Bosch brings freight trains to the internet

Bosch is making freight cars intelligent and connecting them to the internet. The technology supplier has developed a new condition monitoring system for rail freight transportation. The hardware attached to the railcars as part of the system is from Bosch large-scale automotive series production. Sensors supply data such as the precise position of a railcar, or the temperature in the storage area. This data is transferred to a server and evaluated.

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Bosch is making freight cars intelligent and connecting them to the internet. The technology supplier has developed a new condition monitoring system for rail freight transportation. The hardware attached to the railcars as part of the system is from Bosch large-scale automotive series production. Sensors supply data such as the precise position of a railcar, or the temperature in the storage area. This data is transferred to a server and evaluated. The first freight cars – for example, those at SBB Cargo in Switzerland – were equipped with the system in February 2015, and now its diverse functions are being tested and refined in fleet operations. Bosch engineers can use the data collected to perfect the system as it heads into series production at the end of 2015.

Today’s freight cars don’t have their own energy supply or their own sensors. This is because any technology used on trains has to be particularly robust and simple, due to the high demands placed on it in terms of vibration, temperature, dirt, and moisture. To make the freight cars part of a connected logistics chain, Bosch will equip them with an intelligent condition monitoring system.  The new system gathers a considerable amount of information while the train is in motion and transmits it to a server. With this system, Bosch is creating digital functions that add value. Thanks to the transmitted GPS position of each railcar, customers always know where their goods are. They can use the data to determine their location more precisely, for example, or to show how noise-differentiated track access charges were calculated. Temperature sensors provide valuable information about conditions during transport, such as maintaining the cold chain. Networked freight cars recognize vibrations, like those incurred by shunting, which can damage the railcar, the freight, or both. Once the digital information is integrated into IT systems to control logistics processes, dispatchers can better schedule freight cars and use their capacity more efficiently. What’s more, train information is produced automatically and business processes are automated. The system also records how many kilometers the railcar has traveled in order to better predict and carry out maintenance, depending on distance traveled and the railcar’s condition.

Weighing just 700 grams, the system consists of compact hardware from Bosch’s large-scale automotive series production. It features numerous integrated and attached sensors for temperature, vibrations, and more. An integrated data transmission connects the system to the internet. Data is transmitted to servers to be evaluated, presented in a data portal, and integrated into the customer’s business processes. Because it was developed as a retrofit solution for existing freight railcar fleets, the system has its own autonomous energy supply in the form of an integrated battery with a lifetime of up to six years. However, it can also be installed as original equipment while the freight car is still in production.

Source and photos: Bosch brings freight trains to the internet, Bosch, 5 May 2015.

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