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Bus Co. Keeps Tabs on Fare Boxes
After a proof-of-technology pilot, a Vancouver bus company plans to roll out an active RFID system to track its buses and fare-collection equipment.
Two of IDENTEC SOLUTIONS' i-PORT 3 fixed readers were installed. One was placed on a cash box island in the Burnaby transit center. A cash box island is a station where workers deposit their full cash boxes and pick up empty ones. The other interrogator was installed at one of CMBC's central storage facilities, where personnel check in malfunctioning parts (including fare boxes) after removing them from operating buses. They then return the parts after repairing them.
The readers, set to scan for tags once every few seconds, were linked to a dedicated server that ran IDENTEC SOLUTIONS' Data Publisher program. This program is capable of filtering tag data and using it to populate custom tables and databases in accordance to a client's needs. For the CMBC pilot, the Data Publisher acted only as a vehicle to send raw tag data to CMBC's network.
According to Chris Adamson, IDENTEC SOLUTIONS' software analyst, CMBC wanted to receive raw, unfiltered data from the firm that the bus company could analyze according to its own specifications. To that end, CMBC mined the information it was most interested in (for example, learning when Bus 123 entered the range of reader 456) using a program it wrote in Visual Basic to sort out the times of the transactions and another written in Access, a Microsoft database program, to create reports based on the metrics. (In the future, the company plans to use SQL for these data mining and reporting functions.)
"Coast wanted to turn on the floodgates, in terms of data. They wanted to see what the system could do," says Adamson. CMBC also wanted as much base material as possible in order to look for patterns in the data.
Associating Fare and Cash Boxes with Buses
Beginning in the late afternoon, as buses are brought out of service and driven to the Burnaby transit center, workers refuel and clean each bus, then bring it to the cash box island so its full cash box can be replaced with an empty one.
During the pilot, when a tagged bus drove up to the cash box island, a worker would walk out from the cash box hut with an empty cash box and a computer cable linked to a PC inside the cash hut. He would insert this cable into a serial port in the fare box, and a program on the computer would run an authentication script and unlock the cash box. The worker would remove the full cash box, replace it with the empty one and secure it inside the fare box. He would then walk back to the cash hut with the full cash box and deposit it in a vault.
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