FELA moves to MQTT and HiveMQ for its fleet management solution
FELA Management specializes in smart, scalable solutions for passenger information, central control, ticketing, and electronic payment systems for public transportation. As part of the Swiss-based FELA Group, they have been creating innovative GPS-based information and tracking systems for bus, rail, and logistics for over 50 years.
"For our initial requirements, we were able to use HiveMQ virtually straight out of the box with almost no configuration. That ease of use was a big relief in the beginning and let us focus on other work."
Alexander Felder, Software Developer, FELA Management AG
From smart refit concepts for fleet modernization to multi-client capable fleet management and tracking solutions, FELA hardware and software solutions are developed in-house - including operation and integration.
As a result, FELA customers enjoy a high level of customer satisfaction and the distinct advantage of getting everything their solution needs from a single source.
The POIScentral app from FELA is a multi-faceted timetable planning and tracking tool for public transportation vehicles. In addition to its planning and tracking capabilities, POIScentral monitors timetable and software versions and can be used to push updates to associated vehicles as needed. The POIScentral application links various POIS software modules and gives users access to a web interface. Here, users can control the Intermodal Transport Control System (ITCS) and carry out data maintenance for all system functions and components. POIScentral also handles numerous calculation, control, and communication tasks. For example, real-time calculation of timetable deviations for vehicles, control and handling of communication with the vehicles, as well as statistical functions.
The operating functions of the POIScentral control center are collected in program modules that can be flexibly adapted to specific user groups:
- Data supply such as timetables and operating data
- Control center functions
- Dynamic passenger information at stations
- Interfaces to surrounding systems or third-party systems
MQTT implemented as a new communication channel
The former POIScentral system employed a simple TCP listener and wrote all data to a database. To remain up to date, each service needed to continuously poll the data on the database. The switch to MQTT for the communication channel enables FELA to push pertinent information to services in an efficient and timely manner without the need for polling.
“The latest generation of our POIScentral application implements MQTT as a communication channel. Use of MQTT allowed us to take an event-driven approach that doesn’t rely on polling anymore. With MQTT and the HiveMQ MQTT broker our application is more performant and leverages modern technology.” - Alexander Felder, Software Developer, FELA Management AG
FELA selects HiveMQ broker to bring it all together
Tracking information is generally shown in the control center of a transport company. If this data only includes messages when a vehicle enters and leaves a station, the overall volume of messages is relatively low. However, this picture changes drastically when vehicles must send information to a national data center. In this case, vehicles are required to send data every 10 seconds. The nearly real-time exchange of information makes it possible to provide a far more accurate view of vehicle movements. In Switzerland, achieving this level of reporting is an ongoing process and many companies need to update their systems to meet the requirement.
At FELA, the architectural decision to go with the industry-standard MQTT protocol was made early in the development process. Once the goal of MQTT was set, the search for the right MQTT broker included several key points:
- Simple setup
- Support for MQTT last will messages
- Support for MQTT retained messages (without configuring every topic separately)
- Free to test
After evaluating various MQTT brokers, HiveMQ was the one MQTT broker that could do everything FELA wanted with the least amount of effort.
“For our initial requirements, we were able to use HiveMQ virtually straight out of the box with almost no configuration. That ease of use was a big relief in the beginning and let us focus on other work.” - Alexander Felder, Software Developer, FELA Management AG
The number of devices connected to the HiveMQ broker fluctuates greatly depending on the fleet size of the transport company. FELA hosts all brokers internally on a private cloud with Docker containers and has found that the HiveMQ enterprise MQTT broker has more than enough performance to handle the demands of multiple applications.