Using Windows XP Embedded running on 150 VIA embedded PCs supplied by Trident, U.K. based company Specialised Imaging managed to create a complete working Passenger Information System for the new Eurostar terminals at St Pancras International and Ebbsfleet International in just six months.
The Eurostar specification to Specialised Imaging was specific and demanding. The international high-speed train operator wanted to achieve a significantly higher standard of display than was offered at its former Waterloo International terminal, so called for better graphics on a 42in screen mounted in portrait format. Communications at the new St Pancras International station would be via Ethernet, however, the possibility that other displays may also be upgraded without renewing the legacy RS422 serial links was another requirement.
In addition to the passenger displays, the system needed to provide information to staff on 19in desktop monitors in landscape format. Finally, Eurostar maintenance had identified that the failure of PSU and CPU fans in the Waterloo systems was a major issue, and it was decided that the hardware used had to be solid state and fanless.
Perhaps the most demanding feature of the brief was the timescale; from instruction to go live the time allowed was just six months.
Formed in 2003, Specialised Imaging specialises in the design, manufacture and supply of ultra high speed imaging systems and components for transportation, industrial and scientific applications. The company is accredited to ISO9001. The company won the contract to provide a complete Customer Information System solution for both Eurostar's U.K. stations.
The Eurostar installation uses VESA PCs utilising Windows XP Embedded supplied by Trident, and running a bespoke application developed by Specialised Imaging. The VESA PCs support Ethernet communication as well as the legacy serial communications interface used in the earlier Waterloo customer information system. Key features of the VIA and Microsoft solution include the enhanced graphics capability, the flexibility of both DVI and VGA outputs and the ability to support a range of screen resolutions; up to 1920 x 1080 with screen rotation to support both the portrait and landscape requirements.
Specialised Imaging reviewed the full spectrum of options before selecting Windows XP Embedded as the operating system of choice. Arthur Chiles of the Specialised Imaging System Development team commented: "For many platforms, the cost of the development environment and/or the runtime environment was prohibitive, especially bearing in mind the relatively small number of images we were looking for."
"With other options, there was a confusing array of development environments on offer, with each supplier recommending different options. The cost of Windows XP Embedded from Trident was a real surprise; very reasonable, and the development team also invested in a day's training at Trident partner MPC Data, an experience that we would very highly recommend."