Smart trains don’t just run on time. With the help of Echelon’s IzoT platform for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), advanced trains use split-second, utterly reliable communications to brake responsively, react instantly to unanticipated conditions, and achieve optimal schedules and car configurations.

The Challenge

Rail passengers want fast, safe, on-time trains. Rail operators want to increase train efficiency while lowering costs. Government regulators want greater safety and security. Satisfying all these wants depends on sophisticated technology. And as trains become ever-faster and more automated, there’s greater focus on rapid, dependable communications between train and track, between different trains, and among cars on the same train. In other words, on ‘smart’ trains.

High-speed passenger trains must often run on lower-speed rail paths, which means technology systems have to compensate for lateral acceleration (e.g., tilting the car as it goes through turns, so passengers can walk within the train) and constantly monitor and maintain crucial systems such as braking, doors, HVAC, speed sensing, and speed limitation. Freight trains a mile or two long must be able to respond instantly if something goes wrong in one part of the train, because there’s no way human locomotive engineers can be aware of what’s happening on every car.

The Echelon Solution

For manufacturers of various systems for smart trains, Echelon offers IIoT technologies based on its highly regarded, long-established control networking expertise. Echelon solutions for train transportation are built on its IzoT™ platform for the IIoT.

The IzoT platform is an IP-enabled family of chips, stacks, interfaces, and management software that enables the development of devices, peer-to-peer device communities, and applications for the IIoT. As the next generation of the successful LonWorks standard, the IzoT platform can be distinguished from consumer-grade approaches through its comprehensive addressing of four IIoT requirements: autonomous control, industrial-strength reliability, legacy co-existence and evolution, and hardened security.

The Results

Echelon solutions based on the IzoT platform help train designers and operators to:

  • Ensure safe and optimal operation at high speeds
  • Automate the braking process for very long freight trains
  • Maximize train uptime through preventive and rapid maintenance (e.g., gain instant access to maintenance issues and have spare parts ready at the train’s next stop)
  • Achieve dynamic scheduling for light rail passenger trains
  • Enhance communication between train operators and passengers
  • Cost-effectively retrofit train cars with enhanced communications technology, sensors, and safety devices
  • Easily integrate equipment from multiple vendors

“The big interest in [Echelon technology] is the ease of integration for the different equipment supplied by vendors. You just have to define the parameters you want the system to send or listen to, and then you can bind those variables as you wish.”

Real-World Examples

When Canadianmanufacturing consortium Bombardier/ALSTHOM designed the groundbreaking Acela high-speed passenger trains for Amtrak, Echelon technology provided a platform for integrating multiple communications, monitoring, and safety systems from different manufacturers. Then, when the Acela trains began carrying passengers between Boston and Washington, D.C., in less than six hours, Echelon-based networks powered Acela’s nerve center, where train operators could monitor and control the trains and their operations, maintenance needs, and schedules to optimize both performance and safety.

In China, SCR Sifang Co. tapped Echelon technology to retrofit existing train cars with high-speed train technology. By equipping train cars withsensors and an autonomous, reliable communications system based on Echelon control networking technology, Sifang is able to transport passengers safely at speeds of up to 250 km/hour.

Real-World Examples

New York Airbrake, makers of innovative and integrated technology solutions for modern railroads, uses Echelon-based technology to create easy, reliable, and cost-effective inter-car communications systems. These communications systems enable freight trains to stop quickly—even if they’re a mile or two long, and regardless of how their 100 or more cars might be configured.

The Santa Clara County Valley Transit Authority (VTA), a system of light rail trains serving the more than 2 million people who live and work in Silicon Valley each day, uses Echelon-based communications technology to provide the flexibility and modularity of train configurations required to respond dynamically to rail commuters’ needs.