Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


FAST-TRACKS Report Summary

Project ID: 684499

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - FAST-TRACKS (Fast rAdio technologieS for uninterrupTed TRAin to traCKside communications)

Reporting period: 2015-07-01 to 2015-12-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The urbanization trends of the suburban metropolitan areas has increased exponentially the demand for high-capacity rail infrastructure, which require interoperable systems and services, with high standards of safety and reliability. At the same time, the railway technological infrastructure and the related services require a high level of innovation, especially in the field of telecommunication systems and rail control, which is still made using traditional systems, based on wired or relay on electromechanical technology.
In this context, the wireless telecommunication networks are playing an increasingly important role for the known functional, installation time and maintenance features: they are potentially able to develop robust systems with high redundancy that can simultaneously vehicular traffic data for automatic train control and the “massive” transfer of security and passengers control information.
The different existing solutions on the market are “general purpose” solutions, not specifically developed for the railway market, or systems characterized by static architecture for only indoor or outdoor functioning, with difficulty to adapt to the needs of mobility and the dynamics of a complex rail system.
The business idea underpinning FAST-TRACKS project proposes the development and commercialization of a low cost system, which allows addressing the main problems faced at present in the integration of a traditional Wi-Fi system within the railway technological infrastructure.
The main objectives of the feasibility study financed under SME Instrument Phase I were:
• realize the final prototype and test it in relevant environment;
• define the certification phases;
• identify all measures to protect company’s knowledge;
• fine tune the executive dissemination and exploitation plan;
• elaborate the executive business plan.
All the envisaged objectives have been achieved with positive results, as described below and summarized in the conclusions of the technical report.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

FAST-TRACKS project was designed to cover a functional gap in the railway radio telecommunications infrastructure. The project is based on the design of a radio supporting most different Wi-Fi, Cellular and LTE standards at the same time. In this scenario have been developed a prototype of the standard Wi-Fi like IEEE 802.11 ac and LTE technologies through two different approaches, which demonstrate the technical feasibility of the proposed idea and a large applicability of the system in the railway telecommunication infrastructures.
The main advantages of the multi transport radio proposed are based on two pillars:
• high adaptability of the radio to the continuous evolution of wireless standards and cellular technologies;
• realization of an innovative and not yet on the market product.
Whereas the main disadvantage consists in the interference due to the use of unlicensed bands and computational complexity.
The implementation of the FAST-TRACKS radio prototype was pursued with two different approaches as shown in Figure 1.
During the technical tasks of the FAST-TRACKS project Comesvil has completed the technical feasibility study, the implementation and the test of a first prototype on a real railway test-track.
The first prototype of the system was designed before the beginning of the FAST-TRACKS project, performing the following prerequisite tasks:
• analysis of network processor board based on OEM Wi-Fi technology;
• selection of a dual-radio IEEE 802.11 abgn (2.4-5.8 GHz);
• assembly of the dual radio in IP67 housing.
During Phase 1 of the project have been carried out the following activities:
• dual radio configuration (abgn) with firmware OpenWRT;
• first test campaign on outdoor test-track railway in Maddaloni;
• analysis of the IEEE 802.11 technology ac and related modules mini-pci;
• dual radio configuration (AC) with the firmware OpenWRT;
• second campaign or outdoor tests on railway-track in Maddaloni with technology IEEE 802.11 ac;
• analysis of LTE and its modules mini-pci.
The following subsections briefly report the synthesis of the main activities developed within the technical feasibility study.

