Systems Integration: ITS Evaluation Guide

Published August 05, 2022 in ITS Evaluation Guide

Public transport systems have primarily been standalone, proprietary solutions. For each solution, every discrete piece of equipment requires power, communications, input/output, signalling, and control of peripherals. Proprietary control over hardware has meant each system requires its own devices. Unfortunately, this has led to a duplication of onboard computers, antennas, and cabling.

Systems integration from various manufacturers, via the development of common information sharing standards, has gained pace since 2010. Data standards like CEN-SIRI, VDV standards, Information Technology for Public Transport (ITxPT), and General Transit Feed Specifications (GTFS) have helped drive a culture of information sharing. For example, ITxPT addresses duplication issues by improving hardware interoperability and supporting the sharing of communication channels onboard the vehicle.

‘Containerisation’ is on the way, which means multiple applications can be run on the same hardware, and a single operating system. This will dramatically reduce the number of onboard computers. Similarly, the development of integrated antennas supporting GPS, WHIP (radio communications), WLAN (wireless internet communication), and GSM or LTE (data and voice communications) from a single device. ITxPT shared services, such as the GPS, has meant that one onboard computer can run multiple functions. The computer can also connect to peripheral devices, including cameras, passenger counters, ticket validators, and driver consoles via a standard IP-based data network.

On the server side, virtualisation and faster communication have meant that a single server can run multiple virtual machines, lowering the capital and ongoing costs for the infrastructure. Improvements in fibre communications and faster, more reliable internet have meant that data centres hosting these servers can now be located anywhere, rather than in the next room – freeing operators from needing to house the IT infrastructure themselves.

Over the long term, integration standards, containerisation, virtualisation, and data hosting should improve integration and interoperability between systems. These standards will improve resource utilisation, which in turn should drive down ITS capital and maintenance costs over the long term while maintaining service quality.

Benefits

The benefits of using integrating systems include:

Easy data sharing. Data sharing is faster and easier with fewer errors when using standard protocols, requires less bespoke complexity, and has more expansion possibilities. For example, this allows scheduling systems to easily share data with ticketing and AVLC systems.

Better resource utilisation. Sharing common hardware is becoming more achievable, for instance, using a common processor, a single modem, and a single GNSS service. This can significantly reduce vehicle onboard costs, as multiple systems can be run from a single onboard computer, e.g., ticketing and AVLC systems. Ongoing maintenance costs are reduced, as well as saving space, weight and reducing power consumption.

Better communication. When all subsystems use the same system, they all access the same information, leading to more consistent results, greater efficiency, and productivity.

Evaluation Guide

When evaluating schedule adherence systems, these questions should be asked:

1. Does your ITS provider support standards like SIRI, VDV, ITxPT, and GTFS?
Standards like VDV, SIRI and ITxPT support information sharing between scheduling systems, AVLC systems, ticketing systems, journey planning systems, and passenger information systems. This systems integration is essential for the smooth running of all systems. ITxPT provides services within the vehicle, enabling closer integration and data sharing. Ensure that all your ITS have common standards so that they can integrate with each other.

2. Can your onboard hardware perform more than one function, and does it support containerisation?
Could the AVLC hardware run your ticketing system too? Can screens be shared? Can the AVLC on vehicle hardware be used to provide IP routing for peripherals? Some AVLC onboard computers have sufficient power to run the ticketing and AVLC systems from a single device. Ask questions of your suppliers to see where hardware can be integrated using ITxPT to save costs and reduce maintenance. Even if you think this is not currently needed, having this capability for the future can save money and time when other subsystems are upgraded.

Containerisation enables operators to deploy multiple applications on a single operating system. You could integrate your CCTV surveillance application, ticketing application, and AVLC application on a single piece of hardware and run one operating system. You can then connect peripheral devices like cameras and ticket validators via a network. This allows for significant capital expenditure and maintenance savings.

3. Are you able to see the data reported in an integrated way?
There is not much point in integrating systems if you cannot see the resulting data displayed in an integrated way. Start with the end in mind – define explicitly with your supplier how you want to see the data integrated and reported.

Information from ticketing systems should be integrated with route information and trip information. Passenger numbers per stop and trip can be analysed to identify underserved locations or unwarranted trips due to low demand.

Traffic light priority systems should report the number, locations, and speed of activations. This allows for traffic light priority system optimisation and the adjustment of traffic plans.

Integrated data and reporting creates a feedback loop from systems so that performance improvements can be made.

4. Is passenger information integrated with the AVLC system?
Passenger information systems are generally part of or integrated with your AVLC system. Your control room operators should have easy access via a single interface to the passenger information system, so they can see what is displayed at every location. This allows them to modify passenger information directly without accessing other systems, avoiding unnecessary work.

5. Does the system provide a ‘single source of truth?’
It is vital to have consistency across the various systems when integrating multiple ITS systems – a ‘single source of truth’. The source of truth varies depending on the data. For instance, the trusted information for timetables is usually the planning and scheduling system. For real-time data, it is the Automatic Vehicle Location Control (AVLC) system, and for location data, the GPS onboard the vehicle. Using the planning system as the master source of information for stops, run times, location names, and distances means all systems will base their information on this source. There is also a single place to correct any anomalies. This improves data reliability and consistency across all systems.

This single source of truth should complement a ‘single source of time’. When running a scheduled public transport system, time is of the essence. Even a few seconds difference between systems can cause problems, so using a good Network Time Protocol (NTP) server and GPS times will provide a single source of consistent time across your network.

For more information on systems integration, read our whitepaper on ITxPT.

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Mode of Transport

Public Transport Authorities, Bus, Ferry

Solutions

Intelligent Transport Systems

Meet the author

Andrew Shaw

ITS Project Manager, Trapeze Group

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