Many are still under the impression that railroads today use outdated technology. However, this could not be any further from the truth. More than anything, the industry is slowly, but steady, starting to resemble Silicon Valley. Multidimensional ultrasonic technologies, drones, sensors and much more have become increasingly popular in the industry.
It has become evident that there is a growing, unrelenting pursuit for innovation in which we are constantly finding new ways to increase railroad safety. The progress is rooted in a strong strategy: invest in maintaining and upgrading infrastructure and equipment, and continuously strive to develop and deploy new technology.
We are currently experiencing a digital revolution. Across all industries the ultimate goal of this revolution is, simply put, to improve our lives. Technology has helped us to improve our bottom lines and streamline our processes. In general, it has made our lives much easier. This is all fine and well, but for the railway industry, technological innovations have had an even greater impact. Not only have they optimized work processes but they have also enhanced rail safety.
A high-risk industry
Railways have always been a relatively high-risk industry to work in, both in terms of injuries and fatalities.
Moving trains and high voltage, the use of heavy equipment and exposure to poor environmental conditions are all serious safety hazards. By implementing a range of measures which have improved worker safety, the industry has been successful in lowering accident rates. Some of these measures involve a requirement to use high-visibility clothing, safe-working procedures on track and permits to work on the tracks. Additionally, various technologies have been developed to warn workers of approaching trains. Despite these measures, safety remains an area of attention for the railways.
Wireless technology to enhance rail safety
Every time a track worker sets his boots onto the railway, he becomes extremely vulnerable to serious safety hazards. In the ultimate safety environment, there will be no boots on the tracks and no requirement to physically send someone to check the site. Simultaneously, it should be easy to make fast decisions to minimize or even avoid 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 early signs of structural and geotechnical failure and fatigue. The vision is that IMS will provide the right insight to the right person. And it will assist them in making the right decision, fast.
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 on a minimum. As a result, you decide to install an intelligent monitoring solution and, for instance, install tilt sensors onto the sleepers of the railway.
In the early hours of 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 catch for the human 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 minimize any lag that could prevent immediate decision making. These characteristics provided a rich picture of the situation and gave you an early indication of the potential for failure. As a result, when you received the alarm that morning, you were prepared and was able to act immediately.
Proactive as well as reactive
Wireless Intelligent Monitoring Solutions allows relevant stakeholders to not only be proactive but also reactive. IMS can limit asset failure due to their ability to provide early prediction and minimize risk in dangerous areas. Together, the trinity of wireless technology, sensors, and a gateway will detect any movement on a track, an embankment or on a construction site. It will signal these movements in near real-time and thereby reduce potentially vital delays in conducting 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 not only rail but across all industries. Although there is a long way to go before, we reach the perfect solution, implementing an Intelligent Monitoring Solution to your assets will be a great start.
Read our Case Stories
Do you want to know more about how Intelligent Monitoring Solutions can make a world of difference for companies such as Aarsleff Rail or PEAB? Pay a visit to our Case Stories!