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MIT: Your express train to smarter rail

MIT: Your express train to smarter rail
More and more, rail operators are turning to advanced solutions to ensure safety and operational efficiency. This article looks at some of cutting-edge made-in-Taiwan rail solutions, which were on display at Secutech 2023.
Rail is one of the most important industries in any country in the world. More and more, rail operators are turning to advanced solutions to ensure safety and operational efficiency. This article looks at some of cutting-edge MIT (made-in-Taiwan) rail solutions, which were on display at Secutech 2023.
Needless to say, rail operators place a strong focus on safety and security. Failure to do so may result in accidents and other unwanted events. According to the US National Safety Council, railroad deaths totaled 893 in 2021, a 20 percent increase from 744 for 2020 and the highest since 2007. Nonfatal injuries totaled 5,781, a 4 percent increase from 5,544 for 2020.

AI plays a role

To better prevent accidents and ensure rail safety, AI- and computer vision-based analytics can play a vital role. One example is the AI solution developed by Taiwan-based HiPower.
“Our AI can be used in three key areas in rail transport: track, crossing and platform. For track, our AI can detect foreign objects on the track, and the drivers and operation center can be informed instantly. At the crossings, we can detect individuals loitering or entering the crossing when they are not supposed to. On the platform, we can also detect people loitering or entering the track,” said Patrick Hsu, Administrative Assistant Manager at HiPower.
According to Hsu, their AI, mostly deployed in edge devices such as IP cameras and edge servers, is self-developed and can be customized to the various needs of rail users. The solution already has projects in Taiwan. “It’s deployed on the Alishan Rail Line and on the platform at Fongyuan Station,” Hsu said, adding they are considering expanding overseas as well, especially to India and Vietnam.

Inside the train

Inside the train, AIoT (AI and IoT) devices are even more important in ensuring passenger safety. These devices range from IP cameras to alarms to door control systems. An industrial-grade computer, or IPC, that processes and analyzes all the data, then, becomes critical.
In this regard, Taiwan manufacturers have solutions as well. Vecow, for example, highlighted their Edge AI Solution Services for Digital Rail, a major element of which was the IVX-1000 ICY in-vehicle fanless AI inference workstation with various features including: Intel processor (Xeon/Core i9/i7/i5/i3), 8 M12 2.5G LAN with 4 PoE+, 6 SSD trays, optional MXM graphics, EN50155 and EN45545 and DC 16V to 160V.
“According to our rail customers, the biggest problem they face is shock and vibration. So you need an IPC that’s ruggedized and can remain working normally in a constantly vibrating environment, and our IPC can achieve that,” said Esther Han, Product Manager for Embedded System at Vecow.
She added: “We use an Intel CPU with graphics capability, or the user can opt for MXM graphics cards like NVIDIA. It must be noted that we adopt a fan-less design even with all this processing and graphics capability, providing high performance as well as reliability.”
Konten, meanwhile, displayed their RT-1604X-M12 industrial managed PoE+ booster Gigabit router for in-vehicle applications. The device has 20 ports, including 16 10/100/1000 M12 connectors with IEEE 802.3at PoE+ and 4 10G BASE-T M12 connectors with Bypass function, which can be connected with various onboard sensors and devices including IP cameras and alarms.
“Drawing power from Ethernet has become a trend in trains these days. In this regard, our solution delivers higher PoE power supply, supporting more IP cameras and related devices,” said Uwai Chen, VP of Engineering at Konten. “We are also strong at software development and integration. A train’s door control, for example, needs to be integrated with the train control management system. Since the two work in silos, our router enables data conversion for the two to be well integrated.”
It should be noted that Taiwan manufacturers are strong at customization, through which the different needs of customers can be met. Rail solutions providers are no exception. One example is Lex System, which makes embedded mainboards and IPCs for different applications, including rail.
“Requirements vary across end users. Because of this, we hardly make standardized products. Instead, we customize to the different needs of customers,” said Benny Yang, Product Manager at Lex System.
“For example,” he said, “the customer may need 4G/5G and GPS capabilities on their IPC so they can communicate with the outside world and make their location known via wireless communication. Some end users may also need AI capabilities. We can customize and put related modules in the IPC, thus meeting their requirements.”

Power monitoring

Finally, power monitoring is critical in rail operations. Operators are even known to be audited from time to time for power consumption, and awarded/penalized accordingly. In this regard, Moxa has networking solutions that transmit power usage data from rail power facilities, such as substations, to the operations center for analysis.
According to Tariq Yeh, Sales Engineer at Moxa, their biggest advantage is compliance with major international standards. “Our equipment is certified for IEC 61850, a set of communication protocols for intelligent electronic devices at electrical substations, and the certification tests were conducted at Tier 1 labs in Europe, following very strict procedures,” he said. “Meanwhile, some substations may opt for existing systems, and we provide protocol conversion for that as well.”

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