1.1 Comesvil Radio architecture and functional requirements
Given the results of the non-performing radio equipment on the market, and the high cost of high-end products, it was decided to design a new radio system with a set of features specially designed to have robust, reliable and secure communications in railway context.
The basic architecture of the mentioned device is composed of a radio core, which implements the WiFi/LTE technologies to cover all the aspects related to a secure and reliable communication system, an internal hub, a power supply converting AC to DC directly inside the Access Box and finally an Ethernet to optical media converter.
As mentioned above, the implementation of the radio core was pursued with two different approaches:
• using a common OEM network processor and integrating different hardware modules to implement IEEE 802.11 ac and LTE;
• using a powerful Software Defined Radio board and implementing the IEEE 802.11 ac and LTE.
The first Comesvil Radio is implemented using an OEM product (Original Equipment Manufacturer) based on Atheros network processor AR9344. The board is equipped with a MiniPCI connector which permits the integration of additional modules implementing the standards 802.11abg/802.11n/802.11ac and Long Term Evolution (LTE). The whole system is managed via Linux-kernel extended to support additional drivers and multiple transport technologies. The OpenWRT completes the software equipment of the radio, providing an easy to customize management system.
The second Comesvil Radio is implemented using a powerful Software Defined Radio based on ARM Cortex-M4 microcontroller. The board is completely programmable in GNU Radio environment and permits to implement each kind of radio device working in the frequency range from 1 MHZ to 6 GHZ. In this context the implementation of the standards 802.11abg/802.11n/802.11ac and Long Term Evolution (LTE) are fully developed via software.

1.2 Comesvil Radio implementation via OEM core
During the FAST-TRACKS project Phase I have been identified a number of new hardware and software improvements needed to use the above mentioned radio core in the railway context. From the hardware point of view, there have been identified the needs to integrate on the same board the radio technology based on IEEE 802.11 ac standard, which permits to reach throughputs till 600Mb/sec. It has been also demonstrated the possibility to integrate the LTE technology, simply changing the IEEE 802.11 ac module with a mini-PCI LTE module.
In this context, it was not possible to make a comparative analysis with other equipment, such Moxa, Fluidmesh and Acksys because actually they do not implement the IEEE 802.11 ac radio technology. At the moment, the Comesvil Radio is the only radio on the telecommunication railway market implementing the 802.11 ac technology.
At the same time, other activities have been performed regarding software customization (OpenWRT Software Development Kit, Image etc.), 802.11r standard implementation and test.
Finally, outdoor testing activities have been performed in Maddaloni (Caserta-Italy) site.
These tests demonstrate that both Acksys and Comesvil radio (based on Compex core) have very similar performance in terms of throughput and packet loss, with the difference that the second is a low cost device that can be fully customized working around the OpenWRT operative system.
During the execution of Phase I a list of tests was carried out in laboratory, aimed to analyze of the handover procedure through programmable attenuator. It was observed that, by setting appropriately the three radio devices (two trackside and one mobile Access Point), the handover procedure is completed in a time too high compared to those that are the standards required today in railway requirements. This implies a greater percentage of packet loss in a mobile scenario such as rail. This is why there is the necessity to go ahead with the customization of the OpenWRT operative system in order to achieve a seamless handover across the IEE 802.11r standard implementation.

1.3 Comesvil Radio implementation via Software Defined Radio
Nowadays, Software Defined Radio (SDR) has gained a lot of importance as it provides flexibility to the radio communication by implementing radio functionality in software rather than in hardware. Some of the major advantages of SDRs are that they can be reconfigured “on-the-fly”. Their features can be quickly and easily upgraded, and they can be used to build smart or cognitive radios. However, due to the constraints of today’s technology, there is still some RF hardware involved in software defined radio system. There are quite a few SDR systems today and one of them is GNU Radio/USRP system.
GNU Radio is an open source software toolkit that allows easy development of software defined radios. GNU Radio provides signal processing blocks which can be used to implement software radio functionalities on a general purpose processor. Radio front-end for GNU Radio is provided by USRP. USRP acts as a flexible hardware platform that can provide basic RF front-end functionalities.
The emergence of GNU Radio software and USRP hardware has allowed the research community to develop and analyze wireless communication systems easily in software radio environment.
Within the technical feasibility study all the necessary aspects of the above mentioned GNU Radio/USRP system have been detailed: main components, features, advantages, disadvantages, modulations and technologies that can be implemented through these systems.
Moreover, it is described the work done within Phase I around IEEE 802.11 stack. In particular, through easy software management SDR and hardware HackRF One, it was possible to adapt the IEEE 802.11a/b/g to IEEE 802.11e. The standard IEEE802.11e is a proposed enhancement to the 802.11a and 802.11b wireless LAN specifications. The 802.11e specification provides seamless interoperability between business, home, and public environments such as airports, hotels, railway environment and is especially well suited for use in networks that include multimedia capability.

The European standard for radio equipment and telecommunications network elements is the Directive 1999/5/EC. All manufacturers and importers of radio and telecommunications terminal equipment are required to the application of a conformity assessment procedure before it is possible to affix the CE mark and place their products on the European market.
For all this kind of certifications Comesvil makes use of specialized certification bodies. The reports and certificates of conformity issued are then used in the design phase in order to demonstrate compliance with the requests of tender invitations.

The management of knowledge encompasses its use (exploitation and further research) and dissemination (including training). A plan for the use and dissemination of knowledge was implemented and periodically updated internally. It describes the innovation related activities (dissemination, exploitation, IPR, etc.) undertaken during the preceding period and those planned for the next 24 months period. A Final plan for the use and dissemination of foreground will be presented at the end of the project. Comesvil will pursue an active policy of protecting IP.

Dissemination concentrates on spreading the FAST-TRACKS project results and research knowledge to a wide range of existing or potential stakeholders, including (i) railway industry, (ii) researchers, (iii) academic institutions, (iv) service providers and (v) the general public, in an effort to raise awareness about new research topics and results while promoting research worldwide.
Thus, through the wide dissemination activities throughout the whole project lifecycle, Comesvil will aim to raise public awareness on the project, ensure a global availability of the project’s results for the European society, as well as create, maintain and enhance links to all relevant stakeholders.
Working towards this direction, at the early stages of the project, Comesvil will develop a concrete dissemination plan, which will include the actions and/or the instruments for the optimum diffusion of knowledge, experience and results of the FAST-TRACKS project across the full dissemination chain. The dissemination activities of FAST-TRACKS will be conducted in two phases: the preparation phase and the execution phase.
During the preparation phase Comesvil will:
• create a central theme, including a recognizable logo to facilitate the creation of an instantly recognizable image;
• develop a message to support the theme to solidify the system's name in the target audience's mind;
• create dissemination material (traditional dissemination material as well as electronic dissemination material);
• identify Audience/ Existing or Potential Stakeholders.
The execution of the dissemination plan will cover all dissemination channels identified within the dissemination preparation phase and will target every identified existing or potential stakeholder. Given the wide range of areas on which the FAST-TRACKS solution will have great impact, the project will pursue different dissemination approaches suited for different target audiences. These audiences include a) the research community, b) the automotive industry and the ICT industry, c) standardization bodies, d) local authorities.
Least but not last, FAST-TRACKS long term viability will be based on extensive market exploitation of the project’s results. Comesvil is committed to achieve and maintain a very high quality of service. Comesvil will develop solutions that can become part of its existing service/ product offering portfolio. Moreover the obtained know-how and developed hardware/software will be further exploited towards forthcoming ventures. Comesvil regularly pursues the establishment of new businesses based on its most mature results, through the set-up of point-to-point collaborations with pioneering companies (e.g., Ansaldo STS, Selex, Thales and Bombardier).

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

A deeper analysis of the state of the art have been provided in the technical feasibility study.
The need to achieve increasingly higher throughput values in order to maximize the quality of the services offered in the wireless industry, has led over the years to a growing improvement of 802.11 throughput maximum allowed.
Nowadays, the market offers a wide range of Wi-Fi radio devices conceived for mobile radio networks. However, although in recent years there has been the introduction of 802.11ac, most of the current producers offer as spearhead of their technologies the IEEE 802.11n standard.
It is possible to divide the wireless products offered on the market into two brackets: mid-range products and high-end products, with specific features detailed in the feasibility study. The radio equipment analyzed in the context of the FAST-TRACKS project belong to the following manufacturers: Moxa, Fluidmesh, Acksys.
These products have been compared with the product prototyped during the project: Comesvil Radio.
Based on the state of the art analysis, it is possible to classify Moxa equipment as low-end product, while the equipment of Fluidmesh and Acksys as middle/high-end products. From an initial comparative analysis of the features of different products selected, appears that the high-end products are the most efficient and therefore the most suitable for the use in an industry that requires security and resiliency features such as rail. On the other hand, these products do not always match with the needs of the market and with the economically sustainable manufacturing of systems.

