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Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2019/025890
Kind Code:
The present invention relates to a method for remotely controlling the status of graphic user interfaces such as monitors, panels, displays, screens and others, used in railway or transportation systems. For achieving a reliable safety level, so that a person can be sure that the information displayed by the graphic interface in real time coiTespond to the effective situation of the trasportation network, there is provided a feedback control loop between an image elaboration-generation block, and a safety block. According to a preferred solution, the communications between the blocks of the control loop are encrypted. With the control method of the present invention, it is possible to achieve a top safety level in the railway networks, even when using commercially available graphic user interfaces, such as COTS terminal.

FLAMINIO, Luca (Via Martiri d'Ungheria 29, SCAFATI, 84018, IT)
DEL VILLANO, Fausto (Via V. Gambardella 120, TORRE ANNUNZIATA, 80058, IT)
BOZZAOTRE, Michele (Via Giuseppe Cosenza 251, CASTELLAMMARE DI STABIA, 80053, IT)
VIVARELLI, Claudio (Via G. Santacroce 35, CASERTA, 81100, IT)
PELLECCHIA, Raffaele (Via Napoli 2° traversa 9 - Parco Santa Chiara, Fabbricato F, TEVEROLA, 81030, IT)
Application Number:
Publication Date:
February 07, 2019
Filing Date:
July 13, 2018
Export Citation:
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ANSALDO STS SPA (Via Paolo Mantovani 3, GENOVA, 16149, IT)
International Classes:
G06F11/00; B61L25/06; G06F11/07; G06F11/14
Domestic Patent References:
Foreign References:
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FERRONI, Filippo et al. (Via Palestro 5/2, Genova, 16122, IT)
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1. Method for remote control of human machine interfaces (HMX), such as those used for the supervision and/ or regulation of railway transportation systems or parts thereof, comprising the steps of:

- acquiring data about the status of the system to be supervised or a part of it, and generating graphic symbol or information accOrdingly,,

- processing the information and generating an image corresponding thereto,

- visualjbring the image on displaying means,

characterised in that it comprises a step of comparing the graphic information and the image to be visualized, for checking whether they correspond to each other so mat only images generated by data positively checked, are visualized by the displaying means.

2. Method of claim 1, wherein the graphic information is encrypted and the processing step includes the decryption of such mformation, for comparing the decrypted graphic information with that previously acquired, before the visualization step.

3. Method according to claim 2, wherein a two level encryption is used, preferably of symmetric and asymmetric type.

4. Method according to any of claims 1 to 3, wherein the graphic information acquired about the status of the system or a part of it comprise symbols.

5. Method according to any of claims from 1 to 4, wherein the processing step and/or tile visualization step are carried out respectively by means of COTS terminal and/or COTS display.

6. Method according to any of the previous claims, wherein the transportation system is a railroad or tramway line.

7. Method according to any of the preceding daims, comprising the steps of:

- generating the status of the symbols to be displayed;

- sending an encrypted copy of the state to a HMI Terminal (12);

- providing, in the normal operational mode, to the HMf Terxrtinal (12) the cryptographic keys for decoding the state;

- supervising the outcome of the diagnostic tests performed on each HMI Terminal (12) and assigning them the normal or safe operational mode.

8. Method according to any of the preceding claims, comprising the steps of: - decrypting the status of the symbols received by a HMI Safe Server (11) with the received key;

- generating the image to be displayed;

- running diagnostics routines required by the HMI Safe Server (11);

- sending the reply message to the HMI Safe Server (11).

9. A human machine interface (10) for carrying out the method of claims 1 to 6, comprising:

- a safety unit or nucleus (11) for acquiring data about the status of the system to be supervised or a part of it, and for providing graphic symbol or information according thereto;

- a human machine interface terminal (12) communicating with the safety unit (11) for processing graphic information and image generation; - a visualization unit (13) communicating with the interface terminal (12) for displaying images,

characterized in that the safety unit (11) comprises means for encryption of graphic information, whereas the interface terminal (12) comprises means for decryption of such information.

10. A human machine interface according to claim 9, wherein the terminal (12) operates decryption of graphic information and compares them with the graphic symbol or information provided by the safety nucleus (11).

11. A human machine interface according to claim 10, wherein the safety nucleus (11) supervises the comparison made by the interface terminal (12).

12. A human machine interface according to any of claims from 9 to 11, wherein the terminal (11) and the visualization means (13) comprise elements of COTS type.





Under a broad and general aspect, the present invention relates to human machine interfaces, such as those used in the control and/ or regulation of railways, apparatuses, devices, transportation systems and others.

