Background – Purpose of the Project
Our customer, a private coach hire provider to local education authorities wanted to develop a device that would enable schoolchildren passengers to quickly login their presence when the enter the bus. In addition, they wanted to know the location of the bus at all times using GPS and therefore where all passengers were at any given time. Finally, the developed unit should also be capable of use in public transport applications fordebiting pre-paid RFID cards and smartphone apps. The unit must be rugged and the size of a large smartphone with a touchscreen driven driver menu capability that is connected to a cloud server either by Wi-Fi, if Internet connectivity by this method is available, or by GSM (3G/4G network). The unit must be capable of running from internal rechargeable batteries for a 16-hour shift and be recharged to full again in 8 hours.
Challenges to Address
- Mechanically the device needed to be rugged and convenient to mount on a swivel fixture for the display to be easily rotated to be viewed by the driver and the incoming passengers.
- Power consumption needed to be optimised so that the device could operate for a minimum of 16 hours with a flat to full recharge rate from a standard USB charger of 8 hours.
- Interface to a cloud-based server to download route and passenger information from the server to the unit using Wi-Fi and the 4G/3G cellular telephone network.
- Read and write to a passenger RFID card that could be ISO14443A or ISO15693 based 13.56MHz based.
- Read and write to a smartphone app as an alternative to a RFID card using Bluetooth low energy interface after initial pairing by NFC.
- Read and write to a smartphone app as a further alternative using NFC present on smartphones if BLE was disabled.
- 5-inch graphics LCD with touchscreen overlay for the driver to be able to configure the device and achieve communication to the cloud-based server.
- Rechargeable battery powered for 24 hours of operation. Recharged using a standard USB charger in 8 hours.
- Housed In a custom manufactured plastic case that has a universal adapter molding, so it can be mounted on a rail between the bus driver and the alighting passengers.
- Able to run Video and display photographs for instructions and advertising purposes.
- Integral speaker for sound, voice, and music playback.
- Pull down menu driven interface for configuration by the driver and interface to the server.
- 3D printed prototype enclosure.
- The unit size is between that of a smartphone and a tablet.
- The unit weight is less that 1kg, including the integral batteries.
Technology Developed – Bus Passenger Logging and Geo Location system
Portable, battery-powered RFID reader with 5-inch display, GSM network connectivity, and GPS.
- Built-in battery allowing the device to work up to 24h
- Built-in GSM module with 3/4G internet connectivity allowing the device to exchange information with the cloud server from any place in the world, not limited to the Wi-Fi network only.
- Built-in GSM module
- Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for any other integrations
- Built-in reader able to read MIFARE, NTAG2xx and ICODE family tags
- Able to read smartphone via BLE as an alternative to an RFID tag.
- Built-in 5inch touchable capacitive screen
- Two RGB LEDs on both sides of the device to notify the user about device status/ RFID scan, network connection etc.
- Built-in speaker on the front for acoustic feedback
- Built-in memory to store images, sounds etc.
- WebSocket/ REST API/ MQTT communication with the cloud server
This project required many new hardware and firmware features to be developed.
In most operating situations, the only way that the unit can connect to the Cloud Server host system would be via the cellular network, because Internet connection via Wi-Fi is not generally available. To achieve this, a GSM module was incorporated into the design that can except any standard SIM card. This will enable the customer to choose a suitable mobile network data provider of their choice. Passengers log in to the unit as they get on the bus. Login on the bus can be done by using an issued RFID card, or a smartphone app via a Bluetooth or NFC connection. They are then verified real time to the database contained on the cloud server.
This system had to have a dual function:
- Recording of children getting onto a school bus.
- For public transport, checking that passengers have a registered account and can be billed or have paid for the trip.
Using the LCD, the unit can send instructions or advertise items to the passengers. Using the touchscreen, the driver can configure the units such as download his/her next route and passenger lists.
The Unit (Rear Elevation showing RAM universal attachment moulding)
Case Dimensions (in mm) Click to enlarge
Various Compatible RAM Fittings
Eccel developed this product for a customer who wished to supply school bus service providers. The children record that they have entered the bus on the unit either with issued RFID cards/ key fobs or with an app on their phones. The customer also envisaged using the unit to replace ticketing machines on public transport buses.
This product could also find uses in warehouses, shops, or at events for logging the entry of people to a venue/ building/ room.