Smart rail equipment with connected workers smart PPE can greatly help to protect workers (patent pending)
Smart PPE and Industry 4.0 make possible smart rail connected worker solutions. Fueled by the low-carbon transportation trend, rail transportation system (both for passengers and merchandise) is expected to increase in Europe but in also in other parts of the world (see for instance smart rail 4.0 initiative in Switzerland). This trend brings new challenges to the rail industry, especially to improve worker protection.
For example, by combining our safety pod and smart cone, workers operating close or directly on railyards can be better protected. To make it simple, when a worker is at risk, he gets immediately a vibrating notification on his safety pod mounted on his connected safety shoes or boots. That way, he can immediately avoid potential impact with a train. The problem arises when workers have to work in co-activity with some active (trains are expected but can be delayed) and/or inactive rail yards (no train is expected but it can suddenly be present).
Another problem solved by smart rail connected workers solution might be to ensure that the train and / or the wagon you are working on does not move while you are working on it. In this case, the same protection equipment can be activated to notify the worker in case of unexpected event (a sudden move for instance).
This video illustrates how we can use the smart cone to protect roads. It can easily be applied to propose smart rails connected worker solutions.
To be efficient and accepted by workers on the field, the safety smart rail solution shall be:
- Easy to use
- Quick to install
- False-Positive Proof
- Offering remote/Central notification
- High autonomy
- Environment resistant
- Fast (if you have to notify a worker that a train is coming, you cannot afford minutes...)
What we have been developping since 2018 is a unique and simple-to-use smart rail equipment that can be mounted on any cone massively available evrywhere worldwide.
We have been getting a lot of interest from different rail companies worlwide and a recurring question is to geolocate workers with 1 m distance accuracy or less. Simply said, it's impossible. Marketing is one thing but real-life is another one. There are technologies that can provide 20 cm accuracy but they cannot be practically installed on railyards covering thousands of kilometers. The cost will be definitely prohibitive and maintenance virtually impossible. Smart rails need simple and price-sensitive products.
Another candidate could be to use very accurate GNSS to position the worker against a give railyard. There are 2 issues. The first one is that you will draw a lot of current and therefore it will dramatically affect your battery autonomy. The second one is that you have no guarantee at all that your IT system is aware of unexpected coming trains. This solution is dangerous because it gives the worker a false information about his protection.
An alternative solution could be to equip all wagons and trains with beacons but it looks like a good deal for beacons manufacturers but very bad deal for rail companies. Nevertheless, it might be interesting to use some existing radio techno embedded into wagons and trains. Only issue is to make sure 100% that the system can work anytime anywhere and in any environmental situations.
The only efficient smart rail way to prevent collision between worker and train is to have a mechanical "switch" which notifies immediately the worker as soon as an event occurs to the cone put in the middle of rail yards.