New details emerge on GeoToll's - smartphone as national IOP tolltag, also to allow outsourcing of ETC
By Peter Samuel
2013-09-18: GeoToll officials explained new details of their plans for harnessing smartphones for toll collection today in a heavily attended - nearly 200 people were online - 2-hour webinar organized by the Alliance for Toll Interoperability. They plan to offer the option of complete outsourcing of electronic toll collection to tollers (toll agencies) and are confident they'll be able to do that at lower cost. The initial cost of buying a GeoToll add-on pack for an Android phone will be "about the same" same as the cost of a regular single protocol transponder or tag, according to GeoToll chief executive Tim McGuckin - cheaper than the more expensive hardbodied ones but more expensive than the basic sticker tags - implying $6 or $7 apiece.
Its advantages will be its interoperability across all the protocols, its portability, and the options it will provide for payment and accounting of tolls via its supporting App.
125 million Americans have smartphones and the number grows steadily, making it a widely available platform for a transponder - once it is equipped with the special DSRC antenna.
GeoToll pricing is not yet decided. They may levy a per-transaction charge and/or a monthly charge.
McGuckin said GeoToll will guarantee payment of all tolls incurred by its accountholders to tollers and take responsibility for collecting or absorbing the costs of bad accounts. He also suggested that in promotional plans GeoToll might carry some of the costs and charge accountholders a lower toll than it was paying the toller.
GeoToll is building a back office, or 'Backend' as they called it, that will be flexible enough to accommodate different arrangements with tollers.
Chief Technical Officer Jaime Borras said they will to work with toll agencies to incorporate all the plans they want implemented, including frequent user and resident discount plans that are common in the northeast US, as well as catering fully to variable pricing and toll express lane needs. He said they are working on new ideas for using the system to assist in enforcement of occupancy counts.
GeoToll will easily do read-write tolling using the smartphone's memory for trip tolls as well as read-only for point toll collection.
The promise of GeoToll, they said in one slide, was the operators won't need to modify their equipment or back office in any way to accommodate GeoToll. It will work with all major protocols and electronic toll equipment as-is. Operators will be able to collect their tolls owing at whatever interval they specify - daily, weekly or monthly. They can transfer account management tasks to GeoToll or keep them in-house.
Location finding a key attribute
A key to GeoToll's operation will be its use of the smartphone's location finding capability for a variety of purposes:
- to know ahead of toll points the protocol needed and the identity of the toller whose toll is coming up
- time the power-up and power-down to meet the needs of data exchange with the toller's overhead equipment while conserving the phone's battery
- documenting the time and direction of travel for the backend
Jaime Borras refers to these processes as enabling 'geo-fencing' and 'dynamic ID.'
McGuckin says GeoToll has the ability to add to the proportion of customers with doing transponder based transactions and to reduce reliance on license plate imaging, owner lookup, and bill-by-mail.
It should be attractive in parking payment too.
6C first, now E-ZPass capability being developed
With the encouragement of the 6C Users Group and no intellectual property issues they started with 6C.
That, McGuckin said, allows them to have prototype models going under toll gantries to "play with."
The major work of delivering E-ZPass TDM protocol is under way. After E-ZPass the next major effort will be 6B+, use of which they hope to license from TransCore, holder of patents of important add-on protocols.
Title 21 (California) and ASTMv6 (trucking) will be accommodated if there's interest and "if they are going to be around." Later they'd look at doing a higher frequency antenna for CEN278 in Europe, Asia, Australia and South America and 5.9GHz if it gets into trucks in North America.
Changing form factors
The GeoToll pack built into a rubber sleeve or protector houses the key multidirectional antenna and a 'translator' chip to convert the DSRC UHF signal to the much lower frequency of wireless near field communications (NFC) as provided in Android phones or a hardwire link via USB port in the case of phones lacking NFC.
The customer versions will be in the form of a sticker to be fixed on the back of the smartphone.
There was no discussion of this today, but they are planning to talk to smartphone manufacturers about licensing the hardware and systems for incorporation in the electronics of the phone itself in the factory.
The company has a number of patents pending and more they are getting ready to file.
We've included some of the key slides here but the full presentations will be on the ATI website and at GeoToll.