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"In order for us to offer preventative service or conditioned-based monitoring technology, we needed a way to connect our controllers to the Internet."
- Richard Gobee, Managing Director, OEM Technology Solutions

Wireless Internet Connection Enables Rail Systems

Rail systems are expected to be one of the fastest and most efficient means of transportation. In order for operations to run efficiently and to provide the best customer experience possible, OEM Technology Solutions creates products that offer preventative service, or condition-based monitoring. OEM Technology Solutions offers the capability of fixing issues before they create downtime with railway control systems that monitor and control rail car functions from HVAC systems to passenger Wi-Fi to data that keeps passengers aware of arrival and departure times. All of this data that keeps trains running on time and passengers riding is enabled through wireless connectivity that allows vendors and rail operators to gather information remotely via the Internet.

OEM Technology Solutions’ equipment powers over 20,000 systems in rail cars in major cities all around the world. For over 20 years, the company has equipped rail cars with their technology in 20 countries. With wireless connectivity collecting and sharing data constantly, trains are able to stay on track for customers and efficient for operators.

Business Challenge

Rail Operators
Asset utilization and incident management are major issues for the modern rail operator. "Remote access to critical train data such as location, speed, equipment status and other information allows train operators to improve their operations," Richard Gobee, Managing Director, OEM Technology Solutions said.

Passenger Experience
Passengers expect the trains to arrive and depart on time and offer a comfortable and connected environment for commutes. To ensure that this happens and that unexpected incidents are handled in the most effective way, train communication and telemetry systems are essential. "From airplanes to coffee shops, customers expect Wi-Fi connectivity wherever they go," Gobee said. "For train operators to remain competitive, offering passengers Wi-Fi connectivity is critical."

The train saloon should be a place of comfort and relaxation. If it isn't, train passengers will take notice and find other means of transportation.

Where Experience and Efficiency Collide
"Reliable HVAC is critical to any rail provider's business," Gobee said. "When there is an issue, trains experience downtime for repair which leads to lost revenue, and customers become disgruntled."

A train's HVAC system needs to be reliable, accurate and resistant to shock and vibration. Whether it is extremely hot or cold outside of the train, rail passengers demand comfort. The HVAC Unit, used for cooling and heating, is also one of the leading energy consumers on a train – so energy usage optimization is an important feature that OEM Technology Solutions provide in their solutions.

Solution

OEM Technology Solutions turned to Digi International for its ConnectCore Wi-9C embedded wireless module and Digi TransPort WR44 cellular gateway to wirelessly enable its products. The wireless connectivity allows vendors and rail operators to gather information remotely so they can understand how their assets are working or not working.

The Digi TransPort WR44 is a cellular gateway that enables access to critical train data such as timetable information, video, images, alarms, train performance metrics, events and train location. The gateway enables the system to transfer location and train equipment data between the train and head office via cellular networks. Access to this data not only allows a train operator to better manage its scheduling and increase on-time performance, but it also allows the train operator to understand if a problem is about to occur. This enables the rail provider to take preemptive action and avoid costly downtime.

"Digi's wireless products allow us to connect our controllers to the Internet wirelessly and help train operators limit downtime, improve efficiency and enhance the customer experience," said Gobee.

The connectivity provided by the ConnectCore Wi-9C and Digi TransPort WR44 allow rail operators to understand when their equipment is nearing end of life or needs to be serviced before it fails. The ConnectCore Wi-9C enables also Wi-Fi connectivity for OEM Technology Solutions' PC3 Series Controller used to monitor and control HVAC systems and other onboard equipment. Connecting a train's HVAC system over Wi-Fi networks also allows operators to easily monitor the system and understand when it is in need of servicing before it goes down. In addition to enabling the transmission of valuable train data, the Digi TransPort WR44 allows OEM Technology Solutions to offer on-board Internet access for passengers. The Digi TransPort WR44 can serve as a Wi-Fi hotspot, allowing rail operators to offer Wi-Fi connectivity and improve the customer experience.

Results

Now, data flows from train equipment to operators, so they can make informed decisions on maintenance. For example, OEM Technology Solutions’ door monitoring system records the time it takes for a door to open and close. Deviations in this time period can give the train operator an indication that it's in need of maintenance. While the train is parked overnight, the door can be repaired instead of a rail car door breaking mid-route – which will likely take a train out of service and disrupt the Operators time critical schedule – not to mention likely financial penalties to the maintenance provider!

The HVAC Unit - used for cooling and heating—is also one of the leading energy consumers on a train. Now, with OEM Technology Solutions’ equipment in place, operators can minimize the energy consumption with simple techniques. For instance, if the air outside is cooler the air can be automatically be taken from outside instead of using the compressor. The rail systems can use data to drive simple actions to save energy and, in turn, save money.

"Digi allows us to enable train operators to be preemptive, driving value for customers," said Gobee.

What's next?

OEM Technology Solutions' products are now Device Cloud by Etherios capable. The recent release of OEM Technology Solutions IO3640 Communications module, adds GPS and 3G capability to the PC3 Series Controller product range. In addition, the company has integrated their new technology with the "Etherios Device Connector" to enable customers to monitor and control their devices via a website.

"We are very excited about our new Device Cloud enabled product," said Gobee, "as it enables the internet of everything to simply and cost effectively offer great operational benefits to the global railway industry.

Next time you hear "all aboard" or "mind the gap," thank OEM Technology Solutions for making the world's most modern rail systems run as efficiently and as cost effectively as possible.

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