Few would argue that the application of digital technology in rail has been a real gamechanger for the industry. The modernisation of networks through the use of the latest and greatest tech has already brought big improvements and will continue to do so – with faster journeys, predictable performance and safer networks coming high on the list. Those factors certainly explain the reasons why system integrators put themselves through the stresses and strains of installing major infrastructure – and the resulting associated difficulties. Perhaps the most significant explanation behind the move to a more digitised network, however, is the fact that it’s no longer an option to elect to just not take part. Operating a competitive rail service is important but not nearly as important as the legal obligations and safety targets that could be missed.
The issue of implementing condition and predictive maintenance systems and regimes is a complicated business and, clearly, not all markets can be at the same stage in its development. So, in this report we’ve providing a run-down of some of the developments in Europe and Asia, showing that regardless of the area, appearance or scale, the determination to bring rail into the 21st century is stronger than ever.
News arose in March of a deal that had gone through from EKE Electronics to purchase Humaware, a UK company which makes predictive condition and monitoring technology, specifically the analysis of rolling stock signals and sensor data. Now, EKE hopes to strengthen the influence it holds in Asia, Australasia and Europe, all continents which use the Finnish company’s cloud-based diagnostics system, Smartvision, to monitor live train faults, set up maintenance schedules and also provide drivers with guidance to optimise energy consumption.
In neighbouring Norway, the state-operated leasing company there, Norske Tog (NT), has introduced an asset and maintenance management system on its latest fleet of vehicles. The system in question, Trimble’s E2M, will provide NT and rail franchisees in the country access to crucial overview data relating to rail assets, maintenance programmes and maintenance history, helping to minimise asset value depreciation and improve asset reliability, according to NT. Staying in Europe, and still very much on the subject of asset maintenance, Austrian company Kapsch announced in April that it has teamed up with its compatriot 3Binfra to distribute its Infralife system. Already implemented on Luxembourg Railways, Kapsch will be broadening its portfolio with a system that “integrates service and diagnostic systems, allocates measurement data and visualises individual failures along the route”.
To learn more about the technology and issues covered in this report, our annual rail event, SmartRail will be taking place in Munich on 17-19 June.
Among the attendees will be infrastructure managers, passenger rail and freight operators and industry suppliers, offering a wealth of opportunities to network and also learn about the latest developments from those applying them.
Visit the show website to see the agenda, speakers and register for the show.
Meanwhile in Saudi Arabia, the fleet management technology developer, Perpetuum, has broken new ground by winning its first ever contract in the Middle East with the country’s state operator on the 1,250-kilometre line linking Riyadh with Qurrayat. The two-year, two-train deal will enable the country to monitor the tracks using Perpetuum’s self-powered, wireless sensing technology. The task is viewed as particularly complex owing to the extreme conditions experienced in the arid region – where temperatures often exceed 50 degrees Celsius. SmartRail World reported on another self-powering unit that would also be suitable for many of the remote locations along the Saudi Arabian line; Mota-Engil’s P4SERT product needs no power supply and can lay dormant, holding its charge for months at a time with battery levels topped up every time a train runs over it.
Offering up a system that harnesses the power of the Internet of Things (IoT), Siemens announced at in June last year that it had agreed separate agreements with component manufacturers SKF and Voith for the development of a condition monitoring system aimed at improving safety and reducing maintenance and inspection costs. Working under Siemens’ Railigent suite, which is powered by the German train builder’s MindSphere IoT platform, SKF said that it would using it to enable live monitoring of several vital components, including wheelset bearings and wheels. Around a month later, the Indian city of Chennai announced that it would be using the expertise of the previously mentioned Trimble for asset management solutions on its metro system. Chennai Metro Rail (CMRL) will employ the US company’s Nexala technology to provide diagnostic data, giving it a comprehensive view of the overall status of its Alstom fleet of trains, including specific and potential vehicle faults. “Deploying the Trimble R2M and E2M means CMRL can maximize benefits with remote diagnostics, condition monitoring, and analytics delivered via one interface, providing a consolidated view of on-train and wayside systems,” said Tomas Larsson, general manager of Trimble's Rail Solutions Business.
We’re casting our eye over Germany for our last example – Munich to be precise. For it is in the Bavarian capital where the transport start-up Konux has developed an IoT- and artificial intelligence-enabled technology that reportedly improves network capacity through predictive maintenance. The start-up has got to where it is today with the help of investors, most recently €11.5 million from a group of investors that included the Chinese trading website, Alibaba, bringing the small company’s total funding pot to around €44 million. Labelled “crucial” by Konux, the Alibaba funding boost will according to the company allow it to ‘expand its product portfolio development and accelerate its international market expansion into China’.
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Read: Positive Train Control: Asset management for safety-critical systems.