John Newbury, Product Manager at Ramtech Electronics, looks at how advances in wireless technology and cloud-based data can improve safety across the rail network…

The main factors that drive modern railway systems are safety and efficiency. A need for these fundamental elements will continue to grow as rail networks become more crowded and tracks more congested. As a result, management teams are under pressure to ensure that their operation is continually achieving targets and making improvements; the simple fact is that trains need to be out on the track carrying passengers and goods around the country.

Railways have changed dramatically in the last few decades and much of this has been driven by technology, which has helped make step changes in safety, efficiency and comfort. Many of these are visible to passengers, such as wireless connectivity, which enables them to work whilst travelling and has proved to be a very effective way to increase total number of passenger journeys and consumer satisfaction.

Wireless technology, along with internet connectivity and apps, is helping the railway network in other ways, too. Specifically these are in the area of repair and maintenance of buildings and other infrastructure, which are an essential foundation for keeping the operation working at optimum levels.

Wireless technology

Advances in wireless technology are now able to support facilities management teams in a number of ways. Critical to achieving this has been innovations in internet connectivity, apps and the ability to collect, analyse and interpret data in live stream. An ability to easily scale up the wireless network to any size of site, including large buildings and geographic areas, means wireless connectivity can improve safety and efficiency across a wide range of rail infrastructure and assets.

Incorporating this wireless technology with cloud-based data capture allows the rail sector to implement a fully integrated fire, security and medical response system. This is supported by an app that can interpret and respond to the data received. In this scenario, the facilities management or H&S teams are able to receive real-time information regarding site emergencies, and instantly send customised alerts out to relevant site personnel. This kind of technology is specifically developed for communicating fire, medical and other site emergencies to affected personnel both within depot buildings and other infrastructure assets. These can be wirelessly transmitted via any internet connected device (for example, fire alarm call points, security doors etc), whilst the app enables instant response decisions by management teams from any internet connected device.

The wireless call points can be positioned across a wide range of assets, whilst an ability of the signal to pass though steel, concrete and other materials creates a completely secure, wireless mesh network. Physically, the system comprises a network of call points linked to a base station. If just one of these call points is activated during a fire it sounds an alarm whilst instantly alerting the facilities team, allowing safe evacuation and deployment of rescue teams. For a medical alert or security breach, it enables responders to pinpoint exactly which call point is activated, providing pinpoint accuracy to the source of the emergency.

The technology can be integrated across the wider site, including the ability to alert emergency response teams when an intruder or unauthorised member of staff is detected opening a security door/gate on site, whilst it can equally be applied to lone worker situations, such as work being carried out underground, or working at height. In addition, security patrols can raise a medical alert via call points from remote areas of the site or utilize a ‘welfare check in’ functionality that requires personnel to send a signal every ten minutes verifying that they are OK.

Management information 

Data collated wirelessly from these call points can be routinely collated through advances in Internet of Things (IoT), combined with cloud-based service applications. This data can be stored, processed and transmitted via cloud technology applications to any nominated personnel, providing valuable information to facility managers or health and safety officers.

Data and information are now regularly gathered on sites in this way, where it can be cloud-based and used by the people that require it, when, where and in whatever format is appropriate. The