Rail has employed IoT for a while, though trains operating at such high speeds through tunnels and extreme weather conditions has presented challenges when it comes to deploying IoT systems. Fortunately, advances in networking have made smart trains a reality. Great new IoT use cases are possible to further improve operational efficiency, passenger experience and the operators’ return on investments.
Legacy infrastructure is gradually being replaced by train management systems in which trains become interconnected communication hubs, transmitting data among themselves and to network control centers and receiving instructions from control centers. Machine-to-machine communication, with some help from the cloud, enables operators to use equipment, tracks and stations more efficiently while dramatically reducing safety risks, according to Eurotech, a provider of embedded boards and systems.
Here are several potential use cases presented by Eurotech for using IoT to create a connected railway:
Safety is a key area of concentration
Safety is, of course, a primary element of IoT applications and solutions when it comes to train management. One safety use case is on-board train location and detection systems that enable trains to be “aware” of the positions of other trains. This reduces the risk of collisions while allowing trains to operate safely in close proximity to one another.
Speed monitoring and control is another important safety application. Systems have been developed that can display train velocity for drivers and report speeds back to central control systems. On-board monitoring systems are interconnected with outdoor signaling systems that can regulate train speeds, or even remotely command trains to stop based on track conditions, the positions of switches, the presence of other trains on the track and other factors, according to Eurotech.
Umberto Malesci, CEO of Fluidmesh Networks, wrote in a LinkedIn post that there are three major systems within railroads that will significantly benefit from automation and the IoT: signaling, interlocking and level crossings control.
Signaling systems control the movement of a train by remotely adjusting train speed and braking. More traditional signaling systems are based on radio-frequency identification along the train track, but wireless train to ground signaling is getting more and more common in both railroad and metro systems, according to Malesci. He said most of the new European high-speed railroads are equipped with European Train Control System level 2, which is a signaling standard that requires constant radio communication between the train and the group.
Interlocking avoids conflicting movements on the tracks at junctions and crossings by using red and green light signals. The interlocking system works in conjunction with the signaling system to prevent a train from getting a signal to proceed if the route is proven to be unsafe. The IoT can further improve the system’s level of automation and its integration with the signaling system.
Level crossings control is the third system that impacts safety on railroads. According to the European Railway Agency, 619 accidents occurred at level crossings in 2010, causing 359 fatalities in the European Union that year; 2009 stats show 831 level crossings-related accidents caused 405 fatalities that year. Accidents related to level crossings represent 30% of all railway fatalities in the EU. IoT can help decrease those statistics by deploying cameras and sensors for increased safety.
Many more use cases
Beyond safety, Malesci gives a number of use cases where the Internet of Things enhances the operational efficiency of railways.
According to a recent report by Cisco, almost $30 billion will be spent in the next 15 years on IoT projects in the railway industry.
By Rob Booth - LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rob-booth-2193982/