Scalable Software Framework for Real-Time Data Processing in the Railway Environment

Scalable Software Framework for Real-Time Data Processing in the Railway Environment

Stijn Verstichel (Ghent University, Belgium), Wannes Kerckhove (Ghent University, Belgium), Thomas Dupont (Ghent University, Belgium), Jabran Bhatti (Televic Rail NV, Belgium), Dirk Van Den Wouwer (Televic Rail NV, Belgium), Filip De Turck (Ghent University, Belgium) and Bruno Volckaert (Ghent University, Belgium)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 32
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3176-0.ch005
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To this day, railway actors obtain information by actively hunting for relevant data in various places. Despite the availability of a variety of travel-related data sources, accurate delivery of relevant, timely information to these railway actors is still inadequate. In this chapter, we present a solution in the form of a scalable software framework that can interface with almost any type of (open) data. The framework aggregates a variety of data sources to create tailor-made knowledge, personalised to the dynamic profiles of railway users. Core functionality, including predefined non-functional support, such as load balancing strategies, is implemented in the generic base layer, on top of which a use case specific layer – that can cope with the specifics of the railway environment – is built. Data entering the framework is intelligently processed and the results are made available to railway vehicles and personal mobile devices through REST endpoints.
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Today more than ever, public transportation operators are aware of the importance of investing in their passengers. Moreover, meeting passengers' public transportation needs, in addition to important environmental aspects (Hua, 2016, Pålsson & Kovács, 2014, Guerra et al., 2016) is acknowledged as a central goal in the European Commission’s transport strategy roadmap (European Commission, 2011). In this roadmap, it is shown that acting on issues important to passengers, such as reducing noise in a train or providing wireless connectivity, enriches the customer experience. At the same time, due to the current information-centric nature of society, passengers expect public transportation to be more and more augmented / personalised with information from different sources (e.g. social networks, multimodal travel information) (Sierpiński, 2017, van Lier et al., 2014). Recent ICT developments present opportunities to meet passengers' rising expectations. As a result, the amount of available mobile travel applications offering travel information to passengers has grown exponentially (Gardner, Haeusler & Tomitsch, 2010). Contemporary mobile applications, such as the travel information apps provided by European railway companies e.g. NMBS, NS, Deutsche Bahn, National Rail and SNCF, mostly offer Real Time Train Information (RTTI) about arrival and departure times as well as mobile ticketing services. Many mobile RTTI applications are mostly context specific, single-purpose applications that provide a solution to a particular problem or requirement. However, according to ORR, the (British) Office of Rail and Road, passengers want to receive live information and they want it at their fingertips (Office of Rail Regulation, 2012). Since the initial publication of this report, where train operators are required to provide appropriate, accurate and timely information to enable (prospective) passengers to plan and make their journeys with a reasonable degree of assurance, including in times of disruption, the ORR has elaborated on this key requirement. The ORR requires from a train operating company to publish a code on practice setting out how it will ensure compliance with this directive. In 2014, further studies and surveys were conducted to see whether passengers had noticed tangible improvements. The conclusions highlighted some improvements, but also raised several areas where special attention was needed. Because of this, the ORR published a new regulatory guidance, in collaboration with the industry (Rail Delivery Group, 2016) which issued 50 recommendations, in 2016 (Office of Rail and Road, 2016).

According to the Danish Rail operator DSB for instance, a delay is often not experienced as being problematic, as long as passengers are assisted and know how long they will have to wait, how they could move on from the next station, whether there is still time to grab a coffee, etc. Access to RTTI positively changes passengers’ perception and experience of the quality of the public transportation service. Unfortunately, RTTI as it is currently offered to passengers is still mostly passive (passengers must actively search for the information they need), based on a single source (i.e. the database of the train operator) and largely not tailored to the (dynamic) personal needs of the individual passenger, making it difficult to find relevant information when needed. As such, passengers expect travel information to become more context-aware and more personalised. Another fundamental, yet often unapparent, requirement of RTTI is its reliability for the public to be able to confidently use the information available. The full potential of (open) data for railway travel has clearly not been materialized yet.

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