To highlight the economic benefits that can be derived from the planning of a wireless network based on Comesvil Radio, a design example is provided regarding the Thessaloniki Metro project.
The performance in terms of throughput are different among different competitors’ devices. Once fixed the type of wayside network configuration for the Thessaloniki project and, assuming the same configuration for all the analysed devices, it is possible to summarize the economic benefits of Comesvil Radio.
It may be observed that the cost analysis is strictly related to the radio technology involved.
The best technical and economic solution is represented by Comesvil disruptive idea: the Comesvil Radio. It is justified by two reasons:
• Comesvil Radio is developed in house and this makes the product very appealing from a price point of view and
• it implements a technology actually not yet present in the railway telecommunication market, i.e. the IEEE 802.11ac.
In the Thessaloniki Metro project the Comesvil Radio allows to save about the 82% of the costs with respect to the most costly solution. Thus, the Comesvil Radio working with IEEE 802.11 ac technology represents the best technical and economic solution for the Thessaloniki Metro project.

The company’s strategy is anchored on the development of advanced technologies in order to ensure growth and international competitiveness, increase its productivity by optimizing costs and resources. Comesvil makes efforts to improve the quality of its services and products, to reduce the impact of its activity on the environment and to prevent health hazards and grant the safety of its employees as well as of its clients. At the same time, the company aims to improve continuously its technologically innovative and economically competitive products and services to be in step with the new technologies.
The management team of Comesvil, monitoring the key drivers that are influencing the health of the rail market (i.e. demographic and technological drivers, environmental awareness, public funding and market liberalization), has identified several field opportunities for the development and offer of new products on the market.
The opportunities identified by Comesvil are confirmed by the positive outlook for the global rail industry (World Rail Market Study). The study expects the overall accessible rail market to grow with a CAGR of 2.7%. The overall order volume is expected to reach an annual average of approximately $111 billion in the period of 2017-2019. Rolling stock will remain the largest segment, but services and signaling will maintain the highest growth rates, respectively with CAGR of 3.7% and 3.3%.
In this context, technology infrastructure and rail services require a high level of innovation, especially in the field of telecommunication systems and train control.
FAST-TRACKS project aims at covering a functional gap in the railway radio telecommunications infrastructure. The project is based on the design of a reprogrammable radio supporting most different Wi-Fi, Cellular and LTE standards at the same time. In this scenario Comesvil has developed a prototype of the standard Wi-Fi like IEEE 802.11 ac and LTE technologies through two different approaches which demonstrate the technical feasibility of the proposed idea and a large applicability of the system in the railway telecommunication infrastructures.
The idea behind this project is to propose a single radio product, multiservice, able to perform better in a railway scenario.
Unique Selling Proposition: FAST TRACKS is a reliable and multiservice system, committed to sustainable mobility at a competitive price.
The total project costs amount to €/million 2.5 and the project implementation will last from late 2016 to the beginning of 2018. Based on rather conservative assumptions, the forecasted figures show a relevant impact of FAST-TRACKS project on Comesvil growth in terms of interesting levels of turnover and profit margins with a turnover of about €/million 10.03 and an EBITDA ratio of 36.5% at year 2022. Thus, the Comesvil growth will increase by 62% in terms of turnover and by 29 FTE in terms of new employment at the end of year 2022 thanks to FAST-TRACKS project implementation.

Related information

Record Number: 186390 / Last updated on: 2016-07-11
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