Wireless Sensor Technology in Rail Monitoring: IBM Boost

A network of wireless sensors should soon be make things easier when commissioning and monitoring rail vehicles. Experts from Siemens have developed a wireless sensor system that measures the mechanical loads to which a rail vehicle is subjected during operation. According to the latest edition of the Siemens research magazine Pictures of the Future, the sensors measure, for example, the degree of vibration at various points. The system operates with a very little energy in conjunction with wireless sensor networks.

The Siemens global research unit Corporate Technology developed the wireless sensor system as part of the government-sponsored research project Akusens. 20 sensor nodes continuously take measurements simultaneously and data from each of them logged synchronously. According to the experts,” it is possible to build up a profile of the vibrations and loads to which the rail vehicle is subjected and thereby describe the long-term stresses on individual components. Similarly, the vibration data in the profile also shows how torsion affects the superstructure and running gear. To the human eye, however, such movements remain invisible, since the components affected move only a few millimetres.”

The project was tested over a period of nine months, while the system underwent trials on the route between Rotterdam and Muttenz, a municipality in Switzerland. The sensors were fitted to a freight locomotive operating in normal service. The wireless sensors continued to perform precisely and reliably at temperatures between -20 and +85 degrees Celsius. In the future, the sensors will also be tested in other areas of application.

Meanwhile, with the latest Internet of Things distance boost from IBM and Semtech, Wireless sensor technology can now operate at a range of 15 km (9 miles). This was demonstrated at European Utility Week in Amsterdam October 15-17, 2013.  The new sensors will utilize star network architecture with each gateway capable of handling millions of transactions per day making it an ideal system to easily deploy any number of applications from smart metering to remotely monitoring train tracks. “To realize our vision of a Smarter Planet, we must improve the usability of instrumented sensors and devices to securely and efficiently manage large volumes of data,” said Thorsten Kramp, researcher, IBM Research – Zurich. “Together with hardware utilizing Semtech’s new long range technology, IBM Mote Runner now also serves markets that inherently require adaptive long-range communication.”  “The biggest request we hear from our clients is longer battery life, low cost, ease of use and longer distances. With IBM, we now have an answer to all of these questions,” said Hardy Schmidbauer, Wireless Products Director at Semtech. “The new IBM Mote Runner-Semtech system is available starting today.”