Luke Pollard, Head of Engineering at Vix, explains how the modularity of our Pulse Automated Fare Collection platform allows it to adapt to meet transit agencies’ needs. 

What is modularity and why is it important in an AFC system?

Modular software systems comprise a number of separate parts – independent, interchangeable modules that deliver specific value. In the world of automated fare collection (AFC), modularity means decoupling a traditional fare collection system. 

Its component parts, such as fare validators, a payment service provider, fare engine, customer service portal, and reporting suite, are broken apart. Some or all of these modules can be assembled to meet the specific needs of a transit agency.

Transit agencies often look for a modular fare collection solution for a few different reasons:

Simple integrations: Agencies that have existing infrastructure for customer service, data reporting and analytics can keep what they’ve built. It’s easy to integrate these elements into a modular AFC system. 

Competition in the market: Some agencies are required by local procurement rules to avoid single supplier lock-in when building an AFC solution. With a modular system, they can buy ‘lots’ from multiple vendors. 

Phased deployment: Rolling-out a system in phases is easier if the parts are modular. This enables transit agencies to bring value to passengers and stakeholders earlier, before the whole project is completed.

Flexibility and scalability: Agencies can focus on what they need now – for instance, account-based ticketing – confident they can introduce open-loop payments and mobile options later, with minimal impact on service.

Future proofing: Having a modular system means that parts of a solution can be upgraded or replaced more easily. As technology changes, there will be no problem ensuring that systems staying up-to-date.

Faster deployment: The ability to roll-out modules independently means downtimes and maintenance windows are reduced. Keeping individual modules up to date is easier than upgrading an entire AFC system.

Modularity in Vix Pulse

One of the key strengths of the Pulse platform is its modularity. Building around the core Pulse ABT module, Vix offers six Pulse packages. These allow a solution to be customized to meet the unique needs of transit agencies in different markets. 

This modular structure of the Pulse platform and the availability of Pulse APIs means that agencies can swap out any key service provided by Vix with a third party service. 

The Pulse ABT core package, included by default, is where the system is configured. Fare rules, caps, zones, service types, transport operators and more can be set-up as needed. This is also where transaction processing and financial clearing takes place. 

Around this ABT core are six optional packages – or modules – that can be used to construct a transit solution:  

ABT Smart Card provides transit operators with the ability to manage and distribute smart cards for Account Based Ticketing (ABT). This includes card personalisation, card order fulfilment and inventory management.

Contactless EMV unlocks the Open Payments powers of Pulse, making it possible for passengers to use their contactless credit cards to travel – or associated cEMV media such as watches and smartphone mobile wallets.

Mobile Travel enables passengers to use their mobile phone as the fare media, via a transit agency branded app. The Mobile package brings secure barcode generation, digital validation and fraud detection capabilities to Pulse. The app can be supplied by Vix – or a third party app can be integrated using the Pulse Mobile APIs. Mobile travel in Pulse is built on top of the ABT solution – meaning both pass-based and pay-as-you-go models are supported with barcodes in the app.

Validator Devices. Pulse can be deployed with the Vix device range, or by integrating third party devices via the Pulse APIs.

Customer Service. Pulse offers customer service and B2B/institutional support  solutions (built on the Salesforce platform). These are ready to deploy in call centers, as well as POS (point of sale) units that can be used for in-person support and sales. If an agency chooses to use their own customer service solution, these can be integrated via the Pulse APIs.

Reporting and Analytics. The Pulse platform can provide this with our Vix Compass product. Alternatively, a third party data warehouse or analytics solution can be integrated via the Pulse APIs.

Modularity is a match-maker

What we’ve found during our development of Pulse is that no two cities and no two fare collection systems are the same. Mixing and matching these modules can result in very different systems – and an ability to rise to the unique challenges of every agency.

The above examples are based on real Pulse deployments.

A key priority for the US city was to make travel more convenient for passengers. The system it deployed encouraged a move away from paper tickets paid for with cash, while also improving customer service. Vix delivered mobile travel early in the project, as well as a new call centre for customer management. In the second phase of the project, ABT smart card travel was added to the system, as well as institutions (B2B) schemes allowing local universities to manage travel of the large student population.

Meanwhile, in the UK city, open payments are king, with passengers using their contactless credit cards or cEMV enabled mobile devices to tap and go. In addition, the agency already had its own customer support and service websites and data warehouse, so Pulse was integrated with those existing systems.

In one case, we have a full end-to-end solution provided by Vix. In the other, Vix provided the core ABT and cEMV capabilities plus integration of third party components.

Modular and collaborative approach

None of these solutions would be possible without the modular design of the Pulse AFC platform. Of course, just having the technology isn’t enough. The collaborative focus of Vix, and partnerships with other vendors, is key in helping agencies achieve their goals.

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