GB2502646A - Short-range communication device transmitting distance or availability information from a vehicle to a mobile device - Google Patents

Short-range communication device transmitting distance or availability information from a vehicle to a mobile device Download PDF

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Publication number
GB2502646A
GB2502646A GB1218063.4A GB201218063A GB2502646A GB 2502646 A GB2502646 A GB 2502646A GB 201218063 A GB201218063 A GB 201218063A GB 2502646 A GB2502646 A GB 2502646A
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United Kingdom
Prior art keywords
vehicle
wireless communication
distance information
information
availability status
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Granted
Application number
GB1218063.4A
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GB2502646B (en
GB201218063D0 (en
Inventor
Andrew Terrell
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COMMAND SOFTWARE SERVICES Ltd
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COMMAND SOFTWARE SERVICES Ltd
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Publication date
Priority to GBGB1209614.5A priority Critical patent/GB201209614D0/en
Application filed by COMMAND SOFTWARE SERVICES Ltd filed Critical COMMAND SOFTWARE SERVICES Ltd
Publication of GB201218063D0 publication Critical patent/GB201218063D0/en
Publication of GB2502646A publication Critical patent/GB2502646A/en
Application granted granted Critical
Publication of GB2502646B publication Critical patent/GB2502646B/en
Expired - Fee Related legal-status Critical Current
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Classifications

    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06QDATA PROCESSING SYSTEMS OR METHODS, SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES; SYSTEMS OR METHODS SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • G06Q10/00Administration; Management
    • G06Q10/06Resources, workflows, human or project management, e.g. organising, planning, scheduling or allocating time, human or machine resources; Enterprise planning; Organisational models
    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06QDATA PROCESSING SYSTEMS OR METHODS, SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES; SYSTEMS OR METHODS SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • G06Q50/00Systems or methods specially adapted for specific business sectors, e.g. utilities or tourism
    • G06Q50/30Transportation; Communications
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07BTICKET-ISSUING APPARATUS; FARE-REGISTERING APPARATUS; FRANKING APPARATUS
    • G07B13/00Taximeters
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07CTIME OR ATTENDANCE REGISTERS; REGISTERING OR INDICATING THE WORKING OF MACHINES; GENERATING RANDOM NUMBERS; VOTING OR LOTTERY APPARATUS; ARRANGEMENTS, SYSTEMS OR APPARATUS FOR CHECKING NOT PROVIDED FOR ELSEWHERE
    • G07C5/00Registering or indicating the working of vehicles
    • G07C5/008Registering or indicating the working of vehicles communicating information to a remotely located station
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07CTIME OR ATTENDANCE REGISTERS; REGISTERING OR INDICATING THE WORKING OF MACHINES; GENERATING RANDOM NUMBERS; VOTING OR LOTTERY APPARATUS; ARRANGEMENTS, SYSTEMS OR APPARATUS FOR CHECKING NOT PROVIDED FOR ELSEWHERE
    • G07C5/00Registering or indicating the working of vehicles
    • G07C5/08Registering or indicating performance data other than driving, working, idle, or waiting time, with or without registering driving, working, idle or waiting time
    • GPHYSICS
    • G08SIGNALLING
    • G08GTRAFFIC CONTROL SYSTEMS
    • G08G1/00Traffic control systems for road vehicles
    • G08G1/20Monitoring the location of vehicles belonging to a group, e.g. fleet of vehicles, countable or determined number of vehicles
    • GPHYSICS
    • G08SIGNALLING
    • G08GTRAFFIC CONTROL SYSTEMS
    • G08G1/00Traffic control systems for road vehicles
    • G08G1/20Monitoring the location of vehicles belonging to a group, e.g. fleet of vehicles, countable or determined number of vehicles
    • G08G1/202Dispatching vehicles on the basis of a location, e.g. taxi dispatching
    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06QDATA PROCESSING SYSTEMS OR METHODS, SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES; SYSTEMS OR METHODS SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • G06Q2240/00Transportation facility access, e.g. fares, tolls or parking

Abstract

In-vehicle communication device 10 comprising: an input receiving distance information 320 or availability status information 140 relating to the vehicle; and a short-range (e.g. Bluetooth or Zigbee) wireless communication module 100 transmitting data relating to the received information to a portable wireless communication device 130. The distance information may be received from a vehicle odometer (110, Fig.2-3), e.g. via taxi-meter 140, and may be in the form of a series of pulses each indicating a unit of distance travelled. The availability status information may indicate whether the vehicle is performing a task (e.g. has a taxi-passenger on board) and may be received via a taxi-meter or from a signal 350 transmitted to a status indicator light 160. Alternatively a mobile communications device may receive distance or availability status information from a communication device in a vehicle and use it to manage task allocation.

Description

Vehicle On Board Communication Device

Technical Field

The present invention relates to apparatus for use within the field of vehicle dispatch systems. Such apparatus includes a communication device intended to reside in the vehicle and a system including such a device. The invention also relates to a method of operating a mobile communications device

for use in this field.

Background of the Invention

Dispatch vehicles are vehicles that are dispatched for transport purposes. Dispatch vehicles may be used for the transport of passengers, for example for private hire or taxi uses. Dispatch vehicles may also be used for courier applications, for example for the pickup, transport and/or delivery of articles or parcels. Dispatch vehicles commonly require communication devices within the vehicle for use by the driver. The apparatus enables the user to obtain tasks or jobs through a centralised job allocation system. The dispatch apparatus may be configured to wirelessly communicate with an office or base location to form a network that operates as the job allocation system. The office location acts, amongst other operations, to distribute and allocate jobs to the vehicles within the network.

In some vehicle dispatch systems such as taxi dispatch systems, a wireless communication device may operate in addition to the operation of a meter, such as a taxi meter. One such meter is a device that is placed within the vehicle and calculates the cost of a particularjob by determining the distance travelled and the stationary time of the vehicle. In order to obtain this information) the meter is connected to the odometer of the vehicle. In order for a device to operate as a taxi meter, the device must conform to a number of standards that define the technical requirements of taxi meters. In the United Kingdom, taxi meters must conform to the Measuring Instruments Directive (MID) 2004/22/EC and Annex Ml-007. Taxi meters must also conform to British Standard BS EN 50148:1996. The procedure for obtaining certification or conformity to these standards can be costly and time consuming, as some standards may require the payment of a periodic fee and some standards require rigorous testing in order to meet the technical requirements.

Problems are also associated with the portability and interoperability of dispatch apparatuses for use within the vehicle dispatch systems.

Sum ma ry According to a first aspect of the invention, there is provided a communication device for use in a vehicle comprising: at least one input configured to receive at least one of distance information and availability status information relating to the vehicle; and a short-range wireless communication module configured to transmit data to a portable wireless communication device; wherein the data comprises information relating to at least one of distance information and availability status information received via said at least one input.

By configuring a communication device to transmit data in this way, the portable wireless communication device, which may for example be a personal mobile device, may be used for the exchange of information with the office or base location, referred to in the following as a central hub.

According to a second aspect of the invention, there is provided a communication system for a vehicle. The communication system may comprise a device as described above used as an in-vehicle device and a portable wireless communication device. The portable wireless communication device may be configured to transmit the information from the in-vehicle device using a long-range wireless communication link.

By configuring the in-vehicle communication device configured to transmit information over a short-range wireless communication to a portable wireless communication device it is possible to easily replace the portable wireless communication device. This might be done for example when one driver takes over a vehicle from another.

