MapMechanics lends support as LT adds dynamic scheduling, real-time response
Suppose you're taking bookings for a community bus service, for a staff transport operation or for a vehicle hire business. Which vehicle should you allocate to ensure you get each job done quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively, and also meet all your public service or contractual commitments? What happens if subsequent bookings completely upset your schedule?
Tackling the maze of variables involved in this kind of operation is the speciality of Logical Transport Ltd (LT), a software house that has built up a leading position in the complex world of dynamic planning for demand-led transport.
The company's latest range of solutions, based on its LT Enterprise suite, draws heavily on GeoConcept, the digital mapping and geographic information system from Kingswood MapMechanics. Already some versions of the software can take account of online Web bookings (Vodafone uses this feature on a staff transport service in Oxfordshire).
In the latest development now being rolled out to early adopters such as Suffolk County Council, the system can also deliver journey details to drivers via mobile data terminals, along with satellite navigation details to guide them to pickup points. The company has also been developing systems allowing drivers to send messages back to base, reporting arrival at pickup points or other status details.
GeoConcept is now fundamental to LT Enterprise. When travel requests come in, the pickup address is first processed by QuickAddress, which works out the correct map location; then GeoConcept works out the quickest or shortest route for the journey, along with the expected travel time.
The system can then display the routes on screen, either as a map using GeoConcept components, or in the form of GANTT charts. The call centre operator can click on each journey and "drill down" to see precise details of it, and inform the caller of the arrangements. The user always retains the freedom to override the recommended plan (for instance, to deal with unforeseen circumstances.
The combination of LT Enterprise and GeoConcept's routing capabilities is particularly sophisticated in handling incremental scheduling - where new journey requests come in over a period of time. The system finds the most appropriate vehicle to take new calls without departing from agreed service-level parameters, then dynamically "shuffles" the whole schedule to fit in the extra trip.
A current high-profile user in the local authority sector is Transport for London, whose CapitalCall service uses private hire operators to transport people who cannot use normal public transport, and is managed on its behalf by Hackney Community Transport. In this system, GeoConcept uses Ordnance Survey mapping to calculate the shortest distance for each journey and the expected travel time, which can be calculated on the spot and reported to the customer in real time.
"GeoConcept has proved ideal for integrating with our system," says Logical Transport director Alan Willson. "Its open nature makes it very easy to make it do what we want it to, and to customise it to our particular requirements. It's powerful and capable, and the Kingswood MapMechanics people have provided invaluable backup support from the first."
Logical Transport uses GeoConcept's optional Delphi developer.s kit and Com kit to produce bespoke mapping features and integrate GeoConcept fully with its core systems.
Already the system can be programmed to take account of different running speeds at different times of day, and to distinguish between different types of environment (motorway running and urban journeys, for example). And it can route journeys around areas such as London's congestion charging zone. GeoConcept has inbuilt capability to use variable selection criteria when doing journey optimisation.
A recent development of the system, says Alan Willson, enables it to schedule journeys dynamically in real time, so that new pickup requests can be fed into the plan as they are received, and new details can be sent to drivers immediately via public GPRS data networks.
A particular strength of the Logical Transport proposition is the company's use of what are termed "Roles and Resources" . detailed setup parameters that describe features such as the type and capacity of vehicles, the accommodation plan (how many seats, wheelchair spaces and so on), the skill level of drivers, access height of vehicles, and other aspects of legal conformance.
Not only does LT Enterprise take care of all the journey planning; it can also handle driver communication, invoicing and general administration. And it can allocate journeys to external contractors as well as vehicles operated in-house, providing their details have been programmed into the system. The aim, says the company, is to offer a complete management package for Integrated transport control centres.
While the company has established its reputation in the field of passenger transport, Alan Willson says LT Enterprise could be highly effective in parallel fields such as custodial transport, road freight and even field service management. "The great virtue of the system is that it's flexible, and could easily be adapted to suit specific requirements."
About Kingswood MapMechanics
Kingswood MapMechanics uses digital map-based technologies to offer an extensive range of Web, desktop, paper and component solutions for a variety of business applications, from atlas production to business analysis, site selection, customer profiling and vehicle routing and scheduling.
Kingswood MapMechanics supplies and supports MicroAnalytics. TruckStops in Britain. TruckStops is the world's most widely-deployed routing and scheduling solution, and is in use in North and South America, Britain, continental Europe and elsewhere.
Kingswood MapMechanics is also the UK distributor of the GeoConcept geographic information system, which is widely used in a diverse range of fields including retail planning, marketing, healthcare, environmental planning and management, policing, broadcasting, asset tracking, transport and logistics, as well as in central and local government.
Kingswood MapMechanics distributes a wide range of data products including AA, NAVTEQ and Ordnance Survey digital mapping, as well as leading business and demographic datasets from many sources throughout the world. This data is listed in the MapMechanics Data Catalogue, which is probably the most extensive and up-to-date printed listing of its kind in Britain. It is published twice yearly, and is also available on the Internet.
Backing up its extensive product range, Kingswood MapMechanics offers a comprehensive service of implementation support and training.
For further information please contact: