Quick Look

Interfacing Personal Data Assistants for Intelligent Transportation System Applications, 10-9169

Printer Friendly Version

Principal Investigator
Steven W. Dellenback, Ph.D., PMP

Inclusive Dates: 11/01/99 - 03/01/00

Background - A trend in the intelligent transportation systems (ITS) industry has been to develop Internet- and World Wide Web (WWW)-based technology that supports the dissemination of traffic and other ITS information. Recent technology advances in personal data assistants (PDAs) now allow wireless access to the Internet and WWW, opening up new opportunities for bringing the Internet to remote users. This capability is of great interest to the ITS community. This quick-look project developed web-based technology that demonstrated the viability of the PDA-form factor in accessing and maintaining various types of ITS data. It also emphasized the Institute's expertise in applying this new PDA technology. The urgency of this project stems from three projects currently active within the Automation and Data Systems Division that have indicated interest in the Institute's demonstrating a PDA capability and have funding decision points in the near future.

Approach - The primary manifestation of the investigation's results was a set of application prototypes, each addressing a different problem that commonly arises in ITS systems. The prototypes were deployed on a commercially available PDA and were integrated into the system's client/server system architecture through a wireless Internet connection. The following application prototypes were developed:

  • Real-Time Traffic Conditions (mobile user): to show that real-time incident data could be accessed and presented on the relatively inexpensive PDA without the use of a GPS or a priori route definitions.

  • Equipment Maintenance Tracking (field application): to show that the inexpensive PDA could perform the same role as the currently used laptop, while providing real-time record updates and a more rugged and transportable form-factor.

  • Dynamic Message Sign Control (remote operations): to demonstrate the efficiency benefits of using the PDA to control the sign directly from the field without having to go through the control center.

  • Storm Cost Tracking (field application): to demonstrate how the maintenance crew could use the PDA to provide real-time updates to the accumulated cost of storm cleanup.

Accomplishments - The investigation clearly demonstrated the viability of the wireless PDA for ITS applications. Road-side availability and updating of real-time data have great potential for traffic and system management activities. The use of the PDA as a diagnostic and maintenance tool affords greater efficiencies. Although the PDA's limited screen size requires special design considerations, such as the filtering out of unnecessary data and the judicious use of multiple pages, the PDA is quite adequate for the investigated tasks. The use of open standards in the system design afforded additional benefits that will aid the future development and deployment of similar systems. All application prototypes were tested using a desktop browser, the PDA emulator (which runs on the workstation), a commercially available PDA, and another model of the PDA connected to the Internet via a PPP connection. Although the prototypes were not tested in this investigation because of a lack of equipment availability, they should perform successfully with other PDA devices possessing the appropriate Internet connectivity and web browser software.

This entry level PDA screen was developed as part of the project.

Intelligent Systems, Advanced Computer and
Electronic Technology, and Automation Program
2000 IR&D Home SwRI Home