Ethiopia is located in East Africa as a transportation hub that connects East Africa with the rest of the world. The Ethiopian Roads Authority is a strategically important department among many governmental departments, and it takes a pivotal position in the entire administrative system in Ethiopia.
Business challenges of the client: Although Dire Dawa, the second largest city of Ethiopia, is connected to Djibouti and effectively radiates to northern Somalia, it is not equipped with an information-based toll system, which brings losses to Ethiopia’s fiscal revenue and makes it difficult for Ethiopian Roads Authority to administer this expressway section.
Development trend of the expressway toll industry: The current development trend of the expressway toll industry is to deploy a new cloud-based toll system solution, connect the marginal sites of each expressway toll station with the private cloud platform of their respective expressway sub-centers, and realize the collaboration between the cloud and marginal sites. Technical measures will be taken to transform from segmented charging to combined charging based on segmented billing, so that the expressway toll systems throughout the nation can be connected.
Informatization goals: The general goal of the project is that: first, we will design and implement a solution centered on the expressway toll management system for the user, build large toll stations, monitoring rooms, toll plazas and overweight vehicle checkpoints, and match up the complete set of toll system software and hardware, including toll lane equipment, toll computer hardware, toll system software, video and audio monitoring system and toll ancillary facilities, etc., so that the expressway toll system of the user will be digitalized. Meanwhile, we will reserve corresponding interfaces on the toll systems we build by considering the development trend of expressway toll systems, and reserve sufficient room for future technical upgrade into the new cloud-based ETC settlement solution.
Dire Dawa, the second largest city of Ethiopia, is connected to Djibouti and effectively radiates to the expressways in the north of Somalia. These expressways were built under the support of the Chinese government, but devoid of a supporting information-based toll system, which brings losses to Ethiopia’s fiscal revenue and makes it difficult for Ethiopian Roads Authority to administer this expressway section.
In the first half of 2017, Ethiopian Roads Authority launched the bidding procedure of the DD project. Inspur Group won the bid amidst many manufacturers from home and abroad by virtue of its global experience and the capability of hardware and software integration. Inspur has built three major toll stations centered on the expressway toll management system for the expressway, including monitoring rooms, toll plazas and overweight vehicle checkpoints.
After conducting the design based on domestic and global standards and technical specifications and learning from the experience of completed road projects across the globe, Inspur has applied internationally-leading and well-proven technologies and equipment to cast a detailed solution centered on the toll system for Ethiopian Roads Authority by combining its global experience in building electromechanical systems for road projects.
1) Toll Computer System Hardware
Inspur has provided hardware devices such as management computers (including servers and storage devices), Ethernet switches, monitoring walls, hard disk video recorders, printers, etc. Regarding the network construction, all the lane-toll station computers constitute a local area network, and the computer systems at different levels transfer data through the transmission lines and therefore form a network system of toll computers. The data of toll charges, traffic flow, and operation status is sorted and summarized before being reported to the superior. Clock information, toll standards, and toll rate change are transmitted from toll stations to the lanes of the toll plaza. Relying on the network structure designed and implemented by Inspur, toll stations can have a good command of the charging status of each toll lane and toll shift in time.
2) Toll System Software
The system software includes the operating system, database, and applications installed on the computers in toll lanes and toll stations. The software system designed by Inspur is divided into multiple layers, including the system platform layer, the business function layer, the data transmission layer, and the user interface layer. Between the system platform layer and the business function layer, there is a data transmission layer used to shield the differences between underlying system platforms and achieve reliable data exchange between heterogeneous systems, thereby reducing the dependence of the entire system on a specific platform and benefiting the future system scalability. The business function layer can be divided into two parts: the business component layer and the business system layer. Those components are extracted and encapsulated from common parts of the road toll system based on Inspur’s wealthy experience in the development, upgrade, and maintenance of expressway toll systems, so they are independent and can be called by functional modules by specific methods. Its advantage is that it can be easily assembled according to user needs, and is conducive to system upgrade and maintenance. Componentization has become the trend of software design. In addition, in the process of designing the business function modules of software, Inspur has relied on its rich experience in business software development to classify the software system, including the lane software and the toll station software, into independent functional modules by their functions and data structures. The definitions of functional modules have been considered across the board since the design stage to include expansion functions. The definitions of different modules are stable and reliable.
3) Two-Level (Lane and Station) Management Mode
With the cutting-edge two-level management mode for lanes and stations, Inspur has successfully created a versatile, highly-performing, safe, reliable, and stable toll management system. The system adopts the manual toll collection (MTC) mode, meaning that the toll will be collected two times, one at the entrance and one at the exit. A toll lane is responsible for toll collection, including fee collection, lane device control, and toll data collection. It also uploads the basic data related to toll collection and traffic volume to the toll station, while receiving the parameters transmitted by the toll station and executing related business configuration functions. The toll station directly manages and supervises the business operation of its affiliated lanes along with the vouchers and tolls of the station, completes the shift design of toll collectors, generates data statements, and performs data statistics and analysis. This two-level management mode rationally utilizes the existing computing resources. Duties of lanes and stations are parted clearly to smoothen the business and facilitate the management and maintenance. Meanwhile, the electromechanical equipment at the toll station preserves interfaces for uploading toll data and images subsequently, fully enabling the scalability and technical upgrade capability of the toll system software.
4) New Cloud-Based ETC Settlement System Based on Highly-Scalable Collaboration Between the Cloud and Marginal Sites
The Inspur solution centered on the toll system fully satisfies existing demands and addresses challenges faced by expressway toll collection. Furthermore, considering the development trend of the ETC settlement system, Inspur reserves interfaces to prepare for expansion and upgrade based on the existing toll system. In combination with the independently developed InCloud Sphere, Inspur has laid a foundation for deploying the cloud-based new ETC settlement solution. Currently, a dozen of toll stations in China have applied the InCloud Sphere of Inspur. The new ETC settlement system, based on Inspur’s general server + InCloud Sphere, connects the marginal sites of each expressway toll station with the private cloud platform of their respective expressway sub-centers to realize the true collaboration. As a carrier platform for the new toll system, InCloud Sphere is highly scalable in a smooth manner so as to satisfy the fast-growing demands for data load. By integrating hardware resources, it reduces the number of physical servers, raises the utilization rate of servers and CPU by 30%, and reduces hardware cost. In terms of securing toll data, complete security log review records and management permission are in place to prevent data leakage. Meanwhile, InCloud Sphere dramatically reduces the complexity of system deployment, accelerates online business, and improves operational efficiency. As a kind of new infrastructure, InCloud Sphere will better serve the healthy development of the economy and the society, and provides highly-efficient and high-quality intelligent transportation services for the public.
The Ethiopia DD Expressway Toll System Solution designed by Inspur considers the traffic features of this expressway section and the future development trend, values the cooperation and collaboration of the toll system with other systems, and exploits the comprehensive advantages of the system to the full. While maximizing the overall system collaboration, it greatly enhances the road capacity of the expressway, and lead the way to the digitalization of expressway toll collection. The revenue of Ethiopian Roads Authority collected for this expressway section has been raised by 30%, and the workload for road administers has been dramatically relieved. While effectively reducing the cost of toll management for Ethiopian Roads Authority, it also improves the efficiency of vehicle operation and the information-based operation, thus receiving praise from the project owner. As an expressway toll system solution centered on ETC, this project has set a successful example. Our experience lays a solid foundation for similar projects undertaken by Ethiopian Roads Authority in future days.