The possibilities for improving lives are seemingly endless as the Internet of Things (IoT) grows, connecting “things” large and small, near and far. IDC estimates  that in 2020, there will be 26 times more connected devices than people.

UP_PassengerIoT puts “sensors on all manner of machines to collect data, linking them over wired and wireless networks, and then applying data analytics to assess when a train’s wheel needs replacing, a power plant needs fixing, a soybean field needs watering, or a patient needs reviving,” states Chris Murphy of InformationWeek.

Standardized M2M (machine-to-machine) protocols are in the works to facilitate communications, but developers aren’t waiting to see what happens. The automotive industry has been quick on the uptake, driven by the ability to improve vehicle safety.  Ann Arbor, Michigan’s 2800 vehicle safety pilot is testing the technology and the costs of vehicle-to-vehicle communications. In commercial aviation, London City Airport is testing ways to do away with the nuisances of flying…delayed flights, missing baggage, even getting a taxi.

What about the railways? Change may seem slower as trains have longer lives than many methods of transportation. Yet, as The Economist reports, there is no shortage of new ideas, from braking to route-planning to moving platforms.

Union Pacific has already deployed sensors to predict and prevent derailments. Infrared sensors are placed every 20 miles on the tracks to take about 20 million temperature readings, looking for overheating. Trackside microphones listen for a change in the sound of bearings, indicating impending failure. They even use ultrasound imaging to look for flaws inside of wheels.

According to InformationWeek,

CIO Lynden Tennison would love to someday get rid of all of those wayside sensors and instead put tiny sensors, called motes, directly on the wheels, bearings, door locks, and more, and collect the data wirelessly. That way, UP could predict weeks out when most repairs are needed and do them when a train is between deliveries and at a major hub

At a GE Minds+Machines conference, Deborah Butler, CIO of Norfolk Southern, talked about the promise of more automated dispatching, fuel efficiencies from smarter locomotives, and preventative maintenance from trackside sensors that monitor wheels.

The ability to improve operations and passenger service is a key benefit of IoT / M2M. Rail passengers have been surfing the net on trains using wi-fi networks. According to EURAIL magazine, M2M networks are now being implemented to create a more reliable and robust service using large numbers of high quality, resilient connections. In the UK, under the Disability Discrimination Act, station entrances must provide a Customer Information System (CIS) screen. M2M over 3G is providing a fast, economical alternative to cabled systems.

There are a number of technology challenges to be overcome as IoT and M2M technologies proliferate across the rails: Universal cell coverage is needed along tracks to transmit precise locations; battery-powered sensors must last on a railcar for five to seven years without replacement; and standardization is required for sensors, networks, and messaging.

PDS_busbarsDevelopment continues as railroad companies look to key technologies to increase efficiency, safety, reliability, and provide a better passenger experience.

•  Laminated multilayer busbars provide efficient and compact connections for propulsion, auxiliary, and other IGBT based converters.

•  High frequency circuit materials deliver the performance needed by M2M sensors, wireless base stations, satellite antennas, and network servers and storage.

•  High temperature silicone materials are ideal as gaskets and seals, cushions, and thermal and acoustic insulation in demanding conditions.

•  Cellular and specialty silicones help manage vibration for quiet interior cabins.


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