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Major factors in a robust rail communication system

Major factors in a robust rail communication system
The ultimate goal of a communication system is to ensure information reaches the right recipient quickly and accurately. What differs in the application is the kind of information transferred and its purpose.
A strong communications solution enables safe, on-time and fully connected journeys. According to Karsten Oberle, Global Practice Lead for Railway Business at Nokia, some of the major factors of a robust communication system include train control and security.

Obviously, the ultimate goal of a communication system is to ensure information reaches the right recipient quickly and accurately. What differs in the application is the kind of information transferred and its purpose.

Communications-based train control

Communications-based train control (CBTC) is a railway signaling system that employs telecommunication solutions between the train and track equipment to manage traffic and control infrastructure. CBTC systems provide more accurate information on train locations compared to traditional signaling systems.

“Connectivity is essential for many metro subsystems including signaling, ticketing, control, voice applications and more,” Oberle said. “Communications-based train control (CBTC) enables automation and increases the capacity and efficiency of a metro rail system. As the name implies, CBTC cannot function without a reliable communications network.”

Surveillance camera systems

Current metro rail systems also rely heavily on surveillance cameras to ensure the safety and security of the rail infrastructure and of the passengers. Without a reliable network, it is impossible to have a reliable security system supporting a very large number of cameras. A surveillance system can, for example, detect a person fallen into the tracks, alert the operators, and warn the incoming train of the situation ahead.

However, some industry players point out that video surveillance solutions in railway networks are not as strong as they should be due to their fragmented nature.

In a white paper, the embedded solutions provider Kontron argues that implementing new commercial off the shelf (COTS) open architecture provides the flexibility to integrate multiple systems, scale, and configure easily to customer requirements.  These application-ready computing technologies that allow developers to easily customize and configure intelligent, data-driven video surveillance systems targeted to a variety of transit system needs.

Operational communication

A reliable voice communications system is also needed for a dispatcher to communicate with the train drivers on movement orders, according to Oberle.

“During rush hours, every second count towards efficient operations. Voice communications are also essential for staff performing maintenance work as well as critical in assisting passengers in distress,” Oberle noted. “On the security side, for example, a reliable network ensures that the operations and control center can alert security staff when a public safety situation arises. And the public address system is critical for crowd control.”

Timo Harju, Business Development Manager for Vertical Markets at Airbus Secure Land Communications agreed that a robust communications network technology is essential for daily operations, conveying important messages to various stakeholders and, above all, ensuring security.

“The whole idea of communications is to be able to reach involved personnel, instantly, at any time,” Harju said. “This maintains the opportunity to keep people informed when needed, to improve their awareness of situations, and also to improve and speed up response to critical situations which need immediate attention.

In several of the new metro lines that Airbus Secure Land Communications is equipping, disaster recovery solutions, such as base station and client dual-homing, are being implemented as standard. This increases system robustness, even during disasters. Communication is the key tool to coordinate and ensure smooth operations between and inside teams.

Integrating with IoT

The Internet of Things (IoT), which has made inroads into almost every industry in recent years, is expected to play a major role in railway communication systems as well, according to Kontron.

“By integrating video surveillance systems across a highly leveraged wired and wireless network infrastructure, operators gain an improved comprehensive real-time view of trains, tracks, depots, and stations,” Kontron said. “Monitoring these assets through video management systems at the control center or by staff operating in the field, connected IoT-enabled video surveillance systems can see the entire network of cameras.”

These allow for more advanced features like critical analytics that help operators gain actionable intelligence, which in turn aids better performance.

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