Wireless technology to enhance rail safety

Many people are under the impression that railways continue to use outdated technology. However, this could not be further from the truth. Technological innovations have had a great impact. Multidimensional ultrasonic technologies, drones, sensors and much more have become increasingly popular in the industry. Not only have they optimised work processes, but they have also enhanced rail safety.

A high-risk industry

Moving trains and high voltage, the use of heavy equipment and exposure to poor environmental conditions are all serious safety hazards. Railways have always been a relatively high-risk industry in which to work. Every time a track worker ventures out on to the railway, he becomes extremely vulnerable to serious safety hazards.

By implementing a range of measures which have improved worker safety, the industry has been successful at lowering accident rates. In the ultimate safety environment, there will be no boots on tracks and no requirement for someone to physically check a site.  Moreover, it should be easy to make fast decisions to minimise or even negate risk in a potential safety-critical situation.

This might sound like a utopia, but nonetheless, it is quite possible to achieve.

Improved wireless technology, intelligent sensors and a gateway to the database/internet will enable instant and precise decision-making. Intelligent Monitoring Solutions (IMS) brings together significant developments in the three aforementioned areas.

IMS can be used to enhance prediction and to support immediate identification of the early signs of structural and geotechnical failure and fatigue. The vision is that IMS will provide the right insight for the right person. And it will assist them in making the right decision quickly.

IMS helps you to be prepared

The best way to describe this is by using the following example. Imagine this: you are struggling with settlements on one of your railway embankments. You want to ensure that the railway is under constant supervision and that the settlements are kept to a minimum. As a result, you decide to install an intelligent monitoring solution and install tilt sensors on to the sleepers of the railway.

Early one morning, you receive an alarm via text and email. The sensors on-site have been working to identify movement across the embankment and have detected settlements that have exceeded the limit values. Meaning: there is a high risk of failure.

Until the failure, the movement had been so minimal that it would have been nearly invisible to the naked eye. As soon as the sensors detected the smallest movement, the system automatically and gradually increased the reporting rate of the sensors. As the movements happened gradually, the system requested further data samples in order to examine if the small movements were widespread. It also notified the gateway to clear the path and minimise any lag that could prevent immediate decision-making. All these factors combined provided an early indication of the potential for failure. As a result, when the alarm was received that morning, preparations were already in hand and immediate action was taken.

Proactive as well as reactive

Wireless Intelligent Monitoring Solutions enables relevant stakeholders not only to be proactive but also reactive. IMS can limit asset failure due to its ability to provide early prediction and minimise risk in dangerous areas. Together, the trinity of wireless technology, sensors and a gateway detect any movement on a track, an embankment or on a construction site. It signals these movements in near real-time and thereby reduces potentially vital delays in carrying out repair works when issues occur. The system allows stakeholders to immediately know what is happening on ‘at risk’ assets, in remote or busy locations.

Safety has and always will be a topic of great importance for both rail and other industries. Although there is a long way to go before we reach the perfect solution, implementing an Intelligent Monitoring Solution for your assets is a great start.

This is an extract. To read the full blogpost visit Railmonitors webpage.

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