Today’s HMIs are functionally similar, connecting operators and systems with intuitive features and design. The shift, however, is in the convergence of HMI and control systems. By integrating display functions with control systems, transportation OEMs can offer a more simplified system implementation with improved reliability. For instance, modern railway driver consoles and dashboards use intelligent display computers in an environment very similar to airplanes, where these devices function as digital instruments and information systems for the driver. Converged units can be retrofitted into smaller spaces, and now include network and I/O boxes, video, and a range of RF interfaces, eliminating the extreme maintenance requirements common to previous implementations based on separate system components.

The Kontron HMITR, for example, is a converged system that features an application-ready rugged display integrated with a control computer. The setup allows designers to streamline a broad spectrum of operational systems and passenger-facing systems, ranging from ticketing and outside information, such as destination details, to inside features like audio communication to passengers and fleet dispatchers, advertisements, driver identification, navigation, travel recording, or on-screen schedule updates.

Converged Systems Increase Reliability

These converged systems also leverage a modular approach, simplifying the ability to swap out different power supplies, I/O boards, video controllers, or any component that is specific to the application itself. Transportation designers have a semi-custom product, grounded in COTS design but with all the specific interfaces and exact functionality required for certain applications.

Control systems are contained within the display box, and a converged system is now defined as a display and touch control system. Processing occurs within the system itself, made more powerful by additional I/O enabled, in the case of the HMITR, through an Atom E600 processor architecture, along with any specialized I/O boards incorporated as part of the application requirement. System elements that were once implemented as discrete units are rolled into an HMI interface. Modular layout permits customization of features such as GPS, GSM, GSM-R, LTE, Wi-Fi, MVB, WTB, and other interfaces. For example, a high speed/high capacity train cockpit could be readily equipped with four HMITRs to manage multiple applications, while the dashboard of a metro train may require only one or two HMITR devices.

Converged HMI and Control System Implementations

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The Venturo HMI is connected to the CBox, the central server, to provide fare information, tickets to the passenger, and application-specific software menus to the driver. The GBox is connected to the CBox, which has an audio switch to announce passenger information or to set up an audio alarm channel to the stationary service department.

Typical HMI-based railway applications include Driver Display Systems (DDS) that must meet UIC 612-0x standards. Other applications include supporting diagnostic and control functions, such as Train Radio Display (TRD), Technical and Diagnostic Display (TDD), Control and Command Display (CCD), and Electronic Timetable Display (ETD).

One such example of a centralized system is the Kontron Venturo, implemented for a public bus operator servicing various related cities and regions. The operator has committed to using new technology to improve passenger services. Its buses are uniformly equipped with a ticketing system and optionally include a broad range of onboard equipment such as CCTV, an SMS dispatch system, support system operations, communication, and GPS. Sophisticated features include the ability for passengers to receive SMS text messages alerting them to traffic disturbances or delays of individual buses.

Venturo’s central server is called CBox, which manages all in- and outbound data. It interfaces to the vehicle through galvanically isolated digital I/O and serial lines (including a higher IP65 environmental protection rating), and to the “outside world” by integrated GSM and WLAN interfaces. The Venturo HMI is networked to the CBox, and provides fare information and tickets to the passenger, while providing application-specific software menus to the driver.

HMIs Moving Forward

There are many very human characteristics that are inherent to operating public transportation systems: reaction time, ability to multitask, propensity for visual vs. audio cues, and attention span. As a result, HMIs have a critical role in transportation design, offering clear functionality and streamlined controls that in turn enable the highest levels of safety, performance, and efficiency. These same requirements hold true for police and rescue vehicles, fire brigade, and command trucks, and high-performance public transportation applications such as data gateways for railways, video surveillance in buses, or trams.

Expertly designed controls reduce errors and ensure passenger security, establishing the most intuitive and functional link between man and machine. Converged systems skillfully align with this design strategy — reducing costs, eliminating complicated maintenance, increasing reliability, and creating a forward path for streamlined high-performance transportation systems.

This article was written by David Pursley, Product Line Manager at Kontron (Poway, CA). For more information, Click Here.