Title:
Method For The Automatic Detection Of The Use Of Chargeable Means Of Transport Conveying Passengers
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Disclosed is a method for the automatic detection of the use of chargeable means of transport conveying passengers. Said method is characterized in that at least one transmitter located in the area of the means of transport sends out data telegrams in the form of unidirectional communication while said data telegrams are received and further processed by a terminal of the user utilizing the means of transport.



Inventors:
Stoffelsma, Bouke C. (Monchengladbach, DE)
Feiter, Manfred (Monchengladbach, DE)
Application Number:
11/792008
Publication Date:
12/27/2007
Filing Date:
12/02/2005
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
705/417
International Classes:
G06Q20/00; G06Q20/36; G06Q20/38; G07B15/00; G07B15/02; G07F7/08
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ORTIZ ROMAN, DENISSE Y
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
HARNESS DICKEY (TROY) (Troy, MI, US)
Claims:
1. A method for automatic detection of the use of means of transport with costs for conveying passengers, wherein at least one transmitter located in the area of the means of transport sends out data telegrams in the form of unidirectional communication, which data telegrams are received and further processed by a user terminal of the user using the means of transport.

2. The method according to claim 1, wherein the data telegrams contain at least one information from the set of company ID, sequence number, date, time, location information, fare information, or transport means identification.

3. The method according to claim 1, wherein the data telegrams are sent out at times which can be precalculated by the user terminal.

4. The method according to claim 1, wherein at least one data telegram is provided with an electronic signature, while the user terminal verifies this signature.

5. The method according to claim 1 the user terminal generates and stores data sets from the received data telegrams about distances covered.

6. The method according to claim 1, wherein distances covered are stored in dependence of fare provisions in the form of individual data sets for the respective stages relevant for deduction.

7. The method according to claim 1, wherein the stored data are collected and transmitted in time intervals to a central computer unit.

8. The method according to claim 7, wherein data transmitted to a central computer unit are provided with an electronic signature by the user terminal.

9. The method according to claim 1, wherein prices are determined as a function of fare information for distances covered and are debited to a settlement account.

10. The method according to claim 9, (wherein) the fare information required to determine the fare is stored in the user terminal.

11. The method according to claim 9, wherein the fare information required to determine the fare is emitted out by the transmitter.

12. The method according to claim 1, wherein the user terminal reserves electronic tickets and/or authorisations, and/or displays the current status.

13. The method according to claim 1, wherein the user terminal contains temporally and/or geographically limited validity information which is compared with data contained in the received data telegram.

14. User terminal with a receiving unit and a memory unit adopted to execute a method according to claim 1 can be carried out with it.

Description:

The present invention relates to a method for automatically detecting the use of chargeable means of transport conveying passengers.

Hitherto, the use of chargeable means of transport, in particular of public passenger traffic, has been mainly realised by using tickets printed on paper. These tickets, however, are complicated to handle and can be relatively easily falsified. Moreover, ticketing systems based on so-called smartcards have been known from the state of the art. These can be either cards fitted with contacts (classical chip cards), or contactless cards (transponder cards), or hybrid forms (dual interface cards). These smartcards contain the relevant data (ticket data and/or fare data) for ticket-charging.

The smartcards are processed within the scope of fare-charging (write/read processes at automats, passage barriers, control devices, manned points of sale, and other offices of public transport) by a corresponding technical ticketing infrastructure of the respective transport services. There is a considerable volume of communication signals in the area of the devices which, in turn, must communicate with central units for the purpose of pricing, evaluation of use, and the like.

In systems where public transport is predominantly realised by using tickets printed on paper which must be bought or cancelled for a fixed distance before the beginning of the trip, the passenger must either travel the distance paid for, or let the ticket expire in whole or in part. An inspector can check by merely looking at the ticket whether the ticket is valid for the distance travelled.

For several years, there have been different methods in the state of the art for replacing the tickets made of paper with an electronic ticket. The methods enable automatic determination and deduction of the fare.

