A new generation of a complex transport information system for the municipal public transport

A new generation of a complex transport information system for the municipal public transport

This article describes a solution of a complex information system for public transportation that provides control of dispatching, vehicles, depots and intelligent stops. This system has already been successfully installed and the Herman company keeps developing and innovating it. Now also a solution for integrated transportation systems is being prepared.

Published in the magazine Městská doprava (Municipal Transportation) – issue 1/2014

Providing intelligent and fast transportation for the public on the level of cities, city districts and regions is an inevitable need of all regional self-governing units. The existing systems are gradually replaced and improved with new intelligent components that are supposed to make travelling more pleasant and also to speed up operating these systems. One of the most important aspects when choosing a new solution is the added value for users and passengers brought by these systems.

A look at the current state of public transportation systems in the Czech Republic reveals that they often consist of a number of heterogeneous parts. Transportation companies often have to deal with the fact that on-board computers are supplied by first company, control systems for vehicle information tableaus by second, check-in devices by third, dispatching by fourth and radio network by fifth. A transportation company is a customer and it has a right to demand that all the system components work properly and it is not supposed to act as a “judge” among the many suppliers and investigate what produced by whom works and what does not

A great effort and a lot of energy are usually needed to ensure that such a solution is functional and that all sides are satisfied and the system functional. This heterogeneity and nonconceptuality are caused by different data formats used by the suppliers, busbars offered by technology producers and also by the absence of norms, resp. by not respecting these norms..

A Complex System Contains All Components and Unified Data

Transportation systems work with a number of kinds of data and data transfers. If the system is to work properly it is clear that it is necessary to unify and adjust data and data formats regarding the vehicle – dispatching, stop – dispatching and vehicle – stop systems and of course also the system in the vehicle itself. This holds even more if there are more transporters in one system. To ensure that the system works without any bigger problems it is necessary to provide at least a simple:

  • way of numbering individual components of the system (stops, columns, lists of prices, etc.).
  • format of messages sent by a dispatcher to vehicles and stop panels – the CP-1250 windows alphabet.
  • list of sounds in vehicles and on panels.
  • way of controlling panels and vehicles (a communication protocol).
  • way of controlling voice communication (vehicle announcements, coded messages).

The Ing. Ivo Herman CSc. company developed a system that solves the above listed problems. As the only company in the Czech Republic it supplies a complex system providing information for the passengers both in vehicles and on stops. The scheme of the system is to be seen in pic. no. 1.

Pic. no. 1: A complex transportation information system for public transportation

Pic. no. 1: A complex transportation information system for public transportation

The system consists of a number of wholes that can be separated into parts: vehicle, stop and control (e.g. depots, switches, vehicle preference). The dominant component of the control part is  the SPRINTER 2013 dispatching system providing vehicle surveillance including assessing their state regarding the schedule and also controlling all vehicle (especially information components) and stop components. It also updates vehicle and stop data and extracts operation files from them (e.g. it records driver behavior in the vehicle, data communication run via a radio network, temperatures, etc.). The dispatching system provides easy connection with individual components of the system or even with groups of components, it also displays their state and provides bilateral communication, e.g. it allows creating of dynamic groups of vehicles and stop panels for the purposes of unified control etc..

Inside the vehicle, the system is composed of various components the most important of which are new generation on-board computers EPIS 4.0A (designed for municipal public transportation) and EPIS 5FCC (provides passenger check-in). Other peripheries are connected to the on-board computer to provide data for further system operation:

  • vehicle position data,
  • vehicle technical data,
  • data regarding the number of passengers,
  • check-in data,
  • picture data,

or the peripheries themselves need data to function properly. Among the targets of data sent from the dispatching usually belong:

  • vehicle information panels
  • stop information panels and digital signs,
  • acoustic components of vehicles, stops and signs,
  • the on-board computer itself.