According to a third aspect of the invention, there is provided a method of operating a mobile communications device comprising: receiving at least one of vehicle availability status information and distance information from a communication device within the vehicle; using at least one of vehicle availability status information and distance information received from the communication device to manage the allocation of tasks to the vehicle.

The device may additionally receive information relating to prospective tasks for the vehicle, for example from the hub. The device may operate to receive user input relating to acceptance of a task. The transmission of task acceptance information may be prevented if the availability status of the vehicle indicates that the vehicle is not available.

Thus, by providing at least one of vehicle availability status information and distance information from a communication device within the vehicle, it is possible to reduce the risk of inaccurate or unfair allocation of tasks to the vehicle.

Brief Description of the Drawings

The invention is diagrammatically illustrated by way of example, in the accompanying drawings in which: Figure 1 shows a schematic layout of a first example of a vehicle communication system; Figure 2 shows a schematic layout of a second example of a vehicle communication system; Figure 3 shows a schematic layout of a third example of a vehicle communication system; Figure 4 shows a schematic layout of a fourth example of a vehicle communication system; Figure 5 shows a schematic layout of a fifth example ofa vehicle communication system; Figure 6 shows a schematic layout of a sixth example ofa vehicle communication system; Figure 7 shows a schematic layout of a seventh example of a vehicle communication system; Figure 8 shows a schematic layout of an eighth example of a vehicle communication system; Figure 9 shows a schematic layout of a ninth example of a vehicle communication system; Figure 10 shows a schematic layout of an exemplary in-vehicle communication device; Figure 11 shows an exemplary data packet structure of an availability status data packet; Figure 12 shows an exemplary data packet structure of a distance information data packet; Figure 13 shows an exemplary data packet structure of a combined information data packet.

Detailed Description of the Drawings

System Elements 4 number of communication system examples will now be described with reference to figures ito 9.

Figure 1 shows a first arrangement ofa communications system for a vehicle. This particular system is designed for use in taxi communications. However it will be appreciated that it may be used in other vehicle communications. Thus for example, passengers may be replaced by parcels or other loads to be delivered for example. The parts of the system within the dotted lines iO are those which will be located in the vehicle, in use. The system includes a communication device 100 which is powered by the car battery 150. It receives signals from a corventional meter 140, such as a taxi meter, and communicates over a short range wireless network 300 with a portable wireless communications device 130. For the purpose of clarity the device 100 is referred to below as the "on board wireless" device. The portable wireless communications device 130 communicates over a long range wireless network 310 with central or office communications hub 200.4 complete vehicle dispatch communications system will include multiple portable wireless communications devices, each in communication with a vehicle meter and each communicating with the hub 200.

The on board wireless device 100 is an electronic communication device configured to receive data relating to the operating state of the vehicle and to communicate wirelessly with a remote device such as the mobile communications device 130. In some embodiments, the on board wireless device 100 may be configured to receive data relating to the distance travelled 320 by the vehicle 10 in which it is located. In some embodiments, the on board wireless device 100 may be configured to receive data relating to passenger or other availability status of the vehicle to be described below.

In other embodiments the device 100 may be configured to receive both distance and status information.

The passenger status of the vehicle refers to the availability status of the dispatch vehicle. In courier applications, the availability status may refer to whether the courier vehicle is on a job, e.g. has a load to be delivered. In taxi and other passenger hire applications, the availability, or passenger status, may also be indicative of whether the vehicle currently is on a job, i.e. has a passenger on board. It will be appreciated that the term availability status is interchangeable with the term passenger status and the usage of the term will depend upon the usage of the vehicle. For example, a taxi may be available if it does not have a passenger presently on board. In the preferred embodiments described, the availability status is used to indicate the passenger status of the vehicle. The passenger status may indicate whether a passenger is on board (P0B). However, the present principles are not restricted to passenger status, but more generally to the availability of a vehicle to accept a new task.

In some embodiments, the passenger status information may be obtained from a meter 140, where one is present. The meter 140 may be manually operated and a signal may be sent from the meter to the device 100 in response to this operation.

Figure 1 shows a schematic arrangement of a first communications system in which the device 100 is arranged to receive information from a vehicle meter 140, such as a taxi meter. Thus the system of figure 1 comprises the meter 140, a wireless communication device 130 and an on board wireless device 100. As noted above and as shown in figure 1, the on board wireless device 100, the meter

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and the wireless communication device 130 are equipment 10 located within the vehicle. The central communications hub 200 is physically located outside of the vehicle.

The on board wireless device 100 is configured to electrically connect to an electrical power source.

In the embodiment of figure 1,the on board wireless device 100 connects directly to a vehicle battery 150 so as to be electrically powered. In this arrangement, the electrical cable is run through the vehicle to the battery 150 and is sufficiently rated for the drawn electrical current.

In the system shown in figure 1,the on board wireless device 100 is configured to receive data from the meter 140 that is indicative of the distance travelled. In the arrangement of figure 1,the signal transmitted from the meter 140 to the on board wireless device 100 is in the form of a series of electrical pulses, such as binary pulses. The pulses may be originally obtained bythe meter 140 from the vehicle odometer (not shown in figure 1) and are representative of the rotations of a wheel axle of the vehicle, and thus the distance travelled.

The voltage thresholds that define the binary states of the electrical pulses may vary. In some embodiments, the voltage range of the distance information signal may be 3 to 12 V, 0 to SV or may beOto 12V.

Advantageously, in the embodiment of figure 1, by configuring the on board wireless device 100 to receive the electrical pulses at different voltage ranges it is possible to operate the on board wireless device 100 with different meters 140 which each operate at different voltage thresholds without any hardware reconfiguration.

The number of pulses generated for a given distance may differ between vehicles. In some vehicles, the pulse rate may be as low as 2000 pulses per mile. In other vehicles, the number of pulses per mile may be higher, such as 35,000 pulses per mile or more. As such, the arrangement will require calibration, which is described in more detail later. The pulse information data may be obtained from the front axle or the rear axle of the dispatch vehicle.

The on board wireless device 100 may be configured to generate a data packet which comprises the distance information and is configured to transmit the data packet comprising distance information to the wireless communication device 130 over the short-range wireless communication network 300. The wireless communication device 130 is configured to transmit the data packet comprising distance information generated by the on board wireless device 100 to the hub 200 using a long-range wireless network 310.

The central hub 200 comprises equipment that operates, amongst other tasks, as a job allocation and distribution system for a plurality of vehicles. Thus there may be provided at hub 200 a queuing system for determining which vehicle is allocated a particular job or task.

In the arrangement of figure 1,the on board wireless device 100 may be a device configured to enable short range wireless communication with the wireless communication device 130 using a short-range wireless communication network 300.

The wireless communication device 130, or portable wireless communication device, may be a standard off-the-shelf device, such as a commercially available mobile communications devices and personal digital assistants (PDAs). Examples of suitable devices include smart phones and tablet computing devices such as the iPad TM In the preferred system the wireless communication device is a portable hand-held device. The wireless communication device 130 may be configured to perform operations beyond those defined for the purposes of the invention, for example having the capability to make telephone calls, send SMS or MMS, and/or provide internet access through a GPRS connection. The wireless communication device 130 may run a commercially available operating system such as GoogleTM Android", iOSTM or a WindowslM CE-based operating system.

The advantage of employing such a commercially available "off-the-shelf" device is that it is not necessary to perform any complex hardware configuration or modification upon installation of the device. The wireless communication device 130 may be configured to store the instructions of a software program that is configured to perform the functionality required to communicate with the on board wireless device 100 when executed, as described later. The software program may be configured to operate the wireless communication device 130 to receive data from the on board wireless device 100 using the short-range wireless communication network 300. In addition, the software program may be configured to perform other tasks when executed, including processing of the data received from the on board wireless device 100 and transmission of the data to the office or central hub 200 using the long-range wireless communication network 310.

Furthermore, it is possible for the user to use a variety of different devices, provided that they are able to run a common operating system that is capable of executing the bespoke software application which performs the functionality necessary for the present invention. In this way, bespoke hardware is not necessary to perform the operation of the wireless communication device 130.

The wireless communication device 130 is configured to operate two or more different wireless protocols, for different purposes. As described above, the wireless communication device 130 is configured to communicate with the on board wireless device 100 using a short-range wireless communication protocol. The wireless communication device 130 is also configured to communicate using a different protocol with a central hub 200 that is not located on the vehicle, but is instead located at a centralised office location.

In some embodiments the short-range wireless communication network 300 may be a Personal Area Network (PAN) which may, for example, use standards such as BluetoothTM Zigbee'M or IrDA. The short-range wireless communication network may also operate using Wi-H. It is necessary for the range of the short-range wireless communication network 300 to be sufficient to ensure communication between devices located within the dispatch vehicle. In some embodiments, the range of the short-range wireless communication network 300 may be, for example, 10 meters or less, preferably 20 meters or less, more preferably 50 meters or less and even more preferably at meters or less. The exemplary protocols described above maytypically provide such ranges.

Advantageously, by providing a short-range wireless communication network 300 which has a range larger than the size of the cabin of the dispatch vehicle, it is possible to maintain a connection whilst the driver (user) leaves the vehicle and takes the wireless communication device 130 outside of the vehicle. Provided that the wireless communication device 130 stays within the range of the short-range wireless communication network 300, the device 130 will operate in the same way as if it were located directly in the vehicle.

It is preferable that the short-range wireless communication network 300 is a common, or industry standard, protocol or communication mechanism. This is particularly true for arrangements where the wireless communication device 130 is a standard off-the-shelf device which may already be configured to communicate using these standards.

This is particularly desirable in arrangements where the driver may use a number of different dispatch vehicles. It may therefore be possible to establish a communication link between the on

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board wireless device 100 and the wireless communication device 130 without any complex physical integration of the wireless communication device 130 into the specific vehicle. It is then also not necessary for the user to purchase an additional or bespoke device that is specifically designed for the operation of communication with the on board wireless device 100 The long-range wireless communication network 310 may provide a network connection over a larger distance than the short-range wireless communication network 300. For example, this may be regional, national or even global communication. The long-range wireless communication network may be considered a Wide Area Network (WAN). In some embodiments, the transfer of data may be provided using cellular communication protocols, such as GPRS. Alternatively, the long-range communication network 310 may use other long-range wireless communication standards such as Wi-Fi or WiMAX. Other long-range wireless communication mechanisms are well known to the person skilled in the art.

In embodiments where the wireless communication device 130 is a commercially available device, such as a PDA or a smartphone, it is preferable to use industry standard communication mechanisms, such as cellular networks, for the long-range wireless communication network 310 for the same reasons outlined for the short-range wireless communication network 300.

Figure 2 shows a second system for use where the vehicle does not comprise a meter 140. The embodiment of figure 2 differs from the embodiment of figure 1 in that the on board wireless device is directly electrically connected to the vehicle odometer 110. The data is effectively the same as the distance information obtained from the meter 140, in that the distance information received by the on board wireless device 100 is in the form of electrical pulses, such as binary pulses, that are indicative of the number of rotations of the axle of the vehicle 10.

As with figure 1,in the arrangement of figure 2 the on board wireless device 100 may be configured to generate data packets that comprise distance information that are transmitted over the short-range wireless network 300 to the wireless communication device 130. The wireless communication device 130 of figure 2 is configured to transmit data over the long-range wireless communication network 310 to the central hub 200.

In this way, it is possible to send to the central hub 200 the distance information 320 from the vehicle without the vehicle having a meter 140 installed. This allows the wireless communication device 130 to perform calculations of distance travelled. In addition this allows the wireless communication device 130 to perform approximate fare cost calculations, such as to act as a fare calculator. Alternativelyfare calculations can be performed at the central hub 200.

A third arrangement is shown in figure 3. In this arrangement, on-vehicle equipment 10 comprises an odometer interface unit 120 which is configured to effectively act as a hub for connections to the odometer 110. For example, a taxi meter may be connected to the odometer via the interface unit in addition to the device 100. Some vehicles are already provided with such an interface and this system is designed to take advantage of this. The on board wireless device 100 communicates with the odometer interface unit 120 to receive and process the distance information 320 in the same way as described for the first and second embodiments of figures land 2.

By providing the odometer interface unit 120 it is possible for multiple connections to be made to the odometer 110 such that the risk of degrading the data signal or impacting the operation of the odometer 110 is reduced.

In the embodiments of figures 2 and 3, the on board wireless device 100 is electrically powered by the battery 150 of the dispatch vehicle in the same way as described above for figure 1.

Therefore, depending on the arrangement of the system, the on board wireless device 100 may obtain the distance information 320 either directly from the odometer 110, through an odometer interface unit 120, or from the meter 140. The arrangement used to obtain the distance information 320 will depend upon the dispatch vehicle into which the on board wireless device 100 is to be installed. In addition, the particular use of the dispatch vehicle may determine which elements are installed into the vehicle. As described above, the distance information supplied to the device 100 may be the same whether it is derived from the meter 140, the odometer 110 or the interface 120.

Therefore the device 100 may be in the same configuration regardless of where the distance information is coming from. Alternativelythe device 100 may need to be configured, for example using suitable software, for the particular arrangement in which it is being used. Alternativelytbe device 100 may simply relay information to the communications device 130 and this device may be configured, for example using software, for the particular arrangement in which the device 100 is being used.

Figure 4 shows a fourth arrangement in which the on vehicle equipment 10 comprises the meter 140, the on board wireless device 100, the battery 150 and the wireless communication device 130.

In the embodiment of figure 4, the on board wireless device 100 is configured to receive distance data 320 from the meter 140, using the mechanism described above. In addition, the on board wireless device 100 is also configured to receive passenger or other availability status information 340 from the meter 140.

It will be appreciated that the on board wireless devices 100 of the first to third arrangements may be configured also to receive and process passenger status information 340. Thus one generic communication device 100 may be designed to be configurable to operate in all of the systems described herein. However, in the arrangements of figures ito 3, the on board wireless device 100 is not electrically connected to a source of passenger status information 340 and so does not receive the passenger status information 340.

In the embodiment of figure 4, the meter 140 provides passenger status information 340. This may be in the form of a binary electrical signal. The binary state of the electrical signal indicates whether the meter is operating, i.e. whether the dispatch vehicle is presently performing a task, e.g. has a passenger on board.

The voltage of the electrical signal that indicates the passenger status information 340 may differ depending upon the source of the information. For example, the voltage of the electrical signal may differ depending upon the manufacturer or configuration of the source, such as the meter 140. In some embodiments, the voltage of the passenger status information signal 340 may be approximately 12V.

The on board wireless device 100 may be configured to process the received passenger, or availability, status information 340 in order to generate a data packet comprising passenger, or availability, status information to be described further below. The data packet comprises the present passenger status information 340. The on board wireless device 100 is configured to transmit the data packet to the wireless communication device 130 over the short-range wireless communication network 300. In some arrangements, the data packet may be transmitted periodically. In some arrangements, the data packet comprising passenger status information may be transmitted to the wireless communication device 130 when the passenger status changes.

Therefore, in some arrangements the passenger status information may be conveyed from the on board wireless device 100 to the wireless communication device 130 in real time.

In some embodiments the passenger, or availability, status information 340 may be transmitted in a S passenger status data packet. In other embodiments, the on board wireless device 100 may be configured to process the received passenger status information 340 and the distance information and generate a combined data packet to be described in detail later. In contrast to generating separate packets comprising distance information and passenger status information, the device 100 may generate a single packet that comprises both sets of information.

The wireless communication device 130 is configured to transmit data relating to the passenger status to the central hub 200 when it is received from the on board wireless device 100. It will be appreciated that the person skilled in the art would select the rate of the data packets based upon the available data rates, and corresponding power consumption of the wireless networking protocols used for the short-range 300 and long-range 310 wireless communication networks.

Therefore, in the embodiment of figure 4, information relating to both the distance travelled with respect to time and also the passenger status of the dispatch vehicle may be transmitted automatically to the device 130 and from there to the central hub 200. In this way, the central hub 200 may take this information into account when task or job allocation is performed.

The arrangement offigure 5 differs from that of figure 4 in that the distance information 320 is obtained directly from the odometer 110 rather than from the meter 140. In this arrangement, the meter 140 is also configured to receive distance information from the vehicle odometer 110.

The remaining functionality of the arrangement of figure 5 is the same as the functionality of figure 4. In this way, data packets are generated in the on board wireless device 100 and transmitted over the short-range wireless communication network 310 to the wireless communication device 130 as described above.

The embodiment of figure 6 differs from the embodiment of figure Sin that the distance information received by the on board wireless device 100 is not received directly from the vehicle odometer 110. In the embodiment of figure 6, the distance information is obtained directly from the odometer interface unit 120. The odometer interface unit 120 is configured, as described previously, to act as a hub for the odometer information. In this way, it is possible to reliably connect multiple devices to the odometer 110.

The remaining functionality of the embodiment of figure 6 is the same as the functionality of figure 4. In this way, data packets are generated in the on board wireless device 100 and transmitted over the short-range wireless communication network 310 to the wireless communication device 130 as described above.

In the arrangements of figures 7 to 9, the vehicle equipment 10 further comprises a light 160 or other "vehicle in use" indicator, either visible or audible. Figures 7,8 and 9 correspond to figures 4,5 and 6 with the addition of the indicator. This indicator is usually arranged to be visible or audible externally, i.e. from the outside of the vehicle and may be referred to as an external indicator. In the following a light is discussed but this could be replaced by another kind of indicator and therefore illumination of a light could be replaced by actuation of some other kind of indicator. In use, a light 160 is illuminated to provide the passenger status information 340 or in other words indicate the passenger or other availability status. In some embodiments, the light 160 may be illuminated to indicate that the vehicle does not have a passenger present or a load for delivery. In these embodiments, the meter 140 may be configured to provide the electrical signal that illuminates the light 160. In other arrangements, an electrical switch may be mounted in the vehicle so as to control the electrical signal that illuminates the t light 160. This switch may be the source of passenger status information for the device 100.

It is known in some dispatch vehicle operating systems for the light 160 to be present but not to be used to indicate availability status. For example in some taxi and other dispatch vehicle operating systems the light 160 may be permanently illuminated when the ignition is on. If that is the case, the system operates as above, i.e. as if there is no light or other "available" indicator.

In some arrangements the source of the passenger or other availability status information 340 is typically but not necessarily obtained directly from the meter 140. In other arrangements, the passenger status information may be obtained from a manual switch located within the cabin of the vehicle, for example a switch used to switch on the light. In some arrangements, the light 160 may be powered separately from the meter 140. Nevertheless, in either of these arrangements, the meter 140 may be configured to generate passenger status information 340 regardless of whether the information is used to drive a light 160.

In the arrangement of figure 7, the on board wireless device 100 is configured to determine availability, or passenger, status information 340 from an electrical signal 350 provided bythe meter to illuminate the light 160. For example, the device 100 may intercept or monitor a signal that would usually be applied directly to the light 160 or other indicator and use this to generate another signal for the indicator. However in the illustrated arrangement the device 100 may simply "taps" a signal 350 bound for the indicator 160 to obtain the availability status information 340.

The arrangement offigure 7 comprises the on board wireless device 100, the meter 140, the battery 150 and the wireless communication device 130. As with previous embodiments, the battery 150 is configured to provide electrical power to the on board wireless device 100. In the embodiment of figure 7, the meter 140 is configured to transmit distance and passenger status information to the on board wireless device 100, as described previously. In the same way as described previously, the on board wireless device 100 is configured to process the passenger status information 340 and the distance information 320 into data packets which are transmitted to the wireless communication device 130.

It will be appreciated from the foregoing that the on board wireless device 100 may be configured to connect to various arrangements of devices to receive data relating to passenger status and/or distance travelled by the vehicle. There are many different arrangements of equipment within dispatch vehicles. The precise arrangement of equipment generally depends upon the restrictions laid down in the area of use of the vehicle and the intended use. It will be appreciated that the preferred on board wireless device 100 is configured to be able to receive both the distance and passenger status information although these may not always be used.

Also, due to the varying configurations of vehicles into which the on board wireless device 100 may be installed, the device may not receive both sets of information in every configuration. Despite being operable to receive both passenger status and distance information, the on board wireless device 100 may be physically connected to a source of one type of information. As such, where the device lOUis only physically connected to one source of information, the device 100 may only transmit the information that it receives. As such, in embodiments where the device 100 is configured to send a combined data packet type, the combined data packet may only comprise the information it receives. In embodiments, where the device 100 is configured to send separate distance information data packet types and passenger status information data packets, the device may only send the data packet type comprising the information it receives.

Some dispatch vehicles do not have a meter 140 that calculates the fare cost. Therefore, in this arrangement, it is not possible to retrieve the distance information 320 from the meter 140. It is, however, possible to retrieve the distance information 320 relating to the vehicle from other sources. For example, in some embodiments the on board wireless device 100 may be connected directly to the vehicle odometer 110 in order to obtain the distance information 320. In other embodiments, the on board wireless device 100 may be connected to an interface unit 120 in order to obtain the distance information 320.

On board wireless Device A schematic view of the on board wireless device 100 is shown in figure 10. The on board wireless device 100 comprises an electrical power conditioning module 102 which is configured to act as a voltage regulator so as to stabilise the power supply 330 from the battery to produce a suitably stable lower voltage electrical power supply 335. As shown in figure 10, the electrical power is used to power all or most of the electronic components within the on board wireless device 100. The conditioned voltage supply 335 may be at 3.3V, SV or 12V or may provide a number of different supply voltages in order to power the various electronic components in the device 100.

