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Improving Railway Safety Through Innovative Sensor System

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Railscope (Improving Railway Safety Through Innovative Sensor System)

Reporting period: 2017-08-01 to 2018-01-31

The problem that we are addressing is the outdated technology in the railway infrastructure around the world. While the rail vehicle technology has advanced in the recent years, the infrastructure in many countries is still functioning mainly on the technology developed in the 20th and partly 19th century. This compromises the safety of traffic participants, passengers and railway workers. Firstly because the technology has very limited functionality, but also because of the costs of such old technologies, which are the reason, why over 50% of railway level crossings in Germany are still technologically unsecured. Furthermore, the outdated technology is preventing modernisation, automation and the overall advancement of the railway, because it is not able to deliver necessary measurements and data to enable valuable innovations.

Railscope+ is an innovative vibration sensor technology for enhanced and cost effective early train detection, continuous real-time monitoring of train movements, control of the conditions of the wheels and the detection of objects on the rails. The goal is to increase the safety in rail traffic and infrastructure in Europe and to help prevent accidents like Malton in 2014 (UK, 1 killed), Bad Aibling in 2016 (Germany, 11 killed) or O Porriño in 2016 (Spain, 4 killed)1 with together more than 100 casualties. The average costs of each accident takes about 1.7 Million Euro.

The technology is thought to be implemented in Europe because of the prerequisites of the infrastructure. In the future developing countries and the United States are further target markets. SENVISYS introduces a more cost efficient (50%), safer (100%) and more functional technology – 4 applications (see section 1.4 on page 3) – that substitutes or complements current systems for level crossings, controls the rail traffic more efficiently and hence increases the capacity of the traffic for more than 100%.

Intelligent railway structures establish the basis for disruptive market solutions in the rail traffic because the trains can be operated with higher frequencies and innovative solutions such as automation can be introduced. Railscope+ is a trigger for enabling technology for automated railway traffic, because of its rail digitization potential, making Europe a pioneer in automated railway traffic.
The innovative technology of SENVISYS addresses a multitude of problems such as cost and material inefficiency in railway crossing securing, safety hazards for traffic participants, railway workers, and passengers.
Furthermore there is an immense environmental impact by relinquishing of expensive and inefficient train detection systems. In an unprecedented way the new technology is able to avoid accidents caused by wear and degradation of the railway infrastructure by early diagnosis of rail and train condition. With the new technology casualties in rail traffic will be prevented and train companies will benefit from reduced expenses for their surveillance systems and be able to increase their transport capacities.

Our goal is it to bring an innovative, environmentally friendlier and much more cost-efficient system for train detection and monitoring to the market (which has the potential for application in other equally useful fields) that will bring the railway infrastructure up to date with current technological advancement and can be implemented across Europe and subsequently the rest of the world.

Furthermore, this goal brings diverse, far-reaching positive social externalities with its implementation, such as decreased costs, increased resource efficiency, decreased railway accident count and increased public safety in traffic and increased reliability of the European infrastructure. Using our technology we decrease the collision accidents caused by natural obstructions on railway tracks that lead to accidents and delays in operation, such as fallen trees, landslides and boulders after storms. By detecting these immediately, the appropriate actions can be taken in time, to prevent accidents and delays. Moreover, we are able to detect animals and humans on the tracks in order to prevent severe collisions and fatalities. With further development we intend to be able to detect and prevent suicides on railway tracks.

Through conservation of resources, we will also contribute to global reduction of emissions and our carbon footprint. This is possible e.g. because our technology significantly reduces the use of cabling in train detection detectors and uses resources with greater efficiency than current solutions – almost 8000m of cabling are saved for a single level crossing, which is also one of the highest expenses in safeguarding level crossings with current technology.
The work planned for the phase 1 SME included studying the international markets and infrastructures for assessment of eligibility for implementation, safety requirements and certifications, as well as the ease of access to the markets.
The market analysis provided us with a list of potential customers and favorable infrastructures for market entry. Moreover it can gave us first feedback from the market about the benefits and challenges, as well as reveal the competition and the conditions of the “playing field”.
The intended network and integration across Europe required a study for eligibility and requirements. This entailed the research and contact of according institutions and presentation of the concept.