The following methods which are supposed to enable a more comfortable deduction of the fare are known from the state of the art:

In Hanau, the Rhein-Main-Verkehrsverbund (passenger transit association) operates a so called “check in/check out” system on a trial basis, where the passenger identifies himself by means of a chip card at a terminal in the vehicle on entering and exiting the vehicle. A background system then calculates which distances the customer has actually travelled and books the calculated fares on an account linked to the chip card.

From PCT application NL01/00215 a method is known, where the passenger uses a mobile apparatus (for example a mobile phone or a transponder) with a number allocated to him, in order to be automatically identified when he is on a vehicle of the public local traffic. The vehicle automatically registers where the passenger enters the vehicle and where he leaves the vehicle. Usually, these data are transmitted to a background system that determines the fare for the travelled distance on the basis of these data. Such systems are often called “be-in/be-out” systems.

From DE 199 57 660, a method for deducting the fare for the use of public transport means is known where a cheque card-like memory carried along by the user is loaded with a credit. During the use of public transport means, the transport means emits counting pulses, and for each received counting pulse, a pre-determined amount is deducted from the credit stored on the memory unit. For this reason, the memory unit must be virtually incessantly active, thereby increasing energy consumption considerably. Moreover, an adjustment to fare systems, group systems, and the like is basically impossible. Finally, it is also provided that a recognition device is formed on the transport means which recognises and processes the encodings of the individual tickets. Thus, a bidirectional exchange of information takes place.

From Switzerland, a pilot project called “easyride” is known, where the customer carries along a transponder card which registers him in the transport means when he uses a transport means and which repeats this registration regularly. Communication between the transport means and the transponder card occurs bi-directionally and increases in complexity with an increasing number of passengers on the transport means. Nevertheless, customer comfort has already been good.

Such be-in/be-out systems, however, have so far been very expensive and susceptible to technical defects. Another frequently occurring problem is the high energy requirement of the transponder medium.

The disadvantage of check-in/check-out systems is that they are usually not suitable for mass applications: imagine a full underground train at rush hour, where each passenger must go up to a terminal on the underground train to check out on or shortly before arrival of the destination stop. In actual fact, this is only practical in closed systems with rotating bars at each stop, as for instance in the London Tube. It is rather impractical for open systems as they are used in Germany. Moreover, for holders of monthly season tickets, the additional effort for check-in and check-out proves to be a change for the worse in comparison with tickets on paper.

It is an object of the present invention to provide a method for automatic detection of use of chargeable means of transport, which is easy to handle, customer-friendly, resistant to fraud attempts, and flexible with regard to fare determination.

The method according to the invention is characterised in that at least one transmitter arranged in the area of the transport means sends out data telegrams in the form of unidirectional communication, which are received and processed by a user terminal of the user using the transport means.

The special advantage of this method is that communication occurs exclusively from the transmitter located in the area of the transport means in the direction of the user terminal, i. e. there is no signal or data transmission from the user terminal in the direction of the transmitter. This so-called broadcast method avoids collisions which can occur when data are transmitted simultaneously by several user terminals. In this case, it would be required to reserve larger frequency ranges in order to enable interference free transmission by a large number of user terminals. This is not feasible, in particular at large traffic junctions. Another alternative would be the use of a protocol by means of which the data transmitted to the user terminals can be coordinated. Such an implementation, however, is complicate and extremely susceptible to errors. Furthermore, the transmitter arranged in the area of the transport means requires a communication connection to a central computer unit for the transmission of the received data, which also involves effort and costs.

