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European Wagon Fleet to be Equipped with Energy-Harvesting Smart Sensors

Industrial internet firm Nexiot is equipping the entire European wagon fleet of rail leaser VTG with what it describes as a revolutionary design of smart sensor.  

Credit: EnergyHarvesting

Unlike previous designs, which could only transmit information a few times a day, the sensors can communicate with users every five minutes, says the company.

The sensors harvest energy from the environment, chiefly through solar power but also by means of temperature fluctions or vibrations, to make them self-sustaining, giving them a unique message update rate and overall operating lifetime, according to Nexiot. This overcomes the battery problems which have been a major barrier to remote monitoring of unpowered assets.  

The modules relay updates including location, impact events, and border crossings. Although the first application is in rail operations, they would also be suited to other modes such as container shipping or road transport, says Nexiot.  

Geographical and historical information is combined with the raw sensor data, so the customer can information such as estimated times of arrival, detection of cargo loading, or recognition of intermodal changes.  

The data is processed in the Nexiot Cloud Engine so that VTG and other rail customers can, for example, estimate the mileage and carry out maintenance as and when required.

Customised geofencing alerts VTG customers whenever wagons enter or leave a defined area, such as a terminal, station, port, or border region, and integrated sensors supply other important data like shock or impact events.  

Nexiot's director of marketing and sales, Daniel MacGregor, said the technology had been developed over ten years of research by scientists at the ETH university in Zurich,  

The smart sensors can be fitted to wagons in under five minutes and are paired to a data centre using a smartphone, so no specialist knowledge is needed and asset downtime is minimised.

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