After a through research and analysis of the industry, further way of proceeding had to be planned and the first contact points had to be established. A list of 10 most relevant contacts was created and pursued. These are cooperation partners, suppliers and railway operators in the infrastructures with most attractive conditions and the highest potential for implementation of our technology.
The German Railway Certification Authority (EBA) is admitted in the DACH and German-speaking area, hence many countries such as Austria, Switzerland or Netherlands are satisfied with a certification following the German procedure and trusting its result. That’s why we are going to concentrate on attaining certification following the EBA Standards in order to easily access neighbouring European and international market. Once established and attained, a certification following regional standards would be manageable.

Nevertheless, we are starting with application that requires minimal security specifications such as providing reliable and detailed data for traveler information, and detecting the train states (in coming, up going, stopping) on a train stations for passenger information systems.

According to the press statement of Deutsche Bahn, it has planned to invest approx. 28 billion Euro until 2019 in order to improve and modernize the outdated railway network and to enable new innovations in the industry. Other railway operations around the world are already doing so, or will have to follow in the footsteps of Deutsche Bahn to keep their competitiveness against alternative means of transportation such as FLIXBUS, especially the innovative and disruptive solutions such as HYPERLOOP and autonomous cargo vehicles.

Our market research has revealed following competitors in the field of early train detection: DC-circuit sensors, axle counters/wheel detectors, vibration based sensors and optical fiber sensing technology. We have conducted a research of these technologies to compare them against each other and reveal positive and negative sides of each technology, as well as of the companies behind these technologies. Our research has proven that the technology of SENVISYS is fully able to compete with alternative solutions and that SENVISYS has its unique place in the market, which is protected by intellectual property rights and unique selling propositions.
SENVISYS established customer contact and performed test and pilots with different collaborators in at least two EU countries. SENVISYS had reached the Technology Readiness Level 6 (TRL6) – which encompassed a demonstration and temporary operation of the system in a relevant environment. During this test our prototype was installed and deployed for a period of 3 weeks on a high speed railway segment.This was a milestone achieved in a cooperation with Deutsche Bahn.

At this moment, our company is at the breach of achieving the next level of technological readiness TRL7/8 – in which a product by SENVISYS will be installed, tested and after a successful demonstration, operated permanently. This milestone will enable SENVISYS to start a serial production and distribution of our product for train station information systems. Through this development, the advancement of our main product Railscope+, which requires SIL4 certification will be also furthered. For the purpose of market penetration of Railscope+ SENVISYS intends to submit a proposal for the Phase 2 of the Horizon2020 SME Instrument.
The extensive research effort initiated by the SME Instrument Phase 1 has brought valuable insights and data which furthered our understanding of the market and helped to define our goals more clearly. Europe-wide market research and the list of potential customers and partners have been valuable additions to our know-how.
This information had to be incorporated into our Business and Financial Plan for the Railscope Project. These documents allow us to present our company and our project to potential partners or investors in a very defined way.
Due to the extensive development and certification processes of our main product Railscope+ and the related costs, we are actively looking for further use cases for our technology that can be brought to the market quicker, which can provide us with additional revenue to be able to self-sustain our company, without the need for external funding. Following use case have been developed and are to be worked out considering the safety level and certification effort:

Securing train stations:
Our first goal is to start securing and monitoring train stations in order to provide, for example, reliable train state data for and efficiently control traveler information systems. Doing the same task with currently used radar systems is unreliable due to the limited detection range of the radar systems. As mentioned above, it is the reason and the basis for our cooperation with Austrian Federal Railways.

Bad track condition detection / Bad wheel condition detection / Detecting train types:
An important area of use possible with our vibration detection technology is Predictive Maintenance. In the railway sector it can be applied for detection of changed and anomalies in the conditions of train wheels or tracks. Due to the changes in the dynamics caused by damaged rails or wheels a deviation in the vibration pattern can be detected, which will signal a problem and potentially prevent damage or even an accident.
In order to detect this use cases, we have developed a customized deep learning system in order to make our software able to detect hazardous situation on the track or on the passing trains. The possibility of such detection has been successfully made during our testing process, in which a flat-area on a wheel could be detected.
More serious damage such as broken rails can also be detected, which would prevent major accidents.

Securing track workers:
This solution requires the same security level as for securing tunnels and will be launched in parallel to the previous use case, once the SIL2 standard is achieved. A sale strategy in securing track workers is address to Workers Safety Associations in order to reach the intended implementation.

Continuous Monitoring of track segments for autonomous train systems:
In order to get first experiences in the market, we are aiming to implement a tracking solution for factories railway traffic. The advantage here is that the infrastructure is detached from the public railway infrastructure and the train speed is usually limited to low velocity.