Data Channels from the Dispatching to the Vehicles and Panels

The whole system can be interconnected using a number of communication channels. These channels can be realized using a radio network owned by the transportation company that can be also used for vehicle surveillance or using communication via GPRS, resp. UMTS (suitable for regular data exchanges –e.g. updates of the check-in system)

The Herman company developed a radio communication multi-base communication system with roaming that takes care of all vehicle needs i.e. voice and data communication with the dispatching and data communication with crossroads control units (solves preferences) using only one vehicle radio station,

In the case of using  GSM services of mobile operators the Herman company solution allows using less SIM cards in vehicles. Operations requiring usually two or three SIM cards (check-in, position surveillance and communication with the dispatching, public WiFi) are executed by just one SIM card in the communication system. This was achieved by properly arranging APN data streams. This not only saves customers’ money because it is usually necessary to pay for using SIM cards, but it also brings transparency and unification of data streams.

New Generation On-Board Computers

The on-board computers are the core of the vehicle system. They are used to control the state of the vehicle and for the purposes of remote surveillance. We are talking about complex control components that bring a new view of information, control, communication and checking public transportation vehicle structure (e.g. full control in the vehicle using an Ethernet busbar).  The Herman company supplies two next generation computers for these purposes. They differ in their use, i.e. for :

  • municipal public transportation, controlling the checking system
  • regional public transportation, directly issuing tickets and containing an integrated printer and a reader.

 EPIS 4.0x on-board computers are based on a low input power PC that contains an embedded communication (mainly for controlling the radio network) and digital announcement board (EPDI), and an embedded power supply unit optimizing the consumption of the vehicle information systems (IJN). The computer is controlled using an EPT 4.0x external LCD driver terminal connected with the control unit using only one cable.

EPIS 5 FCC on-board computers are based on 2013 HW and SW technologies. These computers are based on ARM processors with the frequency of at least 1GHz (one to four cores), other than that they are equipped with 1 to 8 GB RAM, SSD, a large LCD screen with 10,4“ capacity touchscreen, a printer with extended lifespan, a contactless chip card reader and up to 4 SAM modules. Depending on the number of operated components it is possible to choose various computer communication interfaces : a high-speed 2,4 GHz WIFI module, a GSM/GPRS/UMTS modem, an isolated RS 485 busbar, standard RS 485, CAN, IBIS or USB interfaces. The performance of this computer will make it possible to meet increased customer demands even in the future. It will provide customer check-in using cash or electronic payment devices including an integrated mechanical cash register.

Vehicle Information Panels

Passenger information systems are an inseparable parts of vehicle devices. The Herman company offers  high quality outer LED tableau lines -  VLP 24 and VLP 30 (the number signifies the number of LED diode lines) that are capable to fully display Czech characters. The tableaus allow automatic text formatting which is an exceptional function that significantly simplifies data preparation. They can also display characters of the CP-1250 windows alphabet, therefore they can be controlled directly from the dispatching without any data conversion in the vehicle.

18,5“ to 37,9“ LCD displays are recommended inside vehicles to ensure higher announcement clarity. This panels can also receive data directly from the dispatching. They are designed in such a way that they have two databanks – one for displaying transportation information, the other for displaying advertisements or other information according to defined scripts.

Stop Panels and Digital Signs

Stop panels a digital signs occupy a very important place in the structure of these systems. These components process topical information about vehicle departures supplied by the dispatching or vehicles. Naturally, departure data is modified in accordance with present vehicle positions which allows corrections in case of a delay. The panels itself are controlled using a mobile channel (mostly with the UMTS technology). Panels placed in the scope of one location are interconnected using  the WIFI technology to avoid the necessity of placing a SIM card in every panel. If the network breaks down panels automatically switch to the offline mode. In this case departures are displayed in accordance with the current schedule. It is also possible to connect a camera to this sophisticated system to asses  present events at stops.

Pic. no. 3: An intelligent stop solution consisting of a group of panels

Pic. no. 3: An intelligent stop solution consisting of a group of panels