Before continuing farther in this description, it must be stated that although the present invention is particularly aimed at the remote control of computerized terminals, such as monitors, panels, displays, screens and others, used in railway transportation, the principles of the invention may apply also to other graphical interfaces used in industry.

Indeed, it is well known that in many technological or industrial fields the information about the working status of an apparatus or of a manufacturing process, are displayed on interface of computer operating environment, such as As it is known, supervision and control systems for safety-critical applications such as those used in the railways transportation networks, allow the human operators to interactively monitor the state of the system by means of graphical interfaces/ that must be compliant with specific safety requirements.

The operators can use the information displayed on the screen to make decisions which have impact on the safety of people and things, namely passengers and trains in railroads applications . The resultant effect is that the detection and the control of critical situations associated to the safety or fault diagnosis/ are strictly dependent on the reliability of the images displayed on screens, panels, monitors or similar.

Video visualization systems for transportation railways generally located into key locations like stations, they consist of a computer network that displays vital system information, together with relative status and alarm lists.

Regard to raHway industry, centralized control rooms are frequently organized for monitoring and supervising train traffic by displaying sensible data on computer screens, like current train routes, signal aspects and train positioning, For guaranteeing a reliable evaluation of the signalling system state, it is crucial to assure a full control of the image flow for instantly detected safety critical events and /or the occurrence of anomalous behaviors.

For instance, due to the subsequent visualization of still images, the absence of video frame refreshing could be a critical aspect in the decisional tasks, reducing the operational effectiveness of users work.

For safely djfepkying information it is generally required that all the part of the system which supply the images, are so arranged and controlled that the resultant architecture is conform to a certain Safety Integrity Level (SIL).

From an architectural point of view, the supervision and control systems are fundamentally Human Machine Interfaces (HMIs), including with this term all the elements mat an user employs to carry out his tasks or decisions. This implies that every system's component must be considered in the design to ensure that the resulting product will optimally support the operator to achieve the safety goals.

In detail, for making the design conform to a certain safety level according to the standards internationally acknowledged, such as the CENELEC EN (i.e. European technical norms issue by the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization), it is necessary to plan proper and extensive testing and control mechanisms for detecting potential error sources in the image processing chain.

This is not an easy task, because all parts of the design must be controlled, like CPU, graphic card, memories, arid all other hardware elements, as well as graphic user interfaces, operating systems, driver software, and so on.

The control becomes more critical considering that the visualization systems are usually based on commercially available (i.e. off-the shelf) products, also referred to as COTS by persons skilled in the art, with the subsequent limits due to the fact that it is impossible to exhaustively know their internal details and hence define their failure modes.

Figure 1 shows a diagramatic representation of a typical HMI according to the prior art, wherein a subsystem or unit for the symbols status generation (safety nucleus) is indicated with reference numeral 1; a unit or subsystem for the data elaboration and image generation (off-the-shelf or COTS terminals) is referred as 2, while a subsystem for the image visualization (off-the-shelf video cards and monitors) is block 3. It is possible to assert that the process of the symbols status generation can be considered safely thanks to the development of safety-critical software according to CENBLEC norms.

Nevertheless, all the operating steps planned by EN 50128 such as periodic testing, credibility checks, control flow monitoring, duplicated computation and comparison are able to increase the reliability of the visualization system, but are not sufficient per se because the vital image is forced to cross a safety critical path through different off-the-shelf components, as visible in Hg. 1.

The limit of the presently known HMI using ofi-the shelf or COTS ternunals, is how to prevent such terminals to show incorrect information after a fault.

More specifically, the image generated by the elaboration unit could be still displayed on monitors, screens, panels, video supports, or the like, also in presence of a recognized fault. Any disfunctional behavior of COTS components will impact on the visualization accuracy.

At the present, the use of certified monitors excludes possible problems related to their reliability; nevertheless, off-the-shelf operating systems, graphic libraries and video cards are employed in the current solutions, so that their control remains a crucial aspect.

There are known different techniques applied to HMI-based systems for providing a safe operator interface, with the benefit of assuring reliable decisional and monitoring actions. In the most of cases, the management of the video date flow is reached through test procedures to monitor safety critical processes. They are based on the recognition of errors that could impact to the final resultant image, such as errors in visualizatim software task, in graphics control or faults in graphics memory.

Innovative approaches can be found in literature aided to obtain these aims. About the detection of possible data corruption during video data transfer, a solution is provided for example in European patent application EP 2244 188, where a part of the bitmap data is systematically transformed according to a known algorithm. In this way, the image generation unit has the possibility to verify the effective data coherence through a related conversion mechanism. In visualization based system, mis technique reveals useful for assuring a correct transfer of bitmap data from a principal memory (like CPU) to a secondary one (like a video memory) .

