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Device Profile: Digital Pioneer parking lot payment stations

Sep 16, 2003 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 8 views

Digital Pioneer has put embedded Linux to work inside an innovative, next-generation payment terminal for parking lots, to solve the problem of reliability, theft, vandalism, and weather damage — common (and potentially expensive) headaches with parking payment meters.

A built-in Linux-based embedded computer provides network connections for real-time payment processing of parking fees, including online and offline credit card transactions. Land-line Ethernet or wireless modem Internet connectivity enables the Intella-Pay station to be managed remotely. Managers can gather information, create reports, communicate locally or remotely with the parking meter, and manage revenues more effectively, according to Digital Pioneers.

What makes this parking meter tick?

Inside the Intella-Pay Payment Station is a tiny embedded single-board computer (SBC), the Intrinsyc CerfBoard 250. The tiny CerfBoard 250 SBC is based on a 400 MHz Intel PXA250 XScale processor, and includes: 32MB Flash and 64MB SDRAM memory; interfaces for 10/100 Ethernet, USB, RS232 serial, and 45 digital lines; a battery backed real-time clock; and, a CompactFlash expansion socket.

Besides handling networking and payment processing, the Cerfboard's embedded Linux OS interfaces with sensors that monitor activity and states such as paper supply levels. Vibration sensors respond to attempts to move or damage the payment station, while door sensors trigger alarms in response to unlawful opening.

Intrinsyc's Cerf IO 250 was used to provide additional expansion capabilities. The two cards stack together using a 40-pin connector, providing all networking and I/O connections to monitor the Intella-Pay station's subsystems and send the data to a central location for reporting and analysis.

Embedded computer based on CerfBoard 250 plus Cerf IO 250

Here are larger photos of the CerfBoard front and back.

Embedded Linux software

Digital Pioneer used Intrinsyc's I-Linux distribution, along with several custom-built software modules. Intrinsyc's I-Linux includes a Linux Kernel (current version is 2.4.19) and the Familiar Distribution.

Digital Pioneer's custom software modules included:

  • Intella-Pay Quick Collect — provides a real-time direct connection to the processing bank through a standard phone line or wireless connection (such as CDPD)
  • Intella-Pay Back-Office Management — provides the ability to change the way the payment stations operate, create customized tickets and messages, and generate audit reports

Why Linux?

Digital Pioneer said they chose Linux as their embedded operating system primarily because . . .

  • They required an OS that is stable and reliable
  • They were able to improve their competitive position by reducing their licensing cost through the use of an open source OS
  • They required an OS that provides a stable Java Virtual Environment

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