The starting point is that the passenger has an electronic device (user terminal) with a memory which is connected with at least one receiver and one processing unit. The terminal preferably has a display. Subsequently, a process involving the following steps is carried out:

    • Sending out data telegrams from a transmitter located in the area of the transport means,
    • Non-recurrent receiving and storing of the data telegrams sent out by the transmitter,
    • Receiving and storing further data telegrams sent out by the transmitter, and
    • Further processing of the received data telegrams, taking into account the data and algorithms located in the user terminal or contained in the data telegrams,
      with preferably easily receivable radio transmitters (transponders, WLAN, bluetooth or others) with a limited transmission range being used as transmitters. The transmitters are preferably insensitive to interferences; particularly suitable for this purpose are so-called frequency hopping technologies, straddle band techniques, or the like. Reading back of the transmitted code enables continuous functional control in the transport means. For instance, a read-back receiver verifies the correct transmission of the data telegrams sent out by the transmitter, recognises collisions/interferences, if applicable, and initiates a change of frequency or channel in case of such disturbances, so that the data telegrams are transmitted on a different frequency or a different channel. Thus, the system is self-organising and functions both with several transmitters in one vehicle and with several vehicles where the transmission ranges of the corresponding transmitters are overlapping.

This means that the user terminal where the electronic ticket or E-ticket is stored receives and further processes the data telegrams sent out by the transmitter. This further processing can be restricted to storing the received data without any change.

According to the invention, units can be deducted from a pre-paid credit after evaluation of the received data telegram in the user terminal. This credit can be recharged at points provided for this purpose for instance upon take-over of the user terminal, or at any other time. The fare to be paid can either be linear and distance-sensitive, or be calculated according to any other fare system.

In one embodiment, the user terminal contains temporally and/or geographically limited validity information which is compared with the data contained in the received data telegram. This enables the realisation of a time card the validity of which can simultaneously be limited to a geographically restricted area. The ticket can for instance be valid for one day, one weekend, one week, one month, or even one entire year. Any other periods of validity are possible as well, for instance during trade fairs or other events. Furthermore, the validity can be limited to a geographic region, as for instance a city or a traffic zone. A restriction to particular transport means is also possible. The existence of a validity information which corresponds to the data received from the transport means (ticket matches the trip) can for instance be shown on the display for the purpose of easier visual control.

According to another embodiment, the received data of the transmitter are stored in the user terminal and transmitted in whole or in part in a deferred mode to a central computer unit, whereupon the total price to be paid is determined in the central computer unit. In this process, all received data packages can be transmitted to the computer unit. It is also possible that data sets which have already been processed in the user terminal and marking for instance the beginning of the trip and the end of the trip, are transmitted to the computer unit, and that to this extent they are pre-processed in the user terminal. It is also possible to combine these principles. In this manner, also the route travelled can advantageously be taken into account with the determination of the fare. The subsequent deduction of the fare for the actual use is particularly suitable for regular customers whose data are known to the transport service provider. For instance, the storage of a kind of down payment in the user terminal which is successively deducted during use suggests itself. When a particular limit has been reached, the electronic ticket stored in the user terminal loses its validity until the user terminal is connected with a central computer unit to communicate with it for data transmission, an exact deduction has been made, and a new down payment has been transferred to the user terminal.

Of course also other deduction modes can be provided, for instance the use of single- and multiple-ride tickets. P The user terminal advantageously shows which deduction mode is active. This, together with the validity of the ticket, can be verified both by the user and by an inspector.

The data telegrams sent out by the transmitter located in the transport means advantageously contain at least one information item from the set company ID, sequence number, date, time, location information, fare information, and transport means identification or transport means characteristic. The company ID serves to identify the company providing the transport service, thereby making it possible for instance to distribute income to the various enterprises in a passenger transit association. Based on the sequence number, the data telegram can be unambiguously identified. With the aid of date and time, the time of use of a transport means can be determined. The location information serves to reconstruct the geographical course of the transport. Based on the transport means identification, it can be determined which transport means was used. Of course the data telegrams can also contain other information not mentioned here.

The transmitter advantageously obtains this information from a computer already located in the transport means, e. g. an on-board RBL computer, or an IBIS control unit. Transmission can be effected via an IBIS vehicle bus, Ethernet LAN, or other channels.

