In the consumer electronics world, the interconnection of devices is known as the Internet of Things.  In public transportation applications, this trend of interconnection is also known as the Smart City.  Within the Smart City, vehicles are connected to the city’s infrastructure.  This enables new capabilities, everything from updating bus schedules on the fly to enabling traffic lights to recognize approaching emergency vehicles.


The Smart City is leading to the evolution of public transportation vehicles around the world, including busses, metro trains, and even taxis.  A key component of this evolution is digital signage.  Digital signage serves as the interface between the Smart City and people to enable greater safety, more convenience, and access to data to ease the burden of travel.  For example, digital signage can provide information that can makes traveler’s lives easier, such as by posting weather reports and revised schedules.  Riders can also be advised of issues that affect their safety.  And then there is the growing infotainment market which can help passengers utilize their commute time better by providing information and entertainment they find valuable.

Implementing digital signage in a moving vehicle presents a very different set of challenges compared to signage that is permanently installed in an office or outdoors:


Temperature: The same vehicle may be deployed in different countries where the temperature can range from very cold to hot.  Thus, the same hardware must be able to operate reliably under either temperature extreme.  Achieving this level of robustness used to require substantial engineering resources.  With the latest processor technologies from Intel®, achieving extended temperature operation is greatly simplified and improves overall system reliability.


Power: The power provided from a vehicle’s battery is neither stable nor clean.  The platform needs to be able to handle everything from when the voltage spikes as the vehicle is started to the noise coupled to the supply from all of the other subsystems drawing power in the vehicle.


Communications: A communications link is essential if signage is to display real-time information such as changes in schedules or the latest news.  Since vehicles can’t tap into a wired infrastructure like fixed installations can, reliable wireless connectivity is crucial.  The ideal wireless link varies based on the region and public transportation authority.  Both 3G and 4G LT are mainstream technologies, with LTE gaining traction.  A configurable platform provides the most flexibility through communication modules that allow OEMs to easily change out the radio to match the wireless technology required.  The Intel® Atom™ processor and Intel® Core™ i5 and i7 processors simplify implementing a wireless infrastructure, making it practical to interchange different communications modules.  In addition, Wi-Fi access can be extended to travelers to provide addition value.


Ambient Light: There can be a wide range of ambient light conditions in a vehicle, both fast changing (such as when the vehicle turns directly into the sun) and slow changing (such as the shift from day to night).  A display that provides excellent viewing under all of these conditions, as well as from different angles, is critical for signage to be convenient for passengers to use.


Vibration and Shock: Digital signage equipment must be designed to withstand both vibrations caused by constant vehicle motion and occasional shock such as during an abrupt stop.


Holding the attention of passengers is another key challenge in public transportation.  With an office or outdoor sign, the challenge is to grab a person’s attention as they are passing by to view a message, such as an advertisement.  In a vehicle, the audience is captive, not just for the next 20 minutes but day after day.  However, this actually makes it harder to hold their attention.  If content is uninteresting, presented with substandard graphics, or repeats too often, passengers will quickly learn to ignore signage.  This not only reduces the usefulness of providing signage to passengers for their information and convenience, it can erode ad revenue.

One of the key tools in helping attract and hold the attention of travelers is content rendering.  The computing power of the Intel Atom processor, for example, is enough to manipulate sophisticated content that combines real-time 3D graphics and multimedia content.  For applications requiring more functionality, platforms can be based on the Intel Core i5 and i7 processors.  For example, the latest trend in digital signage is to get viewers involved through interactive applications.  The result is the ability to create an engaging experience for passengers with the right content and mood as they travel to their destination.

Another advanced feature that provides high value in public transportation is intelligent surveillance.  By connecting in-vehicle cameras to the computing system, numerous tasks can be automated, thus freeing the driver to concentrate on driving.  For example, the vehicle could count how many people are currently riding by tracking how many people get on and off through each of the vehicle’s doors.  Similarly, if an incident occurs, such as someone falling down, the system could identify the event and alert the driver.  Intelligent surveillance is an important technology in increasing both rider and driver safety.

To help OEMs overcome the challenge of designing their own digital signage system and get to market faster and more cost-effectively, Nexcom offers its VTC family of vehicle terminals and NDiS series of standalone digital signage systems suitable for in-vehicle use.  The VTC 1010, for example, provides the performance, reliability and scalability required to build a connected vehicle with real-time voice and data communication, vehicle tracking and navigation, remote diagnostics, mobile video surveillance, and in-vehicle infotainment. 

1010 image.jpg

Figure 1. The VTC 1010 in-vehicle computer (Source: Nexcom)

Based on the Intel Atom processor, the VTC 1010 offers significant improvements in computing performance as well as graphics and media capabilities with its integrated Intel Gen 7 Graphics. This enables the VTC 1010 to address different computing needs while providing stereoscopic 3D and full HD video playback capabilities to enhance the in-vehicle infotainment experience. Dual SIM sockets allow seamless switching between different carrier networks to minimize roaming cost, and four mini-PCIe slots can be configured with dual WWAN modules to double the bandwidth of the cellular connection while still allowing expansion for WLAN and PAN connections.


To adapt to the harsh power supply conditions within vehicles, the VTC 1010 features built-in power ignition on/off delay control and low voltage detection. To withstand the rigors of shock and vibration in transportation and provide reliable operation, the VTC 1010 is compliant to MIL-STD-810G and e13 certification.  Furthermore, the system-on-chip (SoC) architecture of the Intel Atom processor allows the VTC 1010 to achieve a fanless design with a wide operating temperature range of -30 to 70 degrees Celsius and a compact form factor for use in harsh vehicle environments.

To match the varying performance and range of capabilities required by different applications, Nexcom offers computing platforms based on the Intel Atom processor and Intel Core i5 and i7 processors.  Nexcom also offers a starter key to enable manufacturers to quickly begin exploring digital signage technology and how it can be integrated into their own vehicles.

Another feature of the VTC 7100 family is that it exploits the Intel architecture to enable full integration of digital signage with other vehicle tasks.  This enables OEMs to create all-in-one systems that combine message board and multimedia content management with a vehicle’s payment, navigation/positioning, and surveillance systems.  Other processors have difficulty handling this combination of capabilities.  With the Intel architecture, everything can be managed on a single platform.

It’s worth noting that many of the advances in public transportation can also be implemented in commercial transportation applications, such as dispatch and freight vehicles.  Because commercial vehicles don’t carry passengers, digital signage plays a completely different role that is often classified as navigation functionality.  In truth, similar architectures and hardware are used for commercial vehicles.  It may be worth looking at public transportation technology for commercial applications given the increasing convergence that arises as the Smart City becomes reality.



Learn More

Contact Featured Alliance Member:

Solutions in this blog:

Related topics:


Nexcom is an Associate member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance.


Nicholas Cravotta

Roving Reporter (Intel® Contractor), Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance