Monday, October 19, 2009

OSGi on the Road

A few weeks ago I got a very nice thank you letter from Eric Gaignet, an employee of a regional bus company in the South-West of France called RDTL Voyages. A few years ago he asked me a few questions over email and I had replied him with some architectural advice of how to use OSGi in a vehicle. I remember that at the time I thought this was a wonderful application for OSGi. He reported now that this project had gone very smoothly.

RDTL is a small regional bus carrier (150 buses) with low overhead. A few years ago they realized that new regulations, the impact on the environment, the complexity of the many isolated black box solutions in the bus, and new business opportunities were being combined with an aging IT infra-structure in the bus. This created an interesting opportunity to design a new infra-structure virtually from the ground up, taking advantage of modern technology.

The number of IT solutions in a passenger bus is surprisingly large. Today, a bus interacts with the road systems, it provides up to date information to the electronic displays, it handles the ticketing issues, and reports about the state of the bus. Traditionally, different vendors provide their own isolated solutions.

Not so for RDTL. They started a collaboration with GeenSys, a French IT company specialized in embedded systems to create the e-nove architecture. The input was to create a system where an OSGi gateway in the bus would communicate with an OSGi server in the back office. The gateway connects all the equipment in the bus, provide local information to the driver and aggregates the information to the back-end. Instead of having a proprietary ticketing system, the OSGi gateway connects to a printer, reader, and a display. This all being controlled by OSGi bundles. In the past two years, this architecture was developed and implemented in a remarkably short time. Today, there are more than 30 buses equipped with OSGi gateways.

After I queried Eric for some more information how things had been going, he replied with the following quote:
The best positive experience we got is that we immediately needed an "small application" this summer. I asked a local software company to design this software. They spent 2 days training with Geensys engineers. Thanks to e-nove, they spent only 2 days to design this application. This is great because this was one of the key goals of the project. We can react, adapt and deploy bundles in a very short time.
The e-nove architecture is a very nice example of what you can do with OSGi. It has many of the use cases that drove the development of OSGi in the early years and it is wonderful that it not only has been developed, but it now also been proven to provide the expected advantages. Thanks Eric, for this update!

Peter Kriens

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