It is well known in the field that electrical power provided by the automotive battery 150 can produce large surges and spikes, in particular when the vehicle engine is started. To ensure correct and uninterrupted operation of the on board wireless device 100, the electrical power conditioning module 102 is configured to condition the power signal. In addition, the risk of damage to the sensitive electronic components due to voltage fluctuations is reduced by conditioning the power signal.

The on board wireless device 100 further comprises a microprocessor 101. The exact implementation of the microprocessor 101 is well within the capabilities of the person skilled in the art. For example, the microprocessor 101 may be implemented using firmware or on an FPGA using

a hardware description language.

The on board wireless device 100 is configured to receive distance information 320 in the form of an electrical signal, as described previously. The on board wireless device 100 comprises a pulse signal conditioning unit 103 which is configured to receive the pulsed signal that is representative of the distance information 320. The pulse signal conditioning unit 103 may be configured to condition the digital pulses, such as to applyfiltering, so as to ensure robustness of communication. In addition, the pulse signal conditioning unit 103 may be configured to adjust the voltage of the pulsed signal so as to aid communication with the microprocessor 101.

It is common for microprocessors to be restricted in the voltage thresholds that they detect in order to determine the logical level of the electrical signal. As discussed previously, the voltage of the electrical signal 320 that comprises the distance information must be different levels. In this way, the electrical signal 320 may have voltage levels of 3 to 12V, 0 to 5V or 0 to 12V. The pulse signal condition unit 103 may be configured to convert these voltages, to the desired voltages to be measured by the microprocessor 101. In some embodiments, the converted voltage levels may be from OVto 3.3V, 5V or 12V.

The microprocessor 101 measures the electrical signal 320 and processes the information to generate data packet. In some embodiments, the microprocessor 101 may be configured to generate a distance data packet 500 which comprises the distance information 320. In other embodiments, the microprocessor 101 may be configured to generate a combined data packet 600, which comprises the distance information 320. The generated data packet is transmitted through communications link 360 to the short-range wireless communication module 105. The communications link 360 maytake the form ofa digital serial communication protocol such as SPI, I2C or RS232. In some embodiments, the communications link 360 may be uni-directional, such that data is transmitted from the microprocessor 101 to the module 105. In some embodiments, the communications link 360 may be bi-directional so as to enable handshaking.

The wireless communication module 105 is connected to an antenna 107 from which the short-range wireless communication signal is transmitted to the wireless communication device 130 over the short-range wireless communication network 300. In some embodiments, the antenna 107 may be formed integrally with the wireless communication module 105. In some embodiments the antenna 107 may be external to the wireless communication module 105. In some embodiments the antenna 107 may be external to the on-board wireless device 100.

The on board wireless device 100 is configured to receive passenger information 340 which is indicative of whether a passenger is on-board the vehide. As described previously the passenger status information 340 is in the form of a binary electrical signal. This signal is intended for the light 160. As described previously, the electrical passenger status information may be a 12V signal and as such may require some conditioning before it the signal is input into the microprocessor 101. The passenger status information 340 is transmitted through passenger status conditioning module 104.

The passenger status conditioning module 104 may be configured to present a suitably smooth and voltage converted signal, such as by applying filtering to the signal to the microprocessor 101 so that the microprocessor 101 is capable of determining the passenger status.

The microprocessor 101 processes the passenger status information 340 to generate a data packet.

In some embodiments, the microprocessor 101 may be configured to generate a passenger status data packet 400which comprises the passenger status information 340. In some embodiments, the microprocessor 101 may instead include the passenger status information 340 into the combined data packet 600. In this way, the combined data packet 600 may comprise both or either of the passenger status information 340 and the distance information 320.

The data packet generated by the microprocessor lOlis transmitted across the communications link 360 to the short-range wireless communication module 105, as described previously for the data packet comprising distance information. The short-range wireless communication module 105 then transmits the data packet comprising the passenger status information 340 to the antenna 107 and transmits the packet across the short-range wireless communication network 300.

The microprocessor also generates a signal 370 to illuminate an LED 106 used for debugging purposes. This simply indicates whether the device has power.

Installation of the on board wireless device The on board wireless device 100 is intended to be semi-permanently installed within a vehicle. In this way, the on board wireless device 100 may be hard-wired into the electrics of the vehicle, as will be described below.

Prior to installation within a vehicle, the on board wireless device 100 is assembled and the microprocessor 110 is programmed with the firmware. The device is then ready for installation within the vehicle.

The on board wireless device 100 may be configured so that the casing of the device is a sealed unit.

As a result, the on board wireless device 100 may be installed anywhere within the vehicle. In some embodiments the on board wireless device 100 may be configured so as to be resistant to water ingress. For example, the casing of the on board wireless device 100 may have a sufficient Ingress Protection rating (eg. 1P65) so that it can be installed in areas of the vehicle that are exposed to the external environment, such as in the engine bay of the vehicle. In some embodiments, the device may be installed within the cabin of the vehicle, such as on the dashboard or behind the radio within the cabin. The device 100 may be installed in view or out of view of the driver and/or passenger(s). The positioning of the device 100 will also depend upon the physical footprint and size of the device 100 and the specific vehicle that the device 100 is to be installed into.

Having physically installed the on board wireless device 100 into the vehicle, it is then necessary to electrically connect the on board wireless device 100 to the various elements that are present within the vehicle.

As discussed previously, the vehicle equipment 10 may comprise one or more of the following elements: a meter 140, an odometer interface module 120 and a light 160. In addition, the vehicle equipment 10 will comprise an odometer 110. As such, the electrical connections that are made will depend upon the vehicle and which of the above elements are present in the vehicle. However, the electrical connections between these elements will be made as shown in figures ito 9as appropriate. It will be appreciated that the skilled person will be capable of establishing electrical connectivity between the relevant elements of the dispatch vehicle. In addition, the on board wireless device 100 will be connected to the vehicle battery 150 to provide electrical power.

In order to make the electrical connections between the on board wireless device 100 and the sources of the distance and/or passenger status information, the on board wireless device 100 may be configured with electrical connectors that are configured to mate with the elements. In some embodiments, the on board wireless device 100 may be assembled with external wires that are simplywired into suitable electrical connectors for the specific vehicles. It will be appreciated that different vehicles may have different electrical connectors. It is entirely within the capability of the skilled person to make the electrical connections between the on board wireless device 100 and the remaining elements of the vehicle.

Once the on board wireless device 100 has been installed, the device is powered by the car battery 150. Ideally, the on board wireless device 100 operates without any input or control from the user.

The on board wireless device 100 may be configured to establish the short-range wireless communication network 300 automatically when a suitable device, such as the wireless communication device 130 is discovered within range. It will be appreciated that many short-range wireless networking protocols have the capability to establish connections using an auto-discovery mechanism, as seen in the BluetoothTM standard. In other embodiments, the wireless communication device 130 may seek the on board wireless device 100 when the two elements are brought within a suitable range.

It is anticipated that the wireless communication device 130 may be associated with the user rather than the vehicle, whereas it is anticipated that the on board wireless device 100 may be associated with the vehicle rather than the user. Therefore, the on board wireless device 100 may be required to establish connections with different wireless communication devices 130, albeit at different times. It is not expected that multiple users, and thus multiple wireless communication devices 130, will require connection to the on board wireless device 100 at the same time. However, it may be that multiple wireless coniniunication devices 130 are in range of the on board wireless device 100 at the same time. The on board wireless device 100 may be configured to arbitrate which device to connect to, such as by MAC address or by the signal strength of the device.

