SELLA CONTROLS is the exclusive supplier of Funkwerk ITK Customer Information and Public Address Systems to the UK rail market.
Optimising Performance by Minimised Costs
It’s clear that the provision of passenger information on board trains has become extremely important to train operating companies. Therefore, it is essential that modern technologies provide this in a cost effective manner when compared to traditional systems. Funkwerk’s expertise in this market means that it is ideally placed and has the right technologies to meet the requirements of the mobile CIS market. Many high level functions are provided automatically by the flexible software and a number of traditional manual operational activities are replaced by the use of sophisticated algorithms onboard. Therefore no additional workload is created onboard by the enhancement of the level of information.
Funkwerk has expanded its product suite and introduced new onboard technologies.
To date, Funkwerk has delivered onboard passenger information solutions that are regularly used on Deutsche Bahn’s high speed Inter City Express (ICE) trains. These trains have a highly sophisticated system that automatically shows information on various displays inside and outside the train according to the timetable of the respective trip.
Automatic On-Board Customer Information Systems
Previous passenger information systems had been based on route data only. However, by using timetable information enabled within the system, the Funkwerk solution can display not only the next stop, but also advanced information such as estimated arrival times and connections that can be made at the next stop. On board the ICE train, large computer racks are utilised to provide the necessary processing for on board passenger information. However, Funkwerk has now reduced this functionality to a small controller PC making it suitable for integration into regional trains and even trams. In addition to these advances, modern IP-network techniques are now able to provide a train wide communication link for smaller vehicles. This gives the same level of performance as the special fibre optics link used in ICE trains. The introduction of these new technical developments now enables the delivery of cost effective high level passenger information to all vehicle types.
The on board solution utilises a fully configurable software application developed by Funkwerk. For each train service or route, a sequence of actions during travel can be defined. These actions have been tested using the same well-proven tools aboard the ICE trains. Most of the actions are automatically derived from imported timetables and route definition data, but it is also possible to manually define actions at specific points of the route. In addition to route information, vehicle or even carriage specific information that needs to be displayed or announced only in selected parts of the train can be defined with the help of these tools. An example of this is where a train may be carrying first class passengers only or where a train service is due to split at a particular station.
It is also possible to configure the system so that announcements relevant to specific stops are made only in the relevant carriages. This is particularly useful if a train is going to stop at a station with short platforms. This ensures that passengers move along to the right carriages in order to disembark. All of the information required to operate the on board solution is downloaded via a secure WiFi link. This data includes not only route information, but seat reservations, on board entertainment and advertising. A specific protocol has been designed within the software provided by Funkwerk to ensure that the data is secure and that all vehicles are equipped with the latest updates.
Passenger Information On Displays
Whilst the central feature of any onboard passenger information system is the computer and its software, the media used to relay information to passengers is also critical. Poor quality display technologies can render even the most accurate data useless. In addition to the core hardware and software technologies already mentioned, Funkwerk provides a range of displays in various sizes including high resolution LED exterior applications and LED, LCD, TFT and E-Ink Solutions for internal applications. It’s generally accepted that the application of LED and LCD screens is limited. However, TFT displays can be configured to screen not only passenger information but also passenger entertainment. The entertainment content can be downloaded to each display and stored locally for use at a later stage. This can include the day’s news update or pre defined advertising campaigns. Real time links via GSM connections also enable the system to provide passengers with up to the minute information on disruptions to current and other service providers. Funkwerk is also in the process of developing a new Electronic Ink technology (E-Ink) for use on board vehicles. Although this uses a monochrome solution, its design means that once the information has been sent to the display, no further power is required until the display needs to be changed. This significantly reduces the power requirements for on board systems.
On Board PA and Intercom
In addition to information displayed visually, the on board solution is enhanced by an integrated PA and Intercom system. It provides facilities for automatic or manual announcements as well as mechanisms for staff and passenger communication. Automatic announcements are provided directly by the onboard computer. These are generated using pre-recorded speech segments or via Funkwerk’s latest text-to-speech application. Once the relevant announcement has been compiled it is transmitted to the PA controller, and then forward to the appropriate loudspeakers.
Each loudspeaker is driven using small local amplifiers embedded into the passenger communication units of each car rather than the traditional central PA amplifiers. This new technique has several advantages such as high redundancy, (speaker circuits can be wired to provide a minimal 50% operation) and cost reductions due to reduced cabling and relinquishment of traditional 100V transformers. The PA and Intercom system uses a dedicated communication link in parallel to the Ethernet network to meet the demands for availability and reaction time. This also provides a fallback functionality in the event of any technical faults.
The Funkwerk PA and intercom system is also designed to manage the priority of incoming calls in the system. These are calls made by passengers using the information points or the emergency help facilities provided on each train. During 2010 Funkwerk will introduce a new special safety module, which provides supervision of all safety critical PA and intercom functions in line with EN50129.
Although rarely used on commuter services, an important feature of high speed services is the capability to provide dynamic seat reservation information. Because the Funkwerk solution provides complete route information; precise service timetable and the train layout, specific seat reservations can be clearly shown. Such information can be a seat reservation for a particular journey for example from Station A to Station N.
The seat reservation details are provided via a file for each trip from the central booking system. This is downloaded via a WiFi or GSM link to the train. The file contains the bookings for each seat and the duration of journey it is reserved for. The central controller of the passenger information system extracts the booking information from this file, and sends it to small seat reservation displays allocated to each seat. For example a seat is booked from Kings Cross to York and a second time from York to Newcastle, the according seat reservation display will first show “London – York”. Depending on the respective train operator, this will remain until the train reaches York - or until a designated time after its departure from Kings Cross - and then be changed to “York-Newcastle”. Alternatively, the system can also be modified to show the passenger’s name instead.
The main advantage of such a flexible electronic seat reservation system over traditional printed information is – in addition to reduced operational costs – the capability to book a seat for several times during a trip and to allow the booking to be made until shortly before departure.
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