In this process, the data (code) transmitted by the transport means is qualified. Depending on which type of fare model is to be supported, the code contains at least a meter reading or a location information. From the change/updating of the code, the processing unit (V) can determine the distances which have been travelled during the use of the transport means, and which fare the passenger will have to pay accordingly. For instance, if the passenger gets on the vehicle at a stop (A), and a meter of the transport means shows 100, this meter reading can now be sent out regularly by the transport means without the processing unit decreasing the stored value or money units thereby. Only when the transport means is moving, the meter of the transport means will be incremented. So for instance, the meter reading at stop (B) can be 103, and at stop (C) 110, correspondingly. From the receiver (E), the processing unit receives the respective changed codes from which the meter reading can be determined. If the meter reading has changed, corresponding value or money units can be deducted during the trip, and the passenger can be shown a remaining quota or credit balance on the display.

Widely used are also fares specifying a fixed price for each possible distance from A to B, often as a function of zones, “honeycombs”, or other superior administrative units. With such fare models, it is possible to send information about the current stop and, if applicable, the current zone, “honeycomb”, etc. by means of the method according to the invention. Now the user terminal can independently calculate the fare to be paid for the travelled distance, e. g. on the basis of tables and algorithms. These can for instance be stored in the user terminal or, with a particularly advantageous embodiment of the invention, be also contained in the transmitted code, which will be explained in more detail in the following. In the variant mentioned last, for instance the fares or fare lines incurred so far for all possible starting stops could be transmitted at each stop; the user terminal would evaluate only the information relevant for its own starting stop. The fare can be deducted at each stop, namely as a deduction of the difference with respect to the deduction at the previous stop. For example, if a passenger travels five stops, it is possible to deduct the price for a “short trip” upon reaching the first stop, and to additionally deduct the difference between a “short trip” and a “single ride” in the further course of the trip only after he has reached the 4th stop.

A particular problem results from fare regulations as they are common for instance with the Rhein-Main Verkehrsverbund or the Verkehrsverbund Rhein-Ruhr, where a ticket may only be used for “rides in the direction of the destination”. With paper-based tickets, the passenger is responsible for buying a ticket for the return trip. An automatic ticketing system must do this automatically in a reliable manner. A specific example illustrates the problem:

When traveling from Niedernhausen to Königstein in the Rhein-Main area, it is necessary to initially take a train to Höchst, change trains there, and continue to Niedernhausen on a train which travels almost in the opposite direction. From a purely geographical point of view, the passenger travels in a pointed triangle: the passenger therefore makes quite a detour to get to his destination, and then already approaches his starting station again; from a fare point of view, however, it is still one direction.

The invention can solve this problem. For this purpose, information about permissible “directions of travel” are inserted in the code, so-called trip continuation rules. Upon entering the vehicle, the user terminal stores the starting stop, and upon reaching the next stop, the direction of travel can be determined in addition, which will then be valid for the entire further ride. At each stop, the transport means sends information for any possible starting stop, whether the ride may be continued in the travelled direction, or whether a new ticket is required to continue. As soon as a passenger reaches a stop where the information with regard to trip continuation does not permit a continuation in the desired direction, the current ticket can be finished and deducted, whereupon a new ticket with the current stop is calculated as the new starting stop.

In this process, codes may be generated as a function of all imaginable price-relevant parameters, such as the travelled distance, date and time in order to distinguish between peak and off-peak times, type of transport means in order to enable different prices e. g. for busses, trains, and taxis, travelled zones, direction of travel, weather, punctuality of the transport means, just to mention a few.

The code sent out by the transmitter located in the transport means reasonably also contains one or several other information items, such as:

    • an identification of the operator in order to ensure that the value or money units are indeed valid for the operator,
    • an identification of the transport means in order to ensure that in case of a change of transport means, the meter readings can be distinguished and thereby a correct deduction of value or money units is ensured;
    • a group identification and/or price information in order to transmit for instance different fare information for children and adults and to thereby enable lower prices for children;
    • an inspection characteristic for ticket inspections, e. g. a check figure or a combination of symbols. This inspection characteristic can for instance be contained in the code only in case of a ticket inspection and then be shown on the display. This enables a simple visual inspection by the inspector. In a particularly secure embodiment of the method, the display of the inspection characteristic can be made contingent on the prior reception of at least one code without the inspection characteristic, which is identical except for the contained meter reading. This also makes it easy to identify passengers who deliberately suppress the reception of the codes, since in this case, the display will not show the inspection characteristic;
    • A time with or without date in order to rule out abuse by processing only such codes which contain a current time. In this manner, it is possible to prevent codes from being recorded and sent again. For a comparison of time, the processing unit can carry out a time measurement which is updated by the exact time contained in the code;
    • Instead of, or in addition to time, a serial number may be contained in the code, which also makes it possible to exclude already received codes with lower numbers from being processed; and
    • value units which can be loaded to a memory.

The method can be implemented in a particularly simple manner if the sending of codes occurs at fixed times, e. g. every 10 seconds. In this manner, the receivers can have a particularly energy-saving design, since they can be switched off in the mean time. For instance, a synchronisation signal with a summary of contents can be transmitted together with the code sent out by the transmitter. The synchronisation signal synchronises the user terminals with the transmitter with regard to time. The summary of contents contains time information about the times when the individual signals are emitted by the transmitter. Correspondingly, user terminals can switch on shortly before a signal is sent out in order to receive the same, and switch off immediately after reception of a signal. For this purpose, however, it is required that the physical data transmission has the possibility for synchronous transmission. Collision detection, as e. g. CSMA-CA (Carrier Sense Multiple Access with Collision Avoidance), which can cause a delay of signal emission, should be deactivated.

A special aspect of the invention relates to the sending of the data telegrams triggered by particular events.

According to the invention, the events occur at fixed intervals. This ensures that the user terminal regularly receives data telegrams.

According to one embodiment, the events occur after a distance travelled by the transport means. In this manner, the use of the transport means can be recorded with a pre-determinable local accuracy.

Furthermore, it is possible that the events occur when the transport means is in the area of a station. In this manner, the sending of data telegrams can be reduced to a minimum, since the stops define discrete sections constituting a smallest possible usable unit. If no further data telegram is received, it must be assumed that the user has left the transport means at the stop allocated to the data telegram received last. For a more accurate sectioning, it may be provided that one data telegram is sent when the transport means is approaching a station, and one data telegram is sent when it is leaving the station. This ensures that the user terminal of the user receives at least one data telegram at each station.

According to another embodiment, the events occur after a change of zone and/or “honeycomb”. Such a change can be of importance for the determination of the fare and thus for the validity of the ticket, which is why the emission of a data telegram suggests itself with this event.

The emission of such data telegrams triggered by a pre-determined event can for instance also occur at the next pre-determined time after occurrence of the pre-determined event. In this manner, the number of transmitted data telegrams can be linked to events, while at the same time, an energy-saving operation of the user terminal is ensured.

Of course it is possible that several of these events trigger the emission of a data telegram. Not only in this case, it would be suitable to record the type of triggering event in the data telegram.

In an advantageous embodiment of the present invention, data sets about distances travelled are generated in the user terminal from the received data telegrams and saved there. Thus, for deduction purposes or for analysing the usage behaviour, it can be determined when and where a user has entered or left a transport means. Based on these data, also trips interrupted by a change of transport means can be recognised as belonging together.

On principle, the fare information can also be deposited in the memory of the user terminal.

The method for automatic detection of the use of chargeable means of transport is based on the user terminal being switched on throughout the trip. In order to prevent the user terminal from being switched on only when a ticket inspection is carried out, the transmitter arranged in the transport means can emit a data telegram which puts the user terminal in a control mode. This mode is displayed by the user terminal and cannot be accepted if the user terminal has been switched on after the emission of the corresponding data telegram.

According to an advantageous embodiment of the present invention, the user terminal can be deliberately switched off by the user. In this manner, a customer may carry several user terminals at the same time, without a deduction occurring on all of them when they are switched off. This may be the case for instance when a father carries the user terminals of his children, although the children are not travelling with him.

