or visually-impaired passenger throughout their journey, highlighting both the benefit mobile communications technology could bring, and also the potential security risk. In many cases, these privacy issues affect staff as well as passengers.

Professor Schneider commented, “GPS and mobile data opens the doors to many opportunities that could improve the user experience. As we develop these new technologies we need to consider a range of issues such as whether passengers would want to keep details of their previous journeys private, how big a security risk localisation data poses, and whether a guard or helper would be willing to disclose their own details prior to meeting a customer.

“Ultimately, there is a balance between ensuring data privacy and providing an improved, personalised rail journey experience.”

Professor Schneider made his presentation at Transec’s Rail and Public Transport Security Conference. Transec 2015 welcomed over 4,500 international security professionals as well as delegations from 36 countries around the world and other key stakeholders.

Read more about the University’s project ‘Integrating data sources to enhance the experience for passengers with special needs and/or disabilities through privacy aware mobile applications’. The project is led at Surrey by Dr Helen Treharne, together with Professor Schneider (both of the Department of Computer Science), Dr Caroline Scarles of Surrey’s School of Hospitality and Tourism, and academics from the Universities of Southampton and Loughborough.

Discover our programmes in Computer Science, including our Information Security MSc.

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