Ready for take-off

MOBILE-ITCS nextGen fulfils current and future requirements of public transport companies

With MOBILE-ITCS nextGen INIT launches the next generation Intermodal Transport Control System – as highlighted by the product name. An up-to-date handling concept with many new functions enables dispatchers to work much more comfortably and more efficiently. The accuracy of departure time predictions will be enhanced significantly thanks to artificial intelligence, thereby improving the quality of passenger information. A new architecture makes the system future-proof and numerous additional functions top it off.

Future-proof platform

The state-of-the-art operations control system will be introduced in two steps. The first step to take will be the changeover to a more flexible, secure and robust background system that supports current and future server operating systems. For this, INIT implemented the Java Persistance API (JPA) as a middleware that separates the database from the software more distinctly. As a result, customers can choose the database that suits them best from more than 80 possible options. This may well be the one already in use by the company or the licence-free database PostgreSQL, which is recommended by INIT. In any case, the result will be a high-performance, future-proof background system.

Converting to the new background system is already possible. Initial projects have been realised already. The second step to take will be the implementation of the new user-friendly user interface.

Well-arranged: block display with graphic elements.

Enhanced user-friendliness by means of UX design

INIT’s main objective while developing the MOBILE-ITCS nextGen User Interface (UI) was to support dispatchers and their work as comfortably as possible. In order to achieve the desired user experience, both UX design experts and many customers were asked to contribute to developing the concept. This way, INIT ensured that the solution focuses on the user’s perspective and features intuitive handling. Apart from sheer usability, information architecture and interaction design were held in high priority by the developers. Basis for the UI development was the Eclipse Rich Client Platform (RCP) with its component-based architecture. Here, too, INIT opted for a tried and tested, future-proof and highly user-friendly (development) platform.

The new user interface delivers an eye-friendly colour scheme, well-arranged displays, a modern usability concept and ultimate flexibility. To achieve this, countless configuration possibilities, timesaving one-click actions, enhanced filter functions and improved information access were built in.

More effective workflows, easier handling

An ideal example for the user-friendliness of the new ITCS is the status display. Clearly arranged, system notifications and status messages are displayed on the dispatcher’s start screen. Here, not only can numerous actions be carried out instantly via context menus, but drivers can also be contacted via radio or text message with a single click. These so-called “One-Click Actions” are available through the whole system and contribute considerably to the ease of use.

Another feature to accelerate the work routines is the “Quick Action Bar” at the top of the displays. It enables dispatchers to quickly act (e. g. when they need to call a vehicle) and to operate the numerous enhanced filters. A system uniqueness is the possibility to use the filters in combination. Both the one-click actions and the filter functions can be customised to the needs of the public transport company.

Allowing quick access to information that is both target-oriented and fitting for the situation in hand was made a top priority by INIT during the software development phase. For the swift supply of information is an important help for the dispatchers. One obvious example is the new detail bar at the lower border. This may include vehicle number, driver-ID, stop position, delay, arrival time, etc. and can be customised as well.

Configurable: linked displays get updated automatically.

Quick access to necessary information is clearly one of MOBILE-ITCS nextGen’s highlights. By using so-called “Linked Displays” it is possible to link up to four displays on one screen. The dispatchers can decide which interconnected displays they want to use and which one should be the master display. Displays can be linked easily and comfortably through a symbol in the tab bar. For example, by clicking on another block in the block list, the linked block display gets updated automatically.

The work with various windows was optimised even further. Even when dispatchers use the displays without links, they benefit from a new function called “Auto Tiling”. This means that several windows are arranged automatically on the screen. Of course, the dispatchers can adapt the display according to their needs and even save their preferred set-up. This, incidentally, is also possible for links. Getting back to the full screen of a single display is easily done with one click.

A picture is worth a thousand words – this is the principle INIT followed by enhancing graphic displays. It applies to a new map display as well as to the embedding of additional graphics, for instance the pictorial display of a block in the block display. Here, a vehicle’s position – and potentially previous or successive vehicles – are displayed clearly. This gives dispatchers a perfect overview of the block, as well as the corresponding route selection.

A feature of note is the new, flexible line display which allows for the depiction of a tremendous amount of additional information, for example deviant routes covered by one line. Furthermore, the users are given maximum flexibility. They can choose their ideal presentation of the display with the help of option buttons – horizontal/vertical, with a set filter to the most important stops, etc. – and can determine the display size by zooming in and out.

Comfortable migration

The introduction of the new user interface will take place in the most user-friendly way. Public transport companies will have the opportunity to use both versions at the same time, therefore giving their dispatchers the chance to switch to the new version comfortably. In the process of designing the software, it had been of utmost importance to make sure that users are able to recognise elements in the new ITCS easily. That way, they can enjoy a short learning curve.

Machine learning delivers exact predictions

An integral part of any Intermodal Transport Control System is passenger information. This is why INIT set a high priority on ensuring maximum quality of predictions in MOBILE-ITCS nextGen. To calculate departure times as reliably as possible, machine learning – already successfully in use in several other INIT products – has been applied to the new ITCS generation. Here, INIT relies on the expertise of its subsidiary, inola. While the previously used linear prediction depended on planning data, the new system goes a great deal further. It takes into account historical operational data as well as the current operations, like the journey time of the previous vehicle. The underlying algorithms are getting more and more exact due to machine learning. Therefore, the models are continuously trained based on historical data, renewing the model after verifying the prediction quality of the used model.

This way passenger information gets more and more reliable, for the benefit of the passengers.

Currently, a pilot project using machine learning has been carried out on several routes of the transport company Golden Gate Bridge Highway & Transportation District in San Francisco.

A pilot project to improve prediction quality using artificial intelligence is already carried out on eight lines in San Francisco.

Functional expansions

However, MOBILE-ITCS nextGen consists of even more than a new architecture, an optimised user experience and an improved prediction of departure times. Numerous further – so far optional – modules round off the range of functions and contribute to a comprehensive solution that accommodates public transport companies and their present-day requirements.

For example, the growing importance of electric buses in public transport has been taken into account. Therefore, displaying the state-of-charge is a fixed part of MOBILE-ITCS nextGen, which allows for the monitoring of electric buses. Additional functionalities like dynamic range prediction can be optionally unlocked.

In times of changing passenger requirements and an ever-growing climate consciousness, on-demand services are becoming more and more important. Furthermore, they are an appropriate means to serve a reduced number of passengers, e. g. caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, efficiently, but with the comforts they ask for. Therefore, INIT has integrated MOBILEcall, the management module for on-demand yet route-based service, into the overall system.

In order to comply with a growing digitalisation demand, two further licences are included in MOBILE-ITCS nextGen. STOPnet for passenger information via internet and MOBILEmodi, the tablet-based mobile dispatch application.

With MOBILE-ITCS nextGen, INIT has put together a robust next generation system that offers a secure, reliable and high-performance platform for years to come.

5 good reasons for MOBILE-ITCS nextGen

  • Future-proof database-agnostic architecture

  • User interface in UX design with high flexibility

  • Reliable prediction of departure times due to machine learning

  • Electromobility-ready

  • Enhanced range of functionalities


Kai Brückner

Managing Director