Of course also other control mechanisms may be used which are initiated by the emission of a special data telegram, without abandoning the basic idea of this invention.

Imaginable receivers involve another practical problem: If the transport means does not send any information, the receiver cannot recognise this at first, since in this case, the receivers will recognise random information (white noise of the receiver). This property usually involves a high energy requirement of the receiver, since a classical carrier detection is not possible with these receivers, and the receivers must therefore remain continuously switched on. In order to further reduce the energy requirement in the user terminal, the emission of the codes may occur very redundantly.

If the codes are encoded according to a fixed pattern, e. g. each bit is repeated n times, the receiver can recognise within a fraction of a second whether the signal originates from the transmitter, or whether it is white noise, since if the white noise signal changes faster than according to elements equal to “n”, the receiver can be switched off at once and will only be switched on again after a fixed time (rest period). This method is particularly effective if the period for transmission of the code is longer than the rest period of the receiver.

For a particularly robust design of the method, it is possible to evaluate a received code as valid only if certain characteristics of the code (e. g. the current stop) have been received several times in the course of a longer section. This serves to prevent possible interferences by radio signals from oncoming transport means.

In a preferred embodiment of the method, the value or money units are only deducted if the change of the meter reading exceeds a certain threshold value. This ensures that no codes are received which originate from a passing transport means which the passenger is not using at all. In this case, he will receive one or several codes, but the contained meter readings have hardly changed due to the small short distance travelled by the transport means, and thus can be ignored.

The method is particularly tamper-resistant if the code is encrypted or signed with an asymmetric encryption method known from the state of the art, whereby the private key is used for encryption or for generating an electronic signature of the code, and the public key for deciphering the code. This ensures that the price-relevant codes are generated only by authorised devices. Corresponding security can also be obtained by using symmetrical encryption methods. In this case, the keys are deposited in the user terminal in an appropriately secure manner.

Furthermore, a particularly favourable embodiment of the method is imaginable for subscribers where, before any money or value units are deducted, it is verified whether the distance travelled is contained on a list stored in the user terminal and, if it can be recognised as contained in the subscription, it is not charged. In this manner, frequent travellers can pay for particular distances on a flat-rate basis, for instance monthly, and only occasional trips are deducted from the money or value units contained in the user terminal.

In total, the overall method according to the invention comprises a large number of detailed individual methods. As is obvious for the person skilled in the art, each one of these by itself is independently patentable. The basic method starts from the assumption that a transmitter belonging to a transport means emits signals in accordance with a pre-determined rule. A user terminal belonging to a user contains a receiver, a memory, a processing unit, and possibly a display. The user terminal is designed as small and robust as possible and can be carried along by any user. If a user is inside a transport means and thus within the range of the transmitter belonging to the transport means, the user terminal receives the data telegrams emitted by the transmitter of the transport means. Preferably, a value representing a money value or a point card or the like is stored in the memory of the user terminal. This value can be shown as a credit in the display. Depending on the respective method and the entire codes, the appropriate fare can now be deducted from the stored value. Thus, in the simplest theoretical case, the basic system could function so that the transport means emits a data telegram at each stop, and the user terminal deducts a value based on at least two data telegrams.

Moreover, special information can be deposited in the user terminal, as for instance special fare values for children, senior citizens, and the like, information about the transport area, information about distances to be travelled, or for example time information, like monthly season tickets and the like.

On principle, fare information and prices can be stored completely in the memory of the user terminal and taken into account or, in case that this comprises too much information, be transmitted in the code by the transmitter. If the fare information and prices are stored completely in the user terminal, it is sufficient for the transmitter located in the transport means to transmit for instance position data in order to determine the fare in the user terminal. Consequently, only little information needs to be transmitted to the user terminal. The disadvantage of this is that the fare information and prices can only be changed with relatively great effort. For a change of the passenger transit association, it is also required that the fare information and prices of different passenger transit associations are deposited in the user terminal.

