PCM Standard in Public Transport – Electronic Mapping of Fares

Background

Most public transport customers today are still buying tickets at service shops, from drivers, at ticket machines located at stops or in vehicles and from portable devices carried by service staff. An increasing number of tickets, however, is being offered and bought via smartphones and online shops. Transport associations and companies have long been asking for a way to feed these diverse devices and systems with fare information coherently and reliably in order to facilitate future updates.

So far, it was usually necessary to update over 1000 devices of diverse nature and from various manufacturers when adjusting fares in a region. With the introduction of electronic tickets, which are stored on chip cards or printed with 2D barcodes, the respective inspection devices also need to receive fare updates. The large variety of proprietary interfaces, data formats and processes in today’s existing vending and inspection devices offers much potential for improvement. It also obstructs the sale and inspection of innovative fare products as soon as the devices’ existing software needs adjustments.

Device-Independent Product and Control Modules

System modules and roles

System modules and roles

By commission of the VDV eTicket Service, the research group »Ticketing and Fares« developed a device-independent standard for the electronic mapping and processing of any and every public transport fare. The basis for this standard are product and control modules (PCM), in which the fare data and processing logic are coherent, but which can still be configured freely. This particularly concerns the data and algorithms for producing tickets in selling devices (product modules) and the validity check of tickets in inspection devices (control modules). From a technical point of view, PCM are XML data that have been highly optimized for reading access and which can be processed using minimal resources in the device.

In the relevant business processes, the industry standard (((eTicket Deutschland distinguishes the roles of the party in charge of the product (Produktverantwortlicher = PV), customer trade partner (Kundenvertragspartner = KVP) and service contractor (Dienstleister = DL). PV product modules are initially produced by the party in charge of the product, which is in most cases a transport association.

The customer trade partner, usually a transport company, sells tickets according to the fare defined in the PV product module. This is achieved by embedding one or several PV product modules in a KVP product module. This way, the customer trade partner can include additional information. The KVP product module as a whole contains the company-specific, enhanced fare data of one or more parties in charge of the product, including the respective control instructions for the selling device to produce tickets.

At the same time, the service contractor, in most cases also a transport company, gathers all fare information (from one or several fares) which are relevant for an inspection device and consolidates them into the DL control module including the respective control instructions for ticket inspection.

Innovation: XML-Based Functional Logic

The breakthrough compared to previous unsuccessful approaches was achieved because for the first time, the XML data contains the complete functional processing logic for fare data, i. e. machine-readable control instructions. It is now possible to map complex selling and inspection rules, algorithms for creating print and display texts and 2D barcodes, as well as the processes at the user interface of the device all in one product or control module. To realize that, a specialized configuration language, based on an abstract, fare-related functional model, was developed.

The fare-specific configured XML data are processed by the device software functioning as an interpreter. In addition, the device requires a software library with a standardized function interface. This way, the device behavior can be controlled mainly by the function calls to this interface (»call-by-reference«), which are stored in the product or control module, in combination with the functional data configured in the module. The actual device software and the function library are generally fare-neutral.

Thus, they only need to be implemented once according to the standard and can then be used for various fares. The reduced adjustment effort for the device on the one hand, and the maximum flexibility in fare configuration on the other hand are convincing advantages for manufacturers and transport companies.

Standardization and Introduction

After the professional evaluation of the relevant players on the German market (ca. 20 device manufacturers and system houses), the 700-page PCM specification was formally incorporated in the industry standard (((eTicket Deutschland in June 2014. Transport associations, transport companies and manufacturers have started to introduce the PCM standard. The software »Product Editor«, designed by the Fraunhofer IVI, already has many users. It contains all functions for a PCM-compatible fare management system and helps realize a quick introduction of the PCM standard.

 

This solution was developed by the Fraunhofer IVI in cooperation with the following partners:

  • VDV eTicket Service
  • DB Vertrieb
  • Kompetenzcenter EFM at the transport association Verkehrsverbund Rhein-Ruhr
  • Nahverkehrsgesellschaft Baden-Württemberg