When the wireless communication device 130 is brought into the vehicle by the user, the short-range wireless communication network 300 may then be established. Once the wireless communication device 130 is taken outside of the operating range of the short-range wireless communication network 300, the connection may be discarded ready for a new short-range network 300 to be established.

Thus, when changing drivers (users), it is only necessary to remove and replace the wireless communication device 130 from the vehicle. It may therefore be possible to replace the wireless communication device 130 without the need for the replacement of hardware) any change to the physical wiring of the vehicle or any manual input from the user.

Calibration As described previously, the distance information signal 320 may be in the form of a digital electrical signal formed of a series of pulses. The electrical pulses are indicative of the rotation of the wheel axles of the vehicle. As such, it is possible to establish the distance that the vehicle has travelled by counting the number of pulses. A fixed distance may be defined by a specific number of pulses.

However, the number of pulses that define a fixed distance, for example a mile, may differ between vehicle manufacturers, between vehicle models and even between produced vehicles of the same model. It is therefore necessary to calibrate, for each vehicle, how many pulses are generated by the vehicle, for example from the odometer 110, over a given distance. For ease of clarity, the calibration of the distance measurement may be done to provide a value of the number of pulses generated bythe vehicle as it travels a mile. However, the calibration is not restricted to this and be performed to any distance.

The calibration may be executed either in the wireless communication device 130 or in the office or central hub 200. In embodiments where the vehicle comprises a meter 140, it is likely that the number of pulses for a given distance will have already been determined so as to provide calibration to the meter 140. In these arrangements, it is then possible to simply provide this figure, e.g. 5,000 pulses per mile, so that it is possible to determine the distance that the vehicle has travelled by counting the number of pulses that have been generated by the vehicle. As discussed earlier, in some embodiments the on board wireless device 100 does not perform any calculation or determination of the distance that the vehicle travels. In these embodiments, the on board wireless device 100 counts the number of pulses that have been received and transmits this data to the wireless communication device 130. The exact structure of the data packet comprising distance information will be described in more detail later.

The wireless communication device 130 or the central hub 200 are configured to store the calibration value that indicates how many pulses are generated for a fixed distance, e.g. for a mile.

The calibration value may then be associated with a specific on board wireless device 100, as the on board wireless device 100 may be associated with a specific vehicle 10.

In such arrangements where the vehicle comprises a meter 140, the calibration of the on board wireless device 100 is dependent upon the calibration of the meter 140. In practice, the calibration of the taxi meter is controlled and regulated stringently particularly in the case of taxis and hire vehicles. Therefore, it is considered generally acceptable to use the determined value of pulses/mile obtained for the meter 140 for the on board wireless device 100.

In these arrangements, it is then only necessaryto re-calibrate the on board wireless device 100 when the meter 140 is re-calibrated. This may be if the value of pulses/mile is likely to change. Such circumstances may include when the wheel size of the vehicle is changed or where the gearbox or the axle from which the measurement is made is changed.

In other embodiments, the vehicle may not comprise a meter 140. It is then necessary to perform the calibration manually for the on board wireless device 100. In order to do this, the vehicle is driven for a known distance) such as a mile. The distance may be determined using the vehicle instrumentation.

The number of pulses generated by the vehicle, such as by the odometer 110, is counted either by the wireless communication device 130 or the central hub 200. The calculated calibration value is then determined which is indicative of the number of pulses generated by the vehicle over a fixed distance. For example, the value may have units of pulses/mile. The calculated calibration value is then stored either in the wireless communication device 130 or the central hub 200. It is then possible to determine the distance travelled based upon the number of pulses that have been generated over a period of time.

Having installed the on board wireless device 100 into the vehicle, it is not necessary to perform any further tasks to the device 100 in order to calibrate the device. The device should then remain calibrated until a change to the vehicle is made that would likely impact the number of pulses generated within a fixed distance. Such circumstances include a change in wheel size or wheel axle or gear box.

Operation In operation, the on board wireless device 100 generates data packets and transmits the data packets to the wireless communication device 130.

In some embodiments, the wireless communication device 130 may be used to interface with the central hub 200 so as to perform tasks such as job acceptance. In order to perform these tasks, the wireless communication device 130 may operate in a number of different operating states, which are affected or controlled by a combination of manual user input, communication from the central hub 200 and input from the on board wireless device 100.

In some embodiments, the vehicle has operating states which are represented in the wireless communication device 130. The vehicle operating states may include Passenger on Board (P0B), Clear, iob Accepted and Flag Down.

The PoB may indicate when there is passenger on board the vehicle. In prior art systems it would be necessary for the driver to manually operate the meter 140 so as to alterthe PoB status. In addition, it might be necessary to operate the wireless communication device so as to confirm the Pob status to the device. It would also be possible for the driver to incorrectly input this information so as to present the incorrect vehicle status to the central hub 200. As a result, the allocation of tasks may result in unfair or unbalanced distribution, such that vehicles that are currently available do not receive tasks whilst some vehicles that are currently PoB join the task allocation queue before they have completed the current task.

In the present arrangement, the on board wireless device 100 provides the passenger status information 340to the wireless communication device 130. Thus, the wireless communication device 130 may automatically update the PoB status information and notify the hub 200 without input from the user. This reduces the operation input required by the user and also increases the accuracy of the PoB status, so as to ensure fair and accurate operation of the job allocation operations performed by the central hub 200.

The wireless communication device 130 may also represent an operating state of Clear, meaning that a job has been completed. In known arrangements, the operating state requires input from the driver so that when a dispatch task has been completed, the driver must clear the meter 140 and also manually indicate clear on the wireless communication device 130. In a similar way to the PoB operating state, incorrect or mistimed clearing of the present task may result to unfair or inaccurate data within the vehicle dispatch system operation of the central hub 200. In contrast, in the present arrangement the passenger status information 340 is provided by the on board wireless device 100 to the wireless communication device 130. In this way, the wireless communication device 130 may automatically update the Clear status based upon the passenger status information 340 without the need for manual input.

The PoB and Clear operating states are configured so that the user may only be required to operate the meter 140 so that the wireless communication device 130 will automatically updated. Previous arrangements required the user to operate both the meter and the wireless communication device independently, which effectively duplicated user input of information.

In some arrangements, the vehicle equipment 10 may be configured so that the user may accept S tasks from the central hub 200 through the wireless communication device 130 and additionally accept "pick-up" tasks which the driver may obtain independently of the central hub 200 system.

For example, the vehicle may pick up a passenger who "flags down" the vehicle. In previous arrangements, the certral hub 200 system would not be aware that the driver had received such an ad-hoc task. The driver would be required to manually input into the wireless communication device 130 that they were performing a Flag Down job, so as to remove themselves from the job allocation queue, as indicated by the operating state Flag Down. Such a status requires that the driver remembers to input this status into the wireless communication device 130, which is independent of the operation of the meter 140.

It would also be possible in known systems for the driver to join the queue for an allocated job through the wireless communication device 130 at the same time as performing a wFlag Down" job.

In this way, the job allocation system at the central hub 200 would be unaware of the Flag Down status of the vehicle and as such it would be possible for the system to be unfair or inaccurate due to input error.

