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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.
"We've proven that the technology works," says Vogstad, "so to move forward, we'll have to identify an ROI—something that was not one of the objectives of the technology pilot." He says he'll present a formal project proposal for the program to the CMBC board members in October. By that time, he predicts, he will have generated ROI forecasts and an estimation of ongoing costs to maintain and update the RFID system.
Vogstad hopes to have the full RFID system in place by the end of the year. He says his team will either write a program to process the tag data using an SQL database or outsource that task to an outside IT company.
Vogstad says CMBC is also considering using active tags to track other high-value parts, such as bus engines and transmissions, in order to monitor their maintenance history. Work done on engines is costly and time-consuming, so CMBC hopes tracking specific parts will enable it to identify those with chronic maintenance problems. Putting tags on engine parts could also provide data on how long specific items last before they fail, and which could be used to revise preventative-maintenance schedules.
Presently, CMBC is deliberating whether to use RFID to track how long buses spend in repair (and out of service) by installing interrogators in the bus maintenance area to monitor when each bus enters and leaves a stall. RFID could be used to track fuel usage, as well—readers integrated into the company's gas pumps would identify the bus tag, and a sensor would meter the amount of gas being pumped.
In addition, CMBC is considering testing a specialized engine tag that meters the time an engine runs (activated and deactivated by the ignition switch). This information is valuable because CMBC mechanics are interested in knowing how excessive idle time might correlate with how often the engine needs to be repaired. By subtracting a bus' mileage from the run-time data stored on this tag, CMBC could estimate the time each bus spends idling.
As a separate initiative, CBMC is also considering the use of RFID-enabled smart cards, in its fare system. Should it decide to deploy such a system, the bus company hopes to have it in place before Vancouver hosts the Olympic Games in 2010.
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