Since potential errors could remain undiscovered, further and complementary mechanisms must be provided to properly test and manage the remaining safety critical units. However, if the extensive adoption of similar techniques makes sure a full management of the whole system, on the other side, especially for real time applications, it could result very time intensive and cost one.

Nowadays, this hurdle has been cleared by the introduction into traditional systems of dedicated modules able to efficiently process video data and contextually to verify its integrity through internal procedures.

An example of this state of the art is disclosed by international (PCI) patent application WO 2011/003872 , where the data coherence of the current image is checked through a comparison made by a FPGA-based safe test unit, expressly inserted between the computer generating the image data and a thin film transistor (TFT) display or panel,

In this prior art, the use of programmable logic makes possible a more time efficient image processing, although the common test approach (based on a partial elaboration of the image with consequent check of the resultant data) is preserved. Specifically, in the case of WD 2011/003872, the incoming image is portioned in more sections, with the distinction between safety and non-safety related information.

With respect to each safety critical image segment, the FPGA has the primary roles to generate an associated fingerprint (like a cyclic redundancy check or CRC) and to search a correspondence with existing reference codes, previously saved in the form of tables. Memory based charts are then used to associate the selected code with an image belonging to a discrete set, representative of its possible states.

In this way, the validity of the input image portion is established by a comparison with respect to the expected input parameter and, in the case of a negative result, consequent safe reactions can be promptly activated.

The test procedure disclosed in WO 2011/003872 is particularly suitable only for applications where the plausible image set is limited (applications like tachometers), avoiding in such a manner excessive consumption of computing resources. Therefore, in the railway control field, the abovementioned approach results not feasible for typical visualization systems where the whole or most of the generated image consists of safety related information.

In this case, it is not possible to separate the image in smaller subareas, with consequent challenge to have bom to process and to control a wide image, normally characterized by a high resolution. In practical situations, it happens that the generated image need to be displayed on multiple monitors (up to eight), with resolution of each one up to 1920x1200 pixels.

On the other side, the information carried by a typical image depends on the specific application: therefore, because of the complexity and the variability of the displayed data, it is not reasonable to prearrange ad hoc fingerprint based tables, according to WD 2011/003872.

This could involve an inefficient overload of the system for considering every plausible state, with the additional disadvantage to require excessive memory utilization.

The inadequacy of the aforementioned test methods or equivalent approaches brings to the need for adopting new system architectures, suitable to ensure the appropriate safety level and the specific performance characteristics required by railway applications.

In view of the foregoing it can be stated that the technical problem underlying the present invention, is that of providing a control system for human machine intefaces (ΗΜΓ), graphical user interfaces (GUI) or the like, having such functional and/or operting features as to overcome the drawbacks of the known control systems of the prior art.

Within mis general problem, it is also an object of the present invention to provide a control system for human machine interfaces (HMI), which allows to use COTS components such as terminals, screens, displays or others, and to comply with the safety or technical regulations.

The idea for solving the technical problem is that of providing a process, that can be preferably implemented by an algorithm, suitable to counteract the lack of control on the COTS components or terminals.

For this purpose, the process comprises a step of controlling COTS components by means of a feedback loop; this approach provides for a more reliable visualization of the images.

The proposed solution allows to overcome the limits of the prior art, while still using off-the-shelf components and increasing at the same time the safety of the overall visualization system.

Using COTS terminals and components, i.e. commercially available products, the overall costs of the systems implementing the method of the invention have also reduced costs without impiring their reliability.

The features of the invention are specifically set forth in the appended claims. Such features will become more apparent from the following description of a preferred but non limiting embodiment of the invention, which will be described herein after with reference to the appended drawing wherein:

Pig.1 is a block diagram representing a control system of the prior art; Fig.2 is a block diagram representing a control system according to the present invention;

Fig. 3, 4 and 5 are flow charts showing respective operating phases of the control method of the present invention;

Fig. 6 and 7 are further block diagrams showing the operation of the control system of the present invention.

With reference to the drawings listed above and in particular to fig. 2, that shows a block diagram of an HMI of the invention generally referred to with numeral 10, for sake of simplicity there are identified three main operating units or blocks: an HMI safe server block 11, an HMI terminal block 12, and a COTS monitor block 13.

These blocks or units 11 » 12 and 13 are serially connected to each other as shown by arrows in the drawings and, according to a preferred embodiment, the HMI system 10 comprises a feedback control loop 15, between the HMI terminal 12 and the HMI safe server 11.

Overall, the process of generating and displaying the image to the video on COTS monitors 13, is divided into a series of steps involving the two subsystems HMI Safe Server 11 and HM Tenninal 12.

