- Why did you shout like crazy at your wife yesterday?
- She did not want to explain what she spent money on!
- And why did you shout at her today?
- And today she told ...
Have you ever waiting a helicopter in the field at the freezing wind? In some areas of the Far North in winter, you can get only this type of transport and a half-hour delay is acceptable and understandable, given the length of the route to at least a hundred kilometers. At the same time, trying to leave the sleeping area of the city in the evening time, you can waste more than an hour at the bus stop without result ...
This month in some cities of my country introduced a system of automated payment for travel. The real improvement in the quality of passenger transportation services is a complex undertaking, so I remembered the offer to the owner of the company, where was working as a programmer. In addition to solving professional tasks (see Audio-Conferencing Device), I was urged to bring new ideas. For almost 10 years not much has changed here in terms of informing passengers at city-wide transport stops. So, here is a draft of the project, which I called that time a Distributed Automated System of Public Ground Transportation Control (DASPGTC).
I bring it in a slightly abbreviated form. Consider this material as an attempt to briefly describe an alternative approach to the proposed that time method of centralized control in this area. I did not develop this topic deeply, because such tasks absolutely were not a part of the scope of my official duties, and some concepts would now be changed, especially in the application to the ideas of Smart City. But still, the river begins with streams and I will be glad if someone find here a couple of good ideas to resolve the problem in the style of so fashionable now Agile, where the person is in the foreground, instead of primitively mastering cash flows, introducing costly solutions, that do not meet the level and quality of the service. Actually, that's why I chose such an epigraph to this article.
So, I was interested in the economical approach to the complex implementation of the project without compromising reliability, informativeness and functionality. This is perhaps the most important requirement, and not even because of the financial condition of my country. Although people of my age probably remember the slogan "The economy should be economical" and the character of Arkady Raikin, who offered to attach a dynamo to the legs of ballerina, so that she could give a current to the "underdeveloped areas." Well, if without jokes, then by the consequences of our short-sighted behavior, including thoughtless devouring of the Earth's resources, serious people are already beating the alarm.
Have you ever asked yourself the question of the need for a 'scrolling line' scoreboard on a passenger vehicle? How much does it cost to produce, install, maintain? How much energy does it consume on a city scale? Is it informative for a person who is not at a stop?
It is unlikely that the refusal of this device of far-fetched necessity will be painfully perceived by passengers.
DASPGTC presumed possible the installation of a compact scoreboard only in the cabin of the vehicle on routes with an increased likelihood of the appearance of tourists. In addition, the international English language (visual and audio) should also be supported.
On the other hand, scoreboards are really needed at transport stops.
And on the central streets they really appeared. This photo was taken in cloudy weather from a distance of 6-7 meters. The image quality approximates the visual acuity of a middle-aged person.
Again, we ask simple questions:
- What information do you see?
- What is the informativeness (not even readability) and energy intensity of this scoreboard?
- How much does production, installation, maintenance on a city scale cost?
- How universal is this design in terms of ordering, repair, interchangeability of units? For example, at a remote stop in a residential area you need a scoreboard without a map, 'scrolling line', and supporting only one type of transport (for example, bus).
DASPGTC assumed a modular implementation of the scoreboard, though with somewhat complicated circuitry (MCU + FPGA). At present, it seems sufficient to use only 'a penny' MCU in the controller, with a total cost of ~ $20-30 (including wireless communication facilities) and up to 4 (according to the number of land transport types) of removable display modules. Modules can support 'scrolling lines' and color graphics without additional MCUs (all control is assigned to the above controller). But this does not seem necessary in such a task. The necessary informativeness can be achieved at a module cost of $10-15.
With the centralized management of information boards, the failure of the database server or network access equipment leads to the failure of the entire system at the city level. Apparently, taking into account the possibility of this situation, the operators of the scoreboard were provided (the next photo is also from open Internet sources). It is highly optimistic to assume that one operator will be able to control 10 scoreboards simultaneously (experts know the real figures of the staffing schedule proposed at the time). The staff of attendants is also required and let's say that one repair technician is enough for 50 placards.
In the city where I live more than 3000 stops. It turns out that to maintain the system requires an additional staff of (3000/10) + (3000/50) = 360 people. Even if we'll take the average salary of these specialists $300, then the monthly costs for the city only to pay their labor will be $10,800. In addition, each operator must be provided with an appropriate set of software and hardware. Taking into account the number of keyboards and "mice" in the photo, the operator works on two PCs, plus a mobile phone for operative communication with controllers of vehicles and manual transmission of commands and data to Information Boards.
Let's pay attention once again - the control system of the scoreboard is automated and it is unlikely that daily failures of automation would be expected. What do specialized operators do when the system is operating in the normal mode?
Instead of centralized, DASPGTC was based on the idea of distributed control and assumed sufficient one dispatcher of Information Boards for the whole city.
In conclusion, a few words about electronic means of payment for travel.
From this photo it is seen that the use of contactless NFC-cards is supposed. This is a great technology, but in the past there have been noticed an attacks on them. Simply put, at rush hour, in a tight vehicle cabin, an attacker could gain control of a neighbor's card if it was not placed in a special cover. Not every grandmother or child will follow this simple rule.
There is a very economical solution for paying for travel by reading the QR code. But it implies the presence of a smartphone, which not every passenger has. So, for obvious reasons, this technology not very widespread.
Based on protection and cost considerations, contact cards were chosen to implement the DASPGTC (such as telephone cards) . At the same time, the equipment should be as simple as possible and protected from vandalism. It is enough just one color LED and voice confirmation of payment to achieve the total cost of the product ~ $10. To resolve the disputed issues, the use of the Vehicle Controller was envisaged, which in any case is with the driver.
The main purpose of the proposed project was the automatic notification of passengers at stops about the expected time of transport arrival.
An additional support was provided for:
- Transport Enterprise and the Central Service for the Management of Urban Transport with the necessary information for timely planning and adjusting the load of passenger flows
- Drivers of the Vehicle by the automated output of voice messages about the names of stops and the recommended speed indicator
- Implementation of non-cash payment for travel
The system should be simple and inexpensive in terms of production, implementation and maintenance, and also remain viable in case of disconnection or failure of the Transport Enterprise and/or the Central Urban Transport Management Service facilities software or hardware. Those, vehicle's and Information Board controllers should autonomously implement the required passenger service without the intervention of the Control Centers.
Summarizing this brief preamble, it can be argued that the task is not super complicated, and a prudent approach can be solved by modest means. It was assumed that one "universal soldier" can develop the whole complex in 2 years. Three can overcome this in 1 year.