On-board railway IoT


It is a well-known fact that development of railway technology is evolving slowly and its ability to embrace disruptive technologies is slow. We observe that technology based on IoT (Internet of Things) is having a rapid and relevant implementation in equipment, used both in rolling stock of the railroad, as in the infrastructure itself.

In this way, we present in this article some of the innovations based on IoT that are being implemented in the railway industry and, in particular, in systems embarked on the train, reviewing technical characteristics that these electronic systems require. We will also describe, in a very simple way, five key factors that should be taken into account in the design of electronic IoT systems that will be used on board in trains, subways or tramways.

IoT is a concept that refers to digital grouping and interconnection of electronic devices through a -public or private-network. where all of them can be visible and can interact, without the need for explicit human intervention, establishing M2M communications, in other words, from one machine to another machine.

Numerous innovative IoT-based projects are already in progress in transport sector, generating massive revenues for different parties in railway industry. In particular, addressing the following 7 large areas:

  • Checking and managing status and performance of trains and other railway assets. Thus, increasing their availability and maintainability.
  • To know the location of trains or locomotives with remote GPS monitoring.
  • Receiving alerts about status or location of the equipment.
  • Having information available to any device in real time (web interface), in a secure and reliable way.
  • Create maintenance plans by receiving notifications of on-board devices or on the rail tracks.
  • Improving or enriching the service provided to travellers.
  • Use of objective information for decision-making.

Some examples...

Administrations of railway infrastructures, maintainers and manufacturers use IoT technology to control the status of their systems, rolling stock, and the environment surrounding the train. For example, sensors placed around the wheels and the brakes of a train today already detect changes in vibrations and predict situations that could cause an accident. However, sensors in the railway infrastructure will detect critical changes of temperature and climate for the safe operation from railway infrastructure administrations. The use of sensors provides continuous control of technical and boundary conditions. Its cost is usually low and ideal to cover places that are difficult for staff to reach, such as maintenance workers. Railway infrastructure management is undoubtedly an expensive operation and IoT is helping to make it more efficient in many areas.

Other example already seen is management during life cycle of the availability of some equipment, dramatically improving MTTR times (Mean Time to Repair): analysis of the operation of doors and air conditioning or providing automatic orders and replenishment of supplies for restaurant cars. Some administrations of railway infrastructures are already measuring the number of passengers: waiting at the stations, inside each train, etc. Analysis of this data can guide operators in optimization of schedules taking into account the demand of passengers.

IoT will also offer many improvements in the travel experience for train passengers. Recently, a railway infrastructure administration has introduced real-time GPS positioning on interface for smartphone application for customers, similar to Google Maps.

This is the system called Geotren that has been lately presented at Smart Mobility Congress, within the framework of Smart City Expo World Congress. In this way, passengers will know at every moment where each train is located, its destination, its next stops, its punctuality, its time performance and the available train capacity.

This system is also an open data platform, which means that information can be used by third parties in order to allow them to build their own applications, by way of example.

The scope of on-board systems and the FIVE basic design considerations for on-board electronics.

There are strict controls for so-called on-board electronic equipment for railway applications, which are set out in EN50155 "Railway applications. Electronic equipment used on rolling stock". The main concern is always railroad safety, due to the large number of people who may be traveling aboard a single train. For instance, this means that each component of a sub-system must be evaluated, to take an example, as a risk of spreading fire and smoke, and must be flame-retardant, so that it will not emit toxic fumes in case of fire aboard [consideration 1].

They must also be protected from electromagnetic interference (EMI) [consideration 2] or from changes regarding outside or inside temperature. Even during normal train operation, ambient temperature outside railroad cars can vary from extreme cold to extreme heat in a few minutes. We need to remember that there are trains which may travel at more than 300 km/h and that tunnels have large temperature fluctuations, while on board temperature can be very warm.

This means that electronic equipment for use on railways must have much more temperature tolerances than a standard hardware of a domestic equipment and that it must cover so-called "thermal shocks" [consideration 3]. Constant movement of a running train with strong vibrations and accelerations and decelerations is a highly complex environment for electronic equipment or mechatronic equipment, either using fixed or mobile parts [consideration 4]. Finally, the power supply -system input voltage- for electronic equipment on board a train may not be guaranteed. For instance, occasional disruptions of supply (cuts or micro power cuts) may occur as trains travel throughout from different areas [consideration 5].

EN50155 standard focuses in the following standards for compliance with the FIVE major considerations of on-board equipment and that IoT systems should be able to withstand:

CE marking and IoT systems

IoT equipment manufactured in the European Union must have the CE marking. The railway sector is no exception in complying with the various mandatory European Directives. An IoT equipment on board or located in the railway infrastructure must comply with the following CE Marking Directives::

  • Electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) Directive 2014/30/EU.
  • Low Voltage Directive (LVD) 2014/35/EU.
  • Radio Equipment Directive RED 2014/53/EU (RED).
  • Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals REACH Directive for chemical products 1907/2006/CE.
  • Restriction of Hazardous Substances RoHS, Directive of forbidden products 2011/65/CE.
  • Directive of waste from electrical and electronic equipment WEEE 2012/19/UE.
  • As a feature, systems based on IoT technology must comply with its CE Marking, Directive 2014/53/EU (RED) as radio frequency communications equipment.

    LEEDEO has extensive experience in monitoring compliance with European Directive RED 2014/53/EU for CE Marking of equipment using IoT or similar technology. This kind of equipment is characterized by using radio spectrum to carry out its functions. You can count on our expertise to pass validation processes, implementations via tests and product approvals.

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