In the present arrangement, as for PoB and Clear, the wireless communication device 130 receives the passenger status information 340 from the on board wireless device. Thus, the wireless communication device 130 is able to accurately update the operating state of the device and communicate that operating state to the central hub 200. In this way, the central hub 200 has accurate information relating to the passenger status of the vehicle 10.

In addition, in some arrangements the wireless comrrunication device 130 may be configured to present jobs to a user through a user interface and notify a Job Accepted operating state to the hub 200. In previous arrangements, it was possible for the user to accept a new job whilst the meter 140 was running on a previous job as the wireless communication device 130 would be unaware of the vehicle status.

In the present arrangement, the wireless communication device 130 may receive the passenger status information 340 and use this information to prevent the user from accepting a new job or task whilst the passenger status information 340 indicates that there is a passenger in the vehicle or that the vehicle is current performing a task. This ensures that the vehicle is not "double-booked' to perform two tasks. Alternatively this functionality may be provided by the central hub on receiving status information from the device 130.

As discussed previously, the data packet comprising distance information is received by the wireless communication device 130. By receiving the distance information the wireless communication device 130 or the central hub 200 may assess the distance that has been travelled. This is particularly useful for auditing or assessing whether the vehicle has taken a route that may be considered overly long for a particular job. In addition, it is possible to perform reporting based on the total distance travelled over particular periods.

In some embodiments, the on board wireless device 100 is configured to receive both passenger status information and distance information. In these embodiments, the wireless communication device 130 may communicate data packets to the base location, store them on the device or perform calculations on the device 130. As such, it is possible to use the passenger status information with the distance information in order to improve the monitoring and/orjob allocations functions of the central hub 200.

For example, with accurate information regarding when a job begins and ends and the information relating to distance travelled it is possible to determine whether the distance travelled for that job or task is reasonable. It is then also possible to perform reporting or auditing based upon this information.

Data Format As described previously, the on board wireless device 100 is configured to generate data packets that comprise the distance information and the passenger status information. In some embodiments, the device 100 is configured to generate at least two types of data packet for transmission to the wireless communication device 130 across the short-range wireless communication network 300. These are the passenger status information data packet type 400 and the distance information data packet type 500.

In an alternative embodiment, the distance information 320 and the passenger status information 340 may both be included into a single data packet type, the combined data packet 600.

It will be appreciated that al of the data structures described below for the different data packet types are independent of the short-range wireless communication protocols or mechanisms used in practice. It will be appreciated that the skilled person is entirely capable of embedding the following S data structures within the standardised packet formats of various wireless protocols.

One of the data packets that may be transmitted across the short-range wireless communication network 300 may be the passenger status data packet 400. An example data structure for the passenger status data packet 40J is shown in figure 11.

The exemplary passenger status packet 400 of figure 11 is a data packet that comprises a plurality of different data fields. In the exemplary data structure illustrated in figure 11, the passenger status data packet 400 comprises a packet identifier 410 for identifying the data packet type. The data packet 400 further comprises a passenger status field 420. This field may comprise a value represented as a byte or a string that is representative of the passenger status of the vehicle. For example, the passenger status field may indicate whether the vehicle is presently on a job. The passenger status packet 400 illustrated in figure 11 also comprises a checksum 430 which is configured to check data integrity. Checksums are well established and the implementation of a checksum is within the technical capabilities of the skilled person. The selection of the checksum mechanism wiU depend on the specific implementation. For example, the checksum 430 of the passenger status data packet 4cXJ may be a simple XOR or addition checksum.

Another type of data packet that may be transmitted across the short-range wireless communication network 300 may be the distance information data packet 500. An exemplary data structure for the distance information data packet 500 is shown in figure 12. In the embodiment of figure 12, the distance information data packet 500 comprises a packet identifier 510 for identifying the data packet type. The distance information data packet 500 may further comprise a pulse count 520.

The pulse count 520 may indicate reception of a single pulse or may be formed as an integer value which tallies the total number of puses that have been received by the on board wireless device 100. In some embodiments, the pulse count 520 may be reset when the vehicle is restarted. In some embodiments, the pulse count 520 may return to a zero value when a maximum value is reached. In some arrangements the pulse count could be reset at the end of a particular job. The pulse information conveyed from the device 130 to the hub 200 wiN depend on the distribution of processing between the two.

In the illustrated embodiment, the distance information data packet 500 is transmitted periodically.

For example, with a packet rate of more than or equal to 100/sec1 50/sec, 25/sec, 20/sec, 10/sec1 5/sec, 2/sec, 1/sec or less frequently. The distance information packet 500 is transmitted from the on board wireless device 100. In this arrangement, the pulse count 520 will be transmitted with the distance information data packet 500. It will then be possible further down the transmission chain, for example in the wireless communication device 130 or the central hub 200, to determine the difference in pulse counts between the previously transmitted distance information data packet 500 and the present distance information data packet 500. As such, the distance information 320 may be conveyed from the on board wireless device 100 to the wireless communication device 130 in real time.

In some embodiments the distance information data packet 500 may be transmitted each time the pulse is incremented. In such embodiments where the distance information data packet 500 is transmitted each time a pulse is received, the packet rate will be considerably higher than in the illustrated embodiment described above. In embodiments where the distance information data packet 500 is transmitted each time the pulse is incremented, it is not necessary to include information relatingto the pulse count, since the number of packets sent is indicative of the number of pulses received.

The distance information data packet 500 may optionallyfurther comprise time information 530.

The time information may take a number of different forms and is used to determine elapsed time between pulses. For example, in embodiments where the distance information data packet 500 is transmitted periodically, the time information 530 may represent the time period between transmissions of the distance information data packet 500.

In embodiments where the distance information data packet 500 is transmitted when a pulse is detected, the time information 530 may be configured to transmit a time indication of the duration of time that has elapsed between the present distance information data packet 500 and the previous information data packet 500. The indication of elapsed time may be in the form an absolute time value so that it is possible to calculate further down the further communication chain, for example in the wireless communication device 130 or the central hub 200, to determine elapsed time. In other embodiments, the on board wireless device 100 may be configured to continuously monitor elapsed time so as to provide an accurate measurement of elapsed time between detected pulses.

In some embodiments, the distance information data packet 500 does not comprise the time information 530. In such embodiments, the wireless communication device 130 may have the capabHity to accurately determine the time, for example by synchronising with a GPS signal or with the office communications hub 200. Ii this arrangement, it is not recessary for the on board wireless device 100 to determine and transmit the time information 530. In some embodiments it may be possible for the wireless communication device 130 to associate the time that the distance information data packet 500 was received by the wireless communication device 130 with the packet 500. It is then possible to use the associated timestamp to establish the elapsed time between distance information data packets 500. The timestamp or time difference information may be used and/or appended to the distance information data packet 500 by the wireless communication device 130. Advantageously, this reduces the processing and complexity of the on board wireless device 100.

Alternatively or additionally, the time information may optionally be provided by a clock, such as an RTC, formed within the on board wireless device 100. As such, the time difference between data packets may more accurately be provided.

In order to perform the accurate measurements of time, it may be necessary for the on board wireless device 100 to further comprise accurate timing circuitry or modules so that the distance information data packet 500 may provide accurate timing information to the wireless communication device 130. In other embodiments, the timing may be performed or the wireless communication device 130 so that the time difference between received data packets is used to establish the distance travelled over a given period.

