From the BBC to TISA from RDS (Radio Data System) to TPEG (Transport Protocol Experts Group)

Written by Carla Coppola

In 1922 the American inventor Thomas Edison stated that “the radio craze will die out in time”. Almost a century has passed by and here we are talking about TISA the Traveller Information Services Association whose work floats on the radio frequencies and about a man Bev Marks who spent  more than 40 years working in broadcasting first at the BBC as a broadcast engineer secondly at the European Broadcast Union as an engineering consultant and then at TISA (Mr Marks will be retiring this year). Something went definitely wrong in Edison predictions…

Appointed TISA Executive Director in 2010 Mr Marks has seen TISA growing up to 106 members worldwide including car manufacturers terminal client device manufacturers public authorities broadcasters and service and content providers. And of course he was an integrating part of and celebrated many of the associations’ achievements.

Under the Marks’ leadership TISA published three position papers; one on international standards in support of the European ITS Directive 2010/40/EU an ERTICO-joint one on Traffic and Travel Information (TTI) services and a most recent one on the provision of a free minimum universal traffic information service.

Bev Marks has been so much involved in TISA work that one could say that his achievements in the past two years are TISA achievements. But let’s proceed in order.

Founded in 2007 TISA has taken over the activities carried out by the TMC Forum the TPEG Forum and the German Mobile.Info project with the scope to support standards that provide a framework for services and products covering traffic and travel information. Since its creation TISA has grown  to over 100 Members in 28 countries including Brazil China Russia the USA and the United Arab Emirates.

In 2011 during the ITS European Congress in Lyon former TISA President Jonathan Burr and EasyWay Chairman Ronald Adams acknowledged the cooperation between EasyWay ESG5 group and TISA to work on the interface between DATEX II and TPEG by signing a Memorandum of Understanding. According to TISA Coordinator Amaury Cornelis “the Lyon event was a landmark for TISA as we had for the first time in 4 years an autonomous stand at a Congress with an end-to-end demonstration on the booth”. The same success was repeated a year later in Vienna this time at a World Congress. In October 2012 TISA signed a Liaison Agreement with GENIVI Alliance with the scope of creating a framework for an exchange of TISA Specifications between the two communities in order to harmonise protocols in the areas of mutual interest. “These agreements are perceived as fundamental for the TISA work as they allow a close cooperation of experts on specific subjects such as protocols and standards” Stephanie Chaufton Administrator of TISA adds.

2012 has been indeed an exciting year for the TISA community; in May on the occasion of the annual General Assembly in Brussels the association presented the handbook “TISA 12017 – TPEG What it is all about”. This ‘TPEG for dummies’ offers a guideline for professionals to understand concepts and principles of TPEG (Transport Protocol Experts Group) technology specifications and follows “many of the ideas used in a booklet originally produced in 2003 by the TPEG Project coordinated by the EBU” (as clearly mentioned in the book).

One of the most recent successes of the association was the first TPEG Testfest held in Munich last September. During this event jointly organised by ERTICO and TISA a series of interoperability test cases were organised focusing mainly on the implementation of TPEG applications currently defined in TISA Specifications which are soon to become worldwide Standards.

When asking about the birth of TISA in 2007 Michel Reneric founder and former President of TISA explains that Bev Marks provided the diplomatic drive behind the establishment of the association. “At the time we had two different associations the TPEG Forum and the TMC Forum which were offering the same type of service in providing traffic information. There was a risk of conflict between the two activities based on their different approaches to technology; one analogical (RDS) and one more modern (TPEG)”. The greatest merit of Bev Marks according to Mr Reneric was to stop this competition and understand both parties and to make them sitting at the same table; “it was a complex and delicate matter because the two associations had to agree on one governance one statute one president one structure. Bev showed great comprehension and sensibility in finding a balance fair to both organisations but also a strong ability in writing the important funding principles in a unambiguous and fair manner”.

This unique capacity to listen to all ideas and to moderate conflicts before their escalation has accompanied Bev Marks also in all his participation in the working groups; “certainly it was not an easy task to put together Englishmen French and Germans in the same working group!” Mr Reneric yarns.

This ability to understand the various European cultures is something that belongs to him and that he practiced over his 15 years at the EBU – the European Broadcasting Union – which counts 74 active members varying from Albania to USA.

Michel Reneric has also the merit to have offered Bev Marks the position of Executive Director of TISA at the end of 2009 after Heinz Friedrichs. “It was an obvious decision taken at the unanimity; after all his efforts and work for TISA he was the perfect person for this position”.