Alternatively, the fare information can be stored in the user terminals, while the prices and position data are transmitted by the transmitters. In this manner, at least a change of prices can be accomplished relatively easily.

According to another alternative, an operating system is stored on each user terminal, while the fare information, the prices and position data are emitted by the transmitters, and then interpreted by the user terminals for the purpose of determining the fare, thereby making the determination of the fare very flexible.

Of course other information beyond the position data can be transmitted, as for instance the company ID, date, time, etc.

The fare information can contain for instance details about the tickets required for one trip, extra charges required for a trip, various authorisations, rules for mutual validity between tickets (short trip, single ride, long distance, etc.), trip continuation rules, or the like. The fare information can also define pre-determined tickets, as for instance monthly season tickets, including the local and temporal validity criteria, in order to enable the user terminals for instance to verify the validity of the ticket solely on the basis of position data emitted by the transmitters.

In order to be flexible in the simplest manner, the user terminal can have an additional interface, for instance an infrared interface, and retrieve special information or modes. So for instance, a simple transmitter field can be used in the transport means in order to activate a multi-person mode in the user terminal, for instance double, triple, or multiple deductions or the like. For this purpose, it is sufficient to hold it against a correspondingly marked transmitter display in order to obtain the information via infrared.

The fare information can be edited by the transmitter in such a way that the respective fare to be paid in relation to any starting station, starting zone, or the like is determined and transmitted for the current stop. The respective user terminal can then in a simple manner retrieve and deduct the valid fare.

For recharging the user terminal, it is advanced to so-called charging terminals. For instance, identification can occur via the infrared interface, but also via other interfaces, either in a non-contacting or contacting manner. A payment made in cash or by card can then also be transmitted as a credit to the user terminal via infrared, radio, USB, or the like. In this process, identification methods and encryption methods can be used.

The charging terminals are preferably connected online to charging servers, so that the charging terminals themselves do not provide any information which could be retrieved for instance by third parties. Alternatively, the charging terminals can carry out offline charging procedures and, in doing so, take an upper amount limit into account. In this mode of operation, the upper amount limit (limit) decreases with each reservation process and is only increased again if the charging process has been approved by a charging server.

Each of these individual characteristics mentioned is patentable by itself, independent of the others.

The user terminal becomes particularly flexible if, as explained, it is additionally equipped with an infrared receiver. Via this receiver, special codes can be transmitted to the user terminal in a very simple manner in order to change settings in the memory. For instance, it is possible to provide several fields in the transport means with one simple infrared transmission unit each which marks how many persons the passenger is travelling with. An infrared transmitter continuously sends a “1”, a second infrared transmitter continuously sends a “2”, etc. By simply “pointing” at a person symbol, the passenger can now tell his user terminal that the following trip is to be deducted for the corresponding number of persons. Instead of an infrared receiver, also other simple receiving devices are imaginable, e. g. a contact, another radio interface, ultrasonic sensors, a photo sensor, and others.

For the use in taxis or other means of transport where the fare must be allocated very precisely to the individual operator, it may be provided that the data are read out from the user terminal immediately upon deduction, and the read-out information is transferred to an accounting system.

It may be provided that the data stored in the user terminal are collected in regular intervals and transmitted to a central computer unit. This can occur for instance when the user reaches a particular zone, for instance the entrance to a station, or when the user establishes a connection between his user terminal and a computer unit of the transport service provider for purposes of deduction.

In general, different ways of reading out the transaction data contained in the memories are possible: When recharging the user terminals with new value units, or via the Internet, or automatically on a regular basis during the ride at a data memory inside the vehicle.

The method is particularly efficient if the value units to be deducted can be reloaded by the passenger against payment of appropriate amounts. The method according to the invention provides that a background system detects the payment and then transfers new value units to the user terminal. The payment procedure of the passenger can occur in cash at a point of sale, or cashless via automats, a call centre, or the Internet. The value units generated for the user terminal can for instance be transferred to the user terminal by means of charging terminals. It is also imaginable to provide the codes emitted by the transport means with the value units intended for the user terminals. For this purpose, it is required that the value units are valid for one particular user terminal and are emitted in every transport means.

In an advantageous manner, the user terminal shows the current status, for instance the ticket or authorisation status. In this way, both the user and an inspector can determine simply by looking at the user terminal whether the ticket is valid and whether the user is authorised to use the transport means.

The user terminal is initialised with delivery to the user, for instance by loading ticket information. When the user enters a transport means with the user terminal switched on, the user terminal receives a first data telegram, from which a data set about the beginning of the trip is generated and stored. In addition to the date and time, this data set also contains the identification of the transport means, so that both the time and the transport service used can be identified unambiguously. During the trip, the user terminal receives further data telegrams until the user leaves the area covered by the transmitter located in the transport means, and no further data telegrams are received. Analogous to the process in the beginning of the trip, the user terminal generates a data set about the end of the trip containing the date, the time and the transport means identification. During the period of the trip, the user terminal shows whether the ticket stored in it is valid. As soon as the user terminal establishes communication contact with a computer unit of the transport service provider on the next occasion, the stored data are transmitted to this computer unit, for instance in order to carry out an analysis of the usage behaviour, control it, and improve the user's confidence in the system.

For security reasons, all data processed while the method according to the invention is carried out are preferably signed. So for example the passenger transit association, in a possible role as party responsible for the product, determines the fares and the possible types of tickets and signs these, so that they cannot be changed any more. Also the information emitted by the transmitters located inside the transport means is preferably signed at least partly in order to rule out manipulation of this information. The user terminals receiving this signed information verify the signature and also sign the receipt in order to secure a firm proof of the transport service rendered. Finally, also recharging processes when loading a user terminal with a credit are signed by the respective responsible party (e. g. by authorised charging terminals), whereby the loaded credit preferably becomes valid only by the signature.

Other advantages and features of the invention can be gathered from the following description on the basis of the figures. In these figures:

FIG. 1 shows a schematic diagram for explanation of the method,

FIG. 2 shows the representation of an exemplary embodiment of a user terminal, and

FIG. 3 shows a schematic diagram for explanation of the method for charging the user terminal.

In the figures, identical elements are identified by the same reference numerals.

According to FIG. 1, a bus 1 is shown, representative of public means of transport such as trains, taxis, and the like. A user with a user terminal 2 is located inside of the bus 1. The transmitters 3 emit data telegrams in dependence of the method used, i. e. as a function of time, distance, or other parameters. Details of a transmitter with IBIS periphery, transponder base station and corresponding interfaces are shown in the enlarged box. The data telegrams are received by the user terminal 2, and the data or information contained therein is processed.

According to FIG. 2, the user terminal 2 is formed of a one- or multipart housing, while a hole 4 is shown in the depicted exemplary embodiment. By means of this hole, the user terminal designated for instance as an electronic ticket can be carried on a bunch of keys or a comparable retaining element. A display 5 is arranged in the housing which can show information about amounts or other value information. In the area of the bottom line 6, additional information can be displayed, for instance if a trip for several persons is deducted via this ticket, station information, and the like. As described above, there is a processor, a memory, and essentially a receiver in the user terminal 2, whereby the widened section 7 on one end serves to accommodate components.

According to FIG. 3, for instance an infrared receiver 9 can be arranged in this area 7. Charging terminals 8 arranged in appropriate places serve to initially carry out an identification procedure with the user terminal 2. Subsequently, the user can insert financial means 10 such as cash, cheque cards, and the like. After a corresponding protocol or also by using different interfaces, terminal 8 can then transfer appropriate credit values to user terminal 2.

The described exemplary embodiments only serve a better understanding and are not restrictive.

LIST OF REFERENCE NUMERALS

  • 1 Bus
  • 2 User terminal
  • 3 Transmitter
  • 4 Hole
  • 5 Display
  • 6 Display area
  • 7 Widened section
  • 8 Charging terminal
  • 9 IR interface
  • 10 Financial means