As highlighted above, in some embodiments the on board wireless device 100 may be configured to generate a combined data packet 600 which is a single data packet structure which comprises both distance information 320 and passenger status information 340. An exemplary data structure of the combined data packet 600 is shown in figure 13.

The exemplary data structure of figure 13 shows that the combined data packet 600 comprises a status flag byte 610. The status flag byte 610 comprises the passenger status information 340, which may simply be represented as a single bit. The status flag byte 610 may also corliprise status information such as error states of the device 100 and/or the short-range wireless communication module 105. The combined data packet 600 may comprise a sequence number 620 which increments with each packet that is transmitted. The sequence number 620 allows the wireless communication device 130 to know whether a combined data packet 600 has been missed or whether combined data packets 600 have been received out of sequence. The sequence number 620 is configured to reset to zero when it overflows. On power-up the sequence number will be set to zero.

The combined data packet may comprise a pulse count 630 which transmits a count of pulses that have been received by the device 100. As for the distance information data packet 500, the pulse information can be used to determine the distance that the vehicle has travelled between packets.

The combined data packet 600 mayalso comprise a checksum 640 which is used to detect errors in the data transmission. The implementation of the checksum is well within the capability of the skilled person. The combined data packet 600 may be transmitted periodically or may be transmitted when either the distance information or the passenger status information is updated.

Therefore, the device 100 may be configured to generate a single data packet type which comprises a combination of the distance information 320 and the passenger status information 340.

Alternatively, the device 100 may be configured to generate at least two data packet types, one of which is a distance information data packet 500 comprising distance information 320. Another of which is a passenger status data packet 400 which comprises passenger status information 340.

It will be appreciated that the on board wireless device 100 that the above data packet structures are byway of example and other data packet formations are within the capability of the skilled person. It will also be appreciated that in some embodiments, the on board wireless device 100 may be configured to generate other information and transmit this across the short-range wireless communication network 300. For example, the on board wireless device 100 may be configured to generate and transmit status data packets which comprise operating status information.

Those skilled in the art will appreciate that while the foregoing has described what are considered to be the best mode and, where appropriate, other modes of performing the invention, the invention should not be limited to specific apparatus configurations or method steps disclosed in this description of the preferred embodiment. It is understood that various modifications may be made therein and that the subject matter disclosed herein may be implemented in various forms and examples, and that the teachings may be applied in numerous applications, only some of which have been described herein. It is intended by the following claims to claim any and all applications, modifications and variations that fall within the true scope of the present teachings. Those skilled in the art will recognize that the invention has a broad range of applications, and that the embodiments may take a wide range of modifications without departing from the inventive concept as defined in the appended claims.

Claims (39)

  1. CLAIMS1. A communication device for use in a vehicle comprising: at least one input configured to receive at least one of distance information and availability status information relating to the vehicle; and a short-range wireless communication module configured to transmit data to a portable wireless communication device; wherein the data comprises information relating to at least one of distance information and availability status information received via said at least one input.
  2. 2. The device according to claim 1, wherein the device is configured to receive distance information from a vehicle odometer.
  3. 3. The device according to claim 1cr 2, wherein device is configured to receive distance information via a meter in the vehicle.
  4. 4. The device according to claim 1 or claim 2, wherein the device is configured to receive distance information from an interface unit, and wherein the interface unit is configured to receive the distance information from the vehicle odometer.
  5. 5. The device according to any preceding claim, wherein the device is configured to receive distance information in the form of a series of pulses each being indicative of a unit of distance travelled.
  6. 6. The device according to claims, wherein the device is configured to transmit a count of pulses received.
  7. 7. The device according to claim 5 or 6, wherein the device is configured to transmit a total count of pulses received.
  8. 8. The device according to any preceding claim, configured to transmit distance information using a distance information data packet type.
  9. 9. The device according to claimS, wherein the distance information data packet type comprises a packet identifier.
  10. 10. The device according to claim 8 or claim 9, wherein the distance information data packet type comprises a checksum.
  11. 11. The device according to any preceding claim, wherein the device is configured to transmit distance information periodically.
  12. 12. The device according to any of claims ito 10, wherein the device is configured to transmit the distance information in response to received distance information.
  13. 13. The device according to any preceding claim, configured to receive availability status information representative of whether the vehicle is presently performing a task.
  14. 14. The device according to any preceding claim, wherein the vehicle has a meter and the device is configured to receive availability status information from the meter.
  15. 15. The device according to any preceding claim, wherein the vehicle comprises an availability status indicator.
  16. 16. The device according to claim 15, wherein the device is configured to receive availability status information from a signal transmitted to the availability status indicator.
  17. 17. The device according to claim 15 or 16, wherein the availability status indicator comprises a light.
  18. 18. The device according to claim 17, wherein the signal transmitted to the light is configured to illuminate the light.
  19. 19. The device according to any preceding claim, configured to transmit availability status information using an availability status data packet type.
  20. 20. The device according to claim 19, wherein the availability status data packet type comprises a packet identifier.
  21. 21. The device according to claim 19 or 20, wherein the availability status data packet type comprises a checksum.
  22. 22. The device according to claim 19,20 or 21, where the device is configured to transmit the availability status data packet type periodically.
  23. 23. The device according to claim 19,20 or 21, where the device is configured to transmit the availability status data packet type in response to a change in availability status information.
  24. 24. The device according to any of claims 13 to 18 when dependent on any of claims 2 to 7 configured to transmit data packets each containing availability status information and distance information.
  25. 25. The device according to any preceding claim, wherein in the short-range wireless communication module communicates using Bluetooth.
  26. 26. The device according to any of claims ito 24, wherein the short-range wireless communication module communicates using Zigbee.
  27. 27. The device according to any preceding claim, wherein the device is configured for installation within the vehicle.
  28. 28. The device according to any preceding claim, wherein the device is configured to operate when installed within the cabin of the vehicle.
  29. 29. The device according to any preceding claim, wherein the device is configured to operate when installed within the engine bay of the vehicle.
  30. 30. A communication device for a vehicle substantially as hereinbefore described with reference to the accompanying drawings.
  31. 31. A communication system for a vehicle comprising: an in-vehicle communication device comprising a device as claimed in any preceding claim; and a portable wireless communication device; and wherein the portable wireless communication device is configured to transmit the information from the vehicle using a long-range wireless communication link.
  32. 32. The system according to daim 31, further comprising at, availability status indicator.
  33. 33. The system according to claim 32, wherein the availability status indicator comprises a light.
  34. 34. The system according to claim 33, wherein the signal transmitted to the light is configured to illuminate the light.
  35. 35. The system according to any of claims 31 to 34, wherein the long-range wireless communication link uses GPRS.
  36. 36. A method of operating a mobile communications device comprising: receiving at least one of vehicle availability status information and distance information from a communication device within the vehicle; using at least one of vehicle availability status information and distance information received from the communication device to manage the allocation of tasks to the vehicle.
  37. 37. A computer readable medium comprising instructions that when executed by a processor in a mobile communications device cause the device to execute the steps of the method of claim 36.
  38. 38. A communication system for a vehicle substantially as hereinbefore described with reference to the accompanying drawings.
  39. 39. A method of operating a mobile communications device substantially as hereinbefore described with reference to the accompanying drawings.
GB1218063.4A 2012-05-30 2012-10-09 Vehicle on board communication device Expired - Fee Related GB2502646B (en)

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GB2502646B (en) 2014-10-15
GB201209614D0 (en) 2012-07-11

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