Onboard operational data transmission – made easy and efficient

By Paola Realpozo

Until recently, transmitting operational data from vehicles to a central database was a matter of timing and necessity – buses leave for the day, collect data through various onboard sensors and applications, then offload the data to a back-office server upon returning to the garage via the local Wi-Fi network, when available. In many cases, mechanics or transportation personnel retrieve the data manually from each bus.

Reliable, always-on connectivity onboard buses can enable onboard applications to deliver business value by delivering data just in time to back office business applications in cloud. With the advent of true connectivity, not only for onboard passengers but across an entire transportation enterprise, operators and agencies can now leverage technology, and transmit data from vehicle to server in a much more cost- and time-efficient manner. Data which is time sensitive, and necessary for the day’s operations, can be handled in real time, while less timely data can be stored and uploaded at day’s end. All of this is possible without needing to wait for a bus to return to its depot, or having a technician go to the bus to retrieve and process data.

Generating business value through Actionable Data

Operational data is only useful when businesses can act upon it or extract real value from it – when it is actionable. Depending on the nature and purpose of the data, it can be used to take local actions in real time or send to back office to power analytics and/or trigger business behavior.

The actionable operational data is not limited to what is collected through OBD-II, but also includes other data such as location from GPS, impact, acceleration/deceleration from accelerometer and gyro, driver on-duty and off-duty log from the electronic logging device (ELD). It’s any data that’s useful to understanding if the vehicle is operating efficiently or how safe driver and passengers are.

Actionable data onboard the vehicle – Operational data is collected, stored, and processed locally for a real time action onboard the vehicle. The Fog or edge computing architecture allows hosting applications locally on-board to process data and act without having to send the data to the back office (or cloud).

Actionable data at the back office  Operational data is collected, sent to the cloud, and processed by the back-office server for an action outside the vehicle. Data can be transmitted to the cloud or back office in real time for immediate action, or offloaded to the cloud when a Wi-Fi network is available, for future use.

Different types of data are generated at different frequencies, with varying levels of urgency for it to be processed. Not all data that is generated is needed for certain applications– for example, it’s not very useful to have a gyroscope recording data every millisecond if the driving behavior chances every 5 seconds, for example. The same can be said for video surveillance systems – live streaming data to a central location every few seconds or minute doesn’t translate to an efficient use of time or bandwidth that is available via a cellular connection, for instance.

Alternatively, depending on the application, real-time or near real-time analysis may be required, either locally at the edge of the network, or at the cloud. Examples of applications onboard buses include video surveillance systems and engine diagnostics.

Onboard video surveillance system: Though the data isn’t always uploading, it is always available in the future for investigation. Always store massive amount of data in the hard drive, aboard the vehicle. Depending on the circumstances, operators can configure the system to send snippets of data back to the cloud or push live stream. Some buses may take days to go back to the depot, and offloading footage can take a long time. In that instance, a driver can trigger some action so that the system adds a bookmark to the footage for future review, or real-time streaming for an emergency. It’s not an all-or-nothing prospect – transmit data based on need and situation.

Onboard engine diagnostics: If we do remote condition monitoring, the diagnostics system can send notifications or alerts to the cloud when certain conditions are met. With the data available in the cloud, a maintenance technician can review the engine’s status and travel to the location with the right tools and parts for the job. If the repair will take a long time, a new bus can be sent to take care of the riders. In some cases, the action can be proactive, and not wait until bus breaks down.

For the operator, this system infrastructure translates to operational gains made by having data for real-time or near real-time decision-making; and time and cost savings derived from not having to wait days or waste manpower to retrieve data. All the gains and savings are eventually transferred to customers through better service and safer rides.

At LILEE Systems, we are unique in how we provide connectivity, security, segmentation (isolation) and end-to-end quality of service to on-board devices. There’s no need to “touch” the on-board network every time a new device or service is deployed.

Our remote device is powerful enough to handle throughput needs of revenue-generating passenger services and essential operational services – even when they are combined on to same gateway – reducing operational expenses. We deploy operational applications such as onboard diagnostics to monitor engine performance; GPS and gyroscopes for driver behavior; ELD for compliance; and employee badge readers for security; along with passenger Wi-Fi and NVR applications

The fog computing platform is flexible with integrated computing and storage to deploy intelligent on-board applications. Applications can transmit critical operational data in real-time from the bus to the back-office server (cloud or company data center) while storing massive amounts of data to be upload when the depot Wi-Fi is available, saving on LTE costs.

It’s not an all-or-nothing prospect – transmit data based on need and situation.

With LILEE’s open platform and end to end solution bus operators can provide superior customer experience and achieve efficiency through optimization and predictive maintenance by connecting and remotely monitoring bus sensors and applications.

Paola Realpozo is director of rail strategy at LILEE Systems. LILEE Systems provides solutions for passenger connectivity, and a range of other broadband solutions, including on-board entertainment and advertising, surveillance and security, fleet management, and positive train control. Visit www.lileesystems.com for more information.