Enabling Technologies

ITS Technology resources in this Toolkit

The technical resource sections of this Toolkit consider the ITS from two related perspectives:

  • ITS Applications (previous section). These are the functional aspect of the ITS systems.
  • ITS Technologies (this section). These are the specific devices, software and platform tools used to deliver the ITS Application.

The ITS Technologies consist of a wide range of physical devices, their embedded software, and their means of communication. They are the means of implementing the ITS Applications.

This section presents the main ITS Technologies that are currently in use in Urban Public Transport. The focus is on ITS used for bus, although many of the applications are also used in similar manner by trams and urban rail systems. Unlike the ITS Applications, only a limited number of the ITS Technologies are relevant or readily usable by the para-transit sector (e.g. due to cost, complexity, technical support requirements). At present the use of ITS in the para-transit sector other than certain “Smart Phone” applications is virtually non-existent.

A total of 31 ITS Technologies are presented here. For coherence, they are presented in nine clusters:

  • Automatic Vehicle Monitoring
  • Driver Monitoring
  • Vehicle Monitoring
  • In-vehicle data hub and processor
  • Electronic Fare Collection
  • Traveler Information Displays
  • Surveillance Equipment
  • Vehicle Identification
  • Communications

Each ITS Technology is described from three perspectives:

  • Objectives and functionality
  • Technologies, data and resource required to deliver the Application
  • Benefits and cautions related to the Application

The material draws mostly on current practice within the urban passenger transport sector.The description of each Technology indicates the Case Studies where the Technology is active, and for some, additional relevant cities are identified. Where available, web-links are provided to relevant reports and other resources.


Automatic Vehicle Monitoring

Driver Monitoring

Vehicle Systems Monitoring

  • Automatic Vehicle Location
  • Driver's Console
  • Operations Control Center


  • Driving hours and rest periods
  • Driver inputs and dynamic outputs


  • Passenger boarding and loading
  • Fuel-usage rate
  • Technical status


In-vehicle data hub and processor

Electronic Fare Collection

Traveller Information Displays

  • In-vehicle data hub and processor



  • Automatic Vehicle Location
  • Smart-card and card recharger
  • Smart-card validator and display
  • SMS or bar-code on smart-phone
  • Bar-code reader


  • Public display on vehicles
  • Voice announcement systems
  • Infotainment systems
  • Personal display on smart-phone or PDA
  • Public display at terminals and stops


Surveillance Equipment

Vehicle Identification


  • Static video cameras
  • Remote-controlled video cameras
  • Digital video (loop) recorder
  • Computerized image processing




  • Automatic number plate recognition
  • Vehicle intelligent tag/transponder


  • Between the vehicle systems
  • Vehicle to and from control center
  • Vehicle to and from stop shelter
  • Vehicle to traffic signal or AWTCS
  • Data download from vehicle
  • Data communication between facilities



Development and evolution of ITS Technologies

ITS Technologies use a combination of information, communications, hardware and software applications to perform operational, management and safety functions, and to deliver services to travelers. New technologies continually emerge, usually with increased and faster processing power, increased memory and storage, increased functionality (or similar functionality in a smaller or cheaper unit), and enhanced software options.

This poses some interesting challenges for policy-makers, decision-takers and practitioners who are considering implementation of ITS, or who are faced with technology choices and/or investment decisions. One choice is to play safe and stick with ‘tried and trusted’ technologies. Another is to embrace new technologies, to actively seek opportunities for new functions and services, to find lower cost options, and to avail of generic, non-proprietary solutions.

There is no easy answer to making this choice, and each case needs to be reviewed on its merits. Four basic principles are suggested:

  • Monitor national and international practice in ITS – i.e. become informed and keep up to date
  • Engage independent, expert advice (see Guidance on Implementation, Section 13, ‘Install the Needed System’)
  • When considering implementation of innovative technologies, verify all claims made by suppliers and proponents. Visit sites that have already deployed them (in the non-transport sector as well, if relevant) and meet with counterparts to get a proper understanding of the benefits and challenges. 
  • If a new technology appears risky, think twice about using it. Poor performance or unreliability of the ITS may seriously compromise the core public transport business.

The ITS considered in this Toolkit has its focus on urban bus services. However, in contrast to the ITS Applications which are mostly specific to the urban passenger transport sector, ITS Technologies are increasingly ‘generic’. Components and sub-systems are likely to be used in very many sectors other than transportation (e.g. GPS receivers, CCTV, touch-screens). Software applications are developed on the same platform and often use the same utilities as applications in non-transport sectors. In many cases, communications are handled by general public networks. Many of the vehicle support and management technologies have initially been developed in the general automotive sector, or in the trucking/logistics sectors. Even systems that appear to be specific for the urban bus sector (e.g. handheld ticket issuing machine, driver’s console) usually consist of generic components and sub-systems, packaged to suit the bus operating environment.

This offers great advantages in cost (due to high volumes), standardization, development, robustness, reliability, and technical support. Occasionally, “game changers” emerge which lead to fundamental change in the technology approach and even the applications offered in urban bus services. Examples of “game changers” include GPS, the internet, smart cards, GSM, and the proliferation of personal handheld devices (including mobile phones).

A wide variety of devices are used, with an increasing level of integration and increased efforts to establish a common system architecture approach (although in practice many suppliers continue to avoid making their systems truly open). Many of the benefits arise from systems and sub-systems being able to share data and function collaboratively. Since the mid-1990’s, ITS systems have increasingly moved from sector-specific, proprietary products to generic elements – initially adopting GPS and mobile communications; then smart cards, GIS and the internet; and more recently hand-held devices (“Smart Phones”) and apps. A new generation of ITS systems and services is emerging, based on light infrastructure, distributed processing and apps, which would fundamentally alter both the cost and the platform concepts. As these emerge, they will open the use of ITS to operators in developing countries where investment cost has been prohibitive until now. 

At the generic level, there are a number of fundamental concept options (which in turn have many variants):

  • “Infrastructure heavy” using dedicated support platforms. This typically involves a significant degree of in-vehicle equipment, significant off-vehicle equipment, dedicated communications infrastructure and extensive sector-specific software and applications
  • “Infrastructure heavy” using generic support platforms. This typically involves a significant degree of in-vehicle and off-vehicles equipment. The difference to the first option is that it uses 3rd party communications infrastructure (e.g. GSM/GPRS), utilize public/3rd party facilities where possible (e.g. GIS/mapping, internet, general payment and clearing services), and utilize sector-specific software and applications only where necessary
  • “Infrastructure light” with extensive exploitation of data. This typically involves a moderate level of in-vehicle equipment (e.g. location device and voice/data communication), moderate/low level of off-vehicle equipment, software and applications that utilize the data for real-time and post-event analysis and integrate with off-the-shelf IT packages.
  • “Infrastructure minimal”. This typically involves inexpensive in-vehicle equipment (GPS-enabled mobile phones), public communications channels (GSM, GPRS), and uses inexpensive software to provide practical operations and administration functions. Although a minimalist technology approach, it may still support creative and pragmatic functionality.

These need to be considered in the Planning phase of an ITS program.