Embedded railway computers digitalising rail services

13th June 2018
Alex Lynn

With ever more passengers embarking on a daily train journey, digital technology is playing a crucial role in improving train service. Smart technology, surveillance and remote wireless monitoring are vital for enhancing the efficiency, safety and management of operations across the rail network.

A common cause of service delays and cancellations are problems with the track. Exposed to the elements, the flat bottom steel rails expand and contract in extremes of temperature. Buckled, cracked or damaged tracks need immediate maintenance which seriously impacts train services. Track monitoring via sensors minimises this risk. In providing data on rail temperatures and crack detection, monitoring technology provides a map of miles of track and supports early identification of potential issues. Such data enables rail operators to prioritise maintenance, minimise disruptions and prevent serious issues including derailments. Channelling resources where they are most needed is beneficial in terms of efficiency and cost savings. It also supports compliance with regulatory requirements for safeguarding passengers. In short, digital monitoring supports safe and reliable transportation.

Monitoring rail data over time also provides a bigger picture of wear and tear patterns. This allows railway operators to accurately predict where component failure is likely, even before an issue is detected. ARBOR’s wide-temperature embedded boards feature in track and trackside monitoring devices. Operational in temperatures spanning -40-+85°C, with long term availability and coupled with ARBOR’s in-house conformal coating, the embedded boards are suited to the rail industry.

Packed platforms and a high demand for seats, makes it daunting to manoeuvre through a busy station and travel on a train. By tackling passenger flow, capacity issues and on-board safety, the IoT offers solutions.

Back in 2007, Netherland Railways first introduced public transport chipcards in place of tickets. Over time these were supported by the installation of surveillance and Wi-Fi technologies. Since 2013, passenger movement to and through the country’s busiest stations has been monitored. Anonymity has been maintained and the data has influenced station design and train timetables. The same approach is now being adopted across Europe. Understanding patterns in the movement of passengers provides the opportunity to design and build features that better manage that flow. Actions include improvements to the allocation of resources and responsive digital signage that moves passengers to different areas of the station. The data also highlights unusual passenger behaviour, which can indicate a problem before it has been reported. This allows immediate action to be taken to minimise the impact.

On-board CCTV also enhances the safety and security of passengers and railway employees. These in-vehicle computers support the prevention of incidents in addition to providing evidence. ARBOR’s embedded technology enables the installation of on-board surveillance systems. The wide-temperature fanless transportation computers incorporate Intel processors. They enable multiple CCTV devices to be controlled from a single point on the train, or wireless operation.

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