A long term colleague of Bev Marks Theo Kamalski gives us some historical insights on the early days of Bev Marks work; “Bev is first of all an expert of RDS (Radio Data System) where all started and which paved the way to the TMC and TPEG activities”. Mr Kamalski also explains how the calm (and calming) approach of Bev Marks has been helpful in many occasions especially in difficult circumstances. “I remember that at the end of a meeting after a difficult discussion on RDS he could come back in the room and say ‘Gentlemen can we continue this meeting in my own Battle field?’ [Battle is Bev Marks home town]. He has a great sense of humour capable of soothing the most difficult situation”. “He is an extraordinary person – Kamalski continues – I have known Bev since 1984 together with Mark Saunders we are the survivors of the RDS expert group at EBU still working for TISA”.

Thanks to Theo Kamalski we discovered a quite extraordinary document; “The Marks’ Newsletter” produced in 1998 on the occasion of the publication of the book “RDS – The Radio Data System” written by Bev Marks and Dietmar Kopitz. In this unique newsletter Mr Marks names TPEG probably for the first time “during 1998 I have also been working on a new Project for the EBU called TPEG …This activity takes me to Geneva every month for a week or more”.

Thomas Kusche current President of TISA and long term representative of the WDR (West German Broadcasting) at the Broadcasting Union has known Bev Marks for over 12 years since Mr Marks time at the EBU.

According to Mr Kusche two words can best describe Bev Marks: expertise and reliability; “it is a joy working with Bev he is not only an extremely competent person but he has also a feeling of belonging to the organisation he works for which is difficult to find in many professionals”. As said by Mr Kusche “Bev knows everyone in the industry if you need some technical advice you can always refer to him as he has been one of the key figures for TPEG”. Mr Kusche participated in one of the last TPEG Forum meetings in 2007 before its merge with the TMC Forum into TISA when Mr Marks was still working for the EBU. He states that one of the greatest successes of Bev Marks was to make the commercial aspect and possibilities of TPEG understood and respected by a Union made of public services.

But what do TPEG gurus think about Bev Mark? Martin Dreher “one of the most knowledgeable experts in the TPEG world” as Amaury Cornelis states worked on TPEG software development for over 10 years. Mr Dreher first met Bev Marks in Geneva at the TPEG Forum meetings; “I learnt a lot from Bev he is always very open and supportive in finding a common agreement he has a great sensibility towards and a deep understanding for people of different nationalities”. Mr Dreher worked with Marks in the development of TPEG for long time and explains the importance to establish a universal terminology for traveller information. “Once after a meeting in Geneva we were walking around. At one point I comment on an Ilex (Latin name for Holly) and immediately Bev understood what tree I was referring to because he is a keen botanist and so we were both using the standard Latin word rather than the English or German ones. This is what TPEG is about – a standardised language for travel information”.

Mr Marks has been the originator of the TPEG framework; as Mr Dreher confirms “initially the working group was called “B-TPEG”; Bev has been so much involved in this work that we used to joke that the B was standing for Bev rather than for broadcast!”

Bev Marks appreciation comes from all different parts of the industry; just a few days ago the TISA Committees Meetings met in Bordeaux for the last meeting of Mr Marks as Executive Director. Mr Marks handed over his mission to Matthias Unbehaun. On that occasion the resigning and designed Executive Directors received an unusual gift from Martin Dreher; the little sparrow of Ulm that inspired the inhabitants of the German city to complete the construction of the cathedral tower. Symbolically Bev Marks is the sparrow of TISA as he has inspired the TISA community to build its work and to look to the right direction. Matthias Unbehaun received a sparrow in a cage ready to be released and to continue to inspire.

Over his career Bev Marks has also been granted with the title of Honorary Member by the RDS Forum a non-profit international professional industry association that aims to promote and maintain the Radio Data System (RDS) technology developed by the European Broadcasting Union as an open system to enhance FM broadcasting. As Dietmar Kopitz explains Bev Marks received his honorary membership for his work in RDS technology as “in the early days of RDS Bev was responsible at the BBC for implementing RDS on the BBC’s transmitter networks”.

But Mr Marks achievements and honours go way beyond TPEG… a fond hiker lover of nature and countryside the man who wears only red socks is also the Chairman of the Battle Ramblers a walking group and affiliated club to the national Ramblers Association in the UK. Last July together with some other 200 audacious ramblers Mr Marks walked for a week every evening during the Battle’s Big Event.

This is only the latest of Bev Marks successes many more are to come as many more there will be for the TISA community. Indeed 2013 is going to be a busy year for the association with the next Committees Meetings hosted in Seattle in March and the second Testfest announced in May hosted again in Munich.

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Original Publication Date: Fri 14 Dec 2012