Information dissemination concerns the processes of conveying information via ITS applications from the operator to other partners – such as the regulator / agency – and to passengers. Correct and timely dissemination of information is essential for exploiting sales opportunities, for maximising operational efficiency and for minimising the effects of disruption (and their associated cost).
The more that passengers become aware of the application and potential of ITS public passenger transport information, the higher their expectation of the operator. This results in more the damage to the public image of the operator or the agency when things go wrong if relevant and timely information is not provided. (see Traveller Services)
Information dissemination systems within the vehicle can provide travel information to bus stops and passenger terminals and to the internet and wireless devices.
The technical robustness of communications infrastructure and technology are very important - particularly in relation to the demands of a moving vehicle and the limitations imposed by changing reception and transmission capabilities. Just as important, though sometimes neglected during project planning, are the robustness of the systems, protocols and processes for conveying information - both within departments of the same organisation and between departments and different organisations.
The quality of the raw information is key - and in a multi-operator or multi-agency environment, the challenge is integrating data from different sources. Information to passengers will often be integrated in a multimodal environment - with bus service information being shown alongside that for rail, metro and ferry services and private modes. This creates additional challenges in relation to the processing and display of information.
Information dissemination is often seen as an activity that is ‘nice to have’ but not essential to the business of operating public passenger transport – and can be seen as a saving when reacting to cost pressures. However, the counter argument is that they are critical to the maintenance and growth of revenue from passengers - and effort should be focused instead on making processes and technology more efficient, particularly in the area of automation.
Standards organisations such as ISO and CEN are critical to the process of information dissemination as they determine the operating environment. National community interest groups in public passenger transport information technology are also key as they are listened to by governments, provide a forum whereby manufacturers and users (purchasers of systems) can come together, promote solutions and disseminate best-practice. In the UK relevant bodies are Intelligent Transport Systems UK (ITS UK) and Real Time Information Group (RTIG).
There may also be national travel information delivery bodies that are critical to the process - such as the National Transport Authority in Ireland, Traveline in the UK, and Samtrafiken in Sweden. Vehicle manufacturers also have a central role since they determine the operating environment within which ITS applications can function and this is particularly relevant for communication standards.
Information disseminated through smartphone and tablet apps depend on the release of APIs (application programme interfaces) – and the facilitating role of organisations responsible for releasing these is more and more important as smartphones and tablets increase their market share. These may be national travel information bodies or regional bodies such as Data GM in Greater Manchester in the UK and Transport for London. By releasing a wide range of data - these bodies offer developers opportunities to creatively integrate public passenger transport data with other data to produce information of real value to travellers.
The controllers of the smartphone and tablet operating platform application stores (such as. Apple and Google) are also important players as they provide application developers and providers with access to the marketplace.
The Road Network Operator has the job of maintaining safety on the road network and the safety of drivers and other road users. In providing communications to roadside equipment, a concern will be potential interference from communications with other road ITS applications. The road operator will also need to ensure that digital signage for passenger transport information does not conflict or interfere with the requirements of other road users. To do this it will: