Choosing the right industrial PC for rolling stock is important for the safety, security and operation of railways.
Railway operators require dependable, rugged industrial PCs on board railway cars. All computing
, storage and networking equipment must be able to withstand harsh environments, such as direct exposure to rough weather, as well as deal with shock and vibration from movement.
“Many operators are also looking for the latest technologies — the most advanced processors and GPUs, the highest-speed network switches — so their user-level artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning applications can run as efficiently as possible,” said Bob Haag, VP of Sales and Marketing at Crystal Group
However, as user requirements evolve to reflect the advances being made in commercial technology, manufacturers, too, must be able to keep up with and meet these changes. That’s where companies like Crystal Group come in.
Crystal Group specializes in ruggedizing advanced commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components and stabilizing them in a milled aircraft-aluminum chassis to serve the requirements of railway operators, as well as deliver the latest technologies exactly how and where they are needed.
“These products are designed to provide rugged, high performance edge computing capabilities to railway operators. As such, they house railway monitoring and control applications as well as burgeoning artificial intelligence and machine learning software suites that operators are using to further enhance overall productivity and safety,” Haag explained.
He added, “Our embedded computing products, network switches and secure storage devices are engineered to meet or exceed military specification requirements, many of which are the same for the railway industry environment, including the ability to reliably withstand extreme temperature, shock, vibration or electromagnetic interference.”
Requirements, though, also heavily depend on the application. Not all applications require the most rugged or advanced computer. Raphael Binder, Head of Product Management at Syslogic
highlighted that his company offers a range of PCs from low-performance node computers to AI railway computers.
“The common denominator between them are the uncompromising industrial board and case design. This also includes the elimination of moving parts such as delicate fans prone to breaking down. Frequently, non-reactive controller area network (CAN) interfaces are required in vehicle applications,” Binder said. He added that screwable M12 connectors are “indispensable for railway applications, so that they do not come loose during operation and no condensation water enters the computer via the interfaces.”
Binder provided different examples of how Syslogic’s computers are being used by railway operators in different applications. Many of Syslogic’s rail customers, such as Stadler Rail or Siemens, use its railway computers as rail control units (RCU). The Swiss railway operator SBB
uses its computers as the central control unit for the passenger information system (PIS), the comfort system and digital video surveillance. “Current projects also focus on computer vision applications that enable semi-automated and highly automated driving,” he said.
From another perspective, Eason Yang, Product Manager at Axiomtek
broke requirements down into four main markets and functions: surveillance, control and management systems, PIS and IoT/network communication. Within each of these markets, the role of the computer varies.
, the computer processes video surveillance, edge computing, AI, asset management and video analytics. For control and management systems, it controls vehicle control HMI, the driver machine interface, the monitoring and diagnostic system and data collection. For PIS, it controls the public address system, digital signage, internet service, the passenger intercom and scheduling system. Lastly, for the IoT and network communication
, it controls predictive and condition-based maintenance, the signal converter and Ethernet-based communication.
Regardless of market or function, Yang pointed to the company’s new two-in-one transportation-certified box PC, which has a built-in layer 2 managed PoE switch for IP surveillance applications. This PC features high reliability and stability in harsh railway environments and optimized network performance. It is also compliant with EN 50155 and EN 45545 standards.