“Cool IoT Cases” comprises selected innovative use cases that are analysed by an experienced industry observer. Trains & Planes is the first Transportation vertical in the series. Via the delivery of tangible, quantifiable benefits, IoT has established an impressive track record in these fast-growing markets.
This case illustrates a solution that is designed not only to boost performance, but also to realise an innovative operational breakthrough that increases passenger comfort and safety. In addition, a monitoring network provides information to the crew as well as a central maintenance facility.
Rail passengers want fast, safer trains that run on time. Operators want to boost train efficiency lowering costs. Government regulators want greater safety and security. Therefore, as trains become faster and automation increases, there’s increased focus on robust communications between train and track, between different trains, and among compartments on the same train. In other words, on ‘smart’ trains. Those requirements epitomise the kind of services that IoT technology delivers.
Right now, Acela trains from Amtrak run up and down the U.S. Northeast Corridor at speeds of up to 150 mph (240 kph), reducing the Boston-to-Washington trip time from about eight to six hours. In order to realise this objective Amtrak invested US$800 million in 20 train sets from manufacturing consor¬tium Bombardier/ALSTHOM, which employs the LONWORKS® platform developed by Echelon. One train set comprises 260 coach and 44 first-class compartments and offers features such as a very smooth ride, more comfortable and adjustable seating, electrical outlets, and conference tables.
Bombardier had to ensure safe and optimal operation at high speeds, and even though Amtrak installed new rails, the trains had to run at high-speed on lower-speed rail sections. This was realised by using a technology that tilts the compartments as they go through a turn in order to compensate for lateral ac-celeration. In a curve to the left, the train tilts to the left; therefore to compensate for the g-force the mechanism pushes the compartments to the right.
According to Alain Poirier, project engineer at Bombardier for the Acela trains: "You wouldn’t be able to walk inside the train unless you had the tilting. As well as tilting, each car uses another 15 to 20 systems that require constant monitoring and peri¬odic maintenance, such as braking, doors, HVAC, speed sensing, speed limitation, and fire.” In addition, the system enforces speed limitations at specific points on the track.
The train’s LONWORKS monitoring network employs two LCD screens showing speed, pre-departure tests, brake gauges, and alarms. A third screen has a schematic of the train as well as options that give the status of any system in any part of the train. The crew can activate menus to obtain instantaneous access to information that is critical for safe and efficient operation.
Maintenance information generated in each compartment is sent to a central monitoring system. The maintenance facility can access this information online, even when the train is running. Therefore, they can get ready for train arrivals and get the requisite spare parts in place.
Before boarding the train, pas¬sengers can read the external LC display signs on the side of every car, which provide basic information such as the destination. Once aboard, passengers can refer to gen¬eral information LCD displays for messages from the crew. Lastly, if passengers are curious about their progress on the journey, they can look at another LCD display in their compartment.
Easy integration of equipment supplied by different vendors
Improved maintenance procedures and proactive measures
25% reduction in trip times
High speed performance on lower speed tracks
An attractive alternative to road and air travel
Smart networked sensors and actuators measure and respond to compartment movements and forces. The compartments employ computer-controlled active tilting mechanism to counteract the effect of centrifugal forces at higher speeds.
Real time equipment tracking with pinpoint accuracy
Predictive maintenance and remote upgrades
Better visibility into fuel consumption
Ensuring protection against hacking and malware
Optimising use of real estate in compartments while maintaining a high comfort and convenience standard
Obtaining software upgrades and patches without impacting on safe operation
This case aims to cover the basic safety, reliability and economic viability as well the application of advanced IoT technology that enables trains to be “self-aware”. This development reduces the risk of collisions, provides better utilisation of tracks and equipment, and delivers significant environmental benefits when transporting freight over very long distances.
Transportation use cases epitomise the intrinsic flexibility and wide-ranging functionality of well-designed IoT solutions. For example, digital positive train control (PTC) systems leverage wireless networks and cloud-based control systems in order to optimise performance, and make critical decisions in milliseconds. These benefits apply to other transportation systems and they address the same business issues: safety, reliability, and economic viability.
Increasingly, rail transportation system operators rely on data and automated decisions to ensure safe, reliable service, as well as sustainable revenue generation. That means getting more cars on the rails and transporting passengers and goods more quickly without compromising safety. These basic business requirements are accelerating the transition from rail-based signaling designed to prevent collisions and track congestion to multi-functional PTC systems.
With PTC, trains become “self-aware.” Every train knows not only its own location and speed, but also that of every other train in the system, thereby reducing the risk of collisions. This enables operators to utilize tracks and equipment far more efficiently while protecting passengers and rail workers alike.
The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has implemented PTC to increase capacity and improve on-time performance by reducing the distance between trains, while improving safety through movement authority and speed limit enforcement. The system was supplied by Wind River, a company that has extended its 30 years’ experience of embedded software for intelligent connected systems into the transportation sector.
ARTC indicate that rail is the best performing land transport mode for large volumes of freight. It is three times more fuel-efficient and produces three times less carbon than road. Rail freight is also more secure — it is more difficult to steal goods from a train than from a truck.
Transportation of freight in Australia involves very long trains that move refrigerated and other goods across the country. The PTC systems will typically be integrated into the customer’s supply chain process.
The case addresses what would appear to be a relatively simple airport issue: minimising baggage and security queue times. However, it is claimed that employing a sophisticated IoT solution can put the authorities in full control of traffic flow and gives them the power to make quick and informed decisions about resource allocation, facilities layout and more.
There’s an old joke about flying being fun — once you find the plane. Few people enjoy waiting in queues, but they accept it as long as the queue is well managed and moves efficiently. Therefore, measurements of queues should be accurate and the data be used to predict how many people are standing in line and for how long.
This is not an easy task. New days bring new challenges. Disruptions impact the operational plan and require both live and long-term operational input and changes to prevent bottlenecks, queue build-up and lost revenue. Moreover, to understand and improve individual areas of operations, it is important that visitors’ journeys are seen as one process, rather than as a string of isolated events. This is where IoT enters the frame.
BLIP Systems, a privately held company headquartered in Denmark, is a leading vendor in this space. The company’s Blip Track queue and flow technology employs seven modules that taken together provide a cohesive view of people movements. This is important: visitors’ journeys should be seen as one process, rather than as a string of isolated events.
To date more than 25 international airports, including JFK, San Diego, Copenhagen, Dublin, Oslo, Manchester and Brussels have deployed Blip Track technology. These systems provide accurate, real-time wait time information by measuring the number of people in line and the average throughput. The data, which is typically collected using Wi-Fi sensors, enables realistic wait time expectations to be displayed on signs, websites and mobile apps, which helps reduce frustration. In addition, the system provides early warning if lines are becoming congested, thereby allowing management to react quickly, e.g. by opening additional lines.
Key benefits +
Accurately evaluate and challenge key performance indicators in real time
Gain insights on future staffing requirements based on demand, and plan accordingly
Draw from historic data, future schedules and growth predictions to more accurately plan and forecast
Use people movement data to optimise the layout of facilities and positioning of outlets
Make informed retail planning decisions and increase concession income