Data download from vehicle
There are a number of methods of uploading and downloading information to and from vehicles including laptop connection, portable data memory modules, infrared systems and wireless LAN. The use of portable data modules, such as Smartcards, and physical connections using laptops or handheld devices have been common methods historically. Using physical connections for data transfer has a number of drawbacks, particularly in terms of additional labour requirements and vehicle downtime, whereas wireless systems overcome these problems.
Portable data memory modules generally refer to Smartcards. Smartcard systems can be contact or contactless. Contact systems connect to reader units by a direct physical connection, whereas contactless systems interact with a reader unit using magnetic or electromagnetic field of a certain frequency which interacts with a radio antenna embedded in the card to transfer data. Smartcard systems can be used to upload and download data at readers located on vehicles or at the control centre. Smartcards have a limited data storage capacity and are not suitable for transfer of large quantities of information. They can however be used to transfer operational performance data and driver activity. Infrared systems are also capable of transferring data and can handle larger quantities of information than Smartcard systems, although data transfer is far more time consuming than wireless LAN systems. In addition, like Smartcard systems infrared systems require users to be at a particular point for data transfer to take place. Infrared data transfer is a wireless system which operates using infrared emitters and receivers located on vehicles and at strategic locations such as at a depot.
Wireless LAN systems are ideally suited to information transfer as they have the ability to handle large quantities of all data types. In this type of system information is transferred via radio signals. A typical wireless LAN system used for transport services consists of a wireless LAN server, located at a depot or control centre which uses software to manage the transfer of ITS data, wireless LAN access points located at strategic points providing coverage, and on-board wireless client devices located on vehicles. Wireless client devices are connected to the on-board computer system and can be integrated with on-board ITS technologies such as automatic passenger counting systems. The types of data handled in these systems generally includes reference data such as routes stops and schedule information, transaction and statistical data, software updates, vehicle and driver performance information and passenger count information. In transport systems these networks are usually provided at depots and sometimes at specific strategic positions across the network. Generally data transfer is undertaken on an opportunistic basis, with data being sent in packets when the vehicle is in range of the network. The on-board computer keeps track of successful data transferral and what data has been received.
Communications systems for downloading information from vehicles are used as operations management tools to allow service providers to monitor operational efficiency and performance as well as vehicle and driver performance. Where systems are integrated with vehicle performance monitoring equipment service providers can better manage maintenance scheduled and minimise vehicle downtime.
Benefits and cautions
While the systems mentioned above can be used for data transfer wireless LAN systems appear to be the best method, with a number of advantages over the other systems including: the ability to integrate with other equipment, the ability to transfer larger quantities of all data types, the fact vehicles are not required to be located at a specific point for data transfer to occur and the lack of physical connection for data transfer. These systems remove the need for portable data modules, which were traditionally used for transfer of software transaction information and data uploads, and for laborious vehicle by vehicle software updates using physical connections. This saves considerable amounts of time and effort as vehicles do not have to be taken out of service.
Relevant case studies
Dublin, Florence, Zurich