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CSA Catapult To Deliver Energy-efficient Intelligent Rail System

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Compound Semiconductor Applications (CSA) Catapult has announced that it is collaborating with a consortium of organisations to deliver a novel IoT sensing capability for intelligent railway monitoring.

SPECTRAIL is an Innovate UK backed innovation project which recently won funding from the Department of Transport as part of a series of projects under Network Rail's R&D programme. The consortium, which also includes AP Sensing, Pyreos and Lightricity, is tasked to develop a low-cost, multi-sensor system which explores new areas of railway monitoring including human trespassing, vandalism, fire, track temperature changes, soil saturation and pollution levels.

The project will offer Network Rail, and other rail infrastructure operators, a cost-effective and energy-efficient way of collecting data to enhance a predict-and-prevent maintenance strategy, through the sensorisation of track areas previously inaccessible due to lack of power, connectivity or prohibitive costs. The sensor system will leverage existing trackside fibre optic cables using AP Sensing's Distributed Acoustic/Vibration Sensing (DAS/DVS) system which ‘listens' over a 70km range by detecting changes in light transmission caused by the acoustic disturbances on fibre cables.

The DAS/DVS will be augmented through combining the technologies of the consortium partners. CSA Catapult will integrate all the intelligent and self-sustaining sensor nodes in order to transmit sensor data through the cable network. These sensor nodes are designed to interact with the pyroelectric infrared sensors provided by Pyreos, that detect fire, temperature changes, motion and graffiti activities. The entire system will harvest energy from Lightricity's ultra-efficient solar cells, meaning that every part of the architecture is powered by renewable energy.

Field trials of the system will begin in 2020 under the guidance of Network Rail at their Rail Innovation and Development Centre in Melton Mowbray, with the objective of providing condition knowledge that allows rail infrastructure operators to detect problems like fire and trespass whilst enhancing line safety and security management to previously unfeasible levels.

Commenting on this partnership, Chief Commercial Officer, Amar Abid-Ali said:

“We are delighted to be playing a pivotal role in this project, which brings together unique and innovative technologies to deliver a better railway for both passengers and freight. This Proof of Concept will unlock an entirely new way of collecting and utilising data in order to more accurately predict and detect causes of disruption to the railway, therefore enabling railways worldwide to better maintain tracks and manage rail assets.

“Compound semiconductor technology will be key in enabling the fast transmission of sensor-collected data to railway network control rooms - demonstrating one of the ways in which compound semiconductors can be applied to accelerate the UK's development of smart infrastructure systems.”

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