This is the second in a series of posts on what I’m calling the Global ITS Architecture. The first gave background on the National ITS Architecture.
Below the fold, edited notes from a talk I gave last year on “Have Open Standards Delivered ITS Architectures that Matter?” Hint: I argue Yes.
Note that I engage in some of the lies of storytelling, duly noted.
I’m going to take a strong stand on this question and make three arguments on my way to an answer:
- The evolution of ITS has seen the scale of information distribution grow over time.
- The private sector has really driven the state of the art for passenger information.
- In this space, the work put into National ITS standards have not had good ROIs.
First, a bit of history. Electronic passenger information is not something of the 21st century. The first subway in America, Boston, had electronic passenger information signs in the 1890s.
Fast forward to the end of the 20th century. We have systems that make passenger information available at a city-wide scale. Here is one such sign.
While the data were available systemwide, in the beginning it was only available to the agency and through this manufacturer’s product1) Lie of omission: HSL in Helsinki is an awesome data provider. The only reason we know what the interface for these signs looks like is because of a Finnish hacker. She was playing around with a spectrum analyzer, found something interesting and decided to take a look.
At the dawn of the 21st century, after deploying a host of single vendor solutions, the industry began to understand the downsides of end-to-end functionality from one vendor. from a panel of experts on passenger information and, after a standard standards-development process, TCIP was born, good, bad, and ugly.
- Good: Standards Process
- No major implementations
- Backward looking: Year 2000 technology (Not thought through for web / mobile clients)
- Ugly: Documentation “cumbersome at best, impossible at worst”
Because of these issues, and no one has used the Passenger Information messages at large scale. No one took this standard as an example and said, “hey I want to build a system with that.”
Contrast this with the NTCIP standards, where the documentation is succinct and accessible.
The tech sector has taken a separate track.
In 2006 Google finalized the first version of GTFS. This was part of moving from a search company, to a data company.
Rather than trying to understand national ITS diagram, they addressed this as a tech company would, in an agile fashion with a minimum viable product first. They worked with one agency, TriMet in Portland, to iterate a working product before putting it out.
Put simply, GTFS proved that without a flagship project, a standard is worthless.
Google saw world of opportunities for data, and they have driven the market ever since. But will they continue to in the future?
I’ll address that in in part 2.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Lie of omission: HSL in Helsinki is an awesome data provider|