More specifically, HMI Safe Server 11 carries out the following steps:

- generating the status of the symbols to be displayed;

- sending an encrypted copy of the state to the HMI Terminal 12;

- providing, in the normal operational mode, to the HMI Terminal 12 the cryptographic keys for decoding the state; - supervising the outcome of the diagnostic tests performed on each HMI Terminal 12 and assigning them the normal or safe operational mode.

Meanwhile, the HMI terminal 12 carries out the following steps:

- decrypting the status of the symbols received by HMI Safe Server with the received key;

- generating the image to be displayed;

·» running diagnostics routines required by the HMI Safe Server 11;

- sending the reply message to the HMI Safe Server 11 ·

As can be seen from the flow charts of figures 3-5, a new and original feature of the present invention is that through the use of cryptographic techniques, it allows the HMI safe server 11 to enable/disable safely the updating of the display on the individual HMI terminal 12.

In particular, according to a preferred embodiment, the communication between the HMI Safe Server 11 and HMI Terminals 12 uses two levels of encryption:

1. symmetric key encryption with AES to protect the symbols state sent by the HMI Safe Server 11 through all the HMI Terminals 12. The HMI Safe Server 11 uses a key "Ks" that is changed at each processing cycle;

2. asymmetric key encryption with RSA to protect the cryptographic key "Ks". The HMI Safe Server 11 sends the ''Ks" key (necessary to decrypt the state) in a further encrypted message. There is a pair of unique keys for each HMI Terminal 12; each HMI Teraiinal 12 can get me key "Ks" only decoding the proper key block. In the drawings, Ks is the symmetric key used to encrypt the status block (Fig. 4 - point 1); Ktn is the public asymmetric key used to encrypt Ks towards the HMI Terminal n (Fig. 4 - point 2); Kpn is the private asymmetric key used by the HMI Terminal n to operate decryption Ktw(Ks) (Fig. 5 - point 1).

Upon providing the right key for decryption of the symbols state, and after having checked the required diagnostic outcomes, the HMI Safe Server 11 enables the HMI Terminals 12 to generate the output image to be sent to the COTS monitors 13.

In the absence of such automation, the HMI Tenranal 12 cannot build the correct state to produce a valid image.

This provides for two constraints or cnditions for the applications that use the proposed system.

The first condition is that the diagnostic outcomes processed by the HMI Safe Server 11, must be designed to ensure, within the desired rate of probability, the identification of possible HMI Terminal 12 malfunctions.

The second condition or constraints is that in the absence of a non-updated state, the HMI Terminal 12 must not be able to produce a valid image for the operators COTS monitors 13.

Since in both cases it comes to application constraints which solution to apply, the application of the present invention to railways control systems is better explained with reference to figures 6 and 7,

In the context of railway signaling applications, with particular reference to operator interfaces, a HMI control system 20 comprises a Safety Nucleus 21 acts like HMI Safe Server 11 of the diagram in fig. % while COTS PC 22 acts like previous HMI Terminal 12.

In the system COTS LCD Monitors 23 are used, and having regard to these definitions, the table reported below shows in horizontal lines the parameters (threats) that must be addressed to ensure the accuracy of the display 23, whereas in the vertical columns there are reported the possible counteractions.

Each feature of the table can be allocated as in the flow diagram of figure 7, Using the set of features disclosed herein, the feedback control loop provides for safely enabling or disabling the COTS terminals 22, thereby ensuring that an operator looking at the monitor 23 can rely on the full correctness of the images displayed therein.

In other words, in the HMI control system 20 according to the invention, only images whose reliability has been fully tested by the feedback control loop 25/ are sent to the final monitor and/ or screen, panel or other visual display 23, From the foregoing explanations it can therefore be appreciated how the present invention solves the technical problem set forth initially. Indeed, the proposed solution improves the overall safely of a visualization system by adding a closed loop for controlling the critical path of COTS components.

The feedback chain makes independent the reliability of the visualization process from the particular set of used COTS products.

More precisely, considering only as necessary system specification the safe generation of the image corresponding to the status of signalling symbols, there is no other vital mechanism to introduce for reaching the safety goal. Every significant error caused by a malfunctioning hardware or software source, in fact, will be reported into the feedback loop and this will lead to a safe stop of the image updating.

The proposed method is easy to integrate and customize into existing architectures with no economic (i.e. costs) impact, so that in the railway field it is possible to discard the current monitoring systems based on proprietary hardware.

Besides, thanks to its independence from the specific application, the system can be applied wherever a safe graphical visualization interface (HMI, GUI or others) is required.

Therefore, it is possible to extend its employment to other operating contexts or to other companies as well, bringing to improve the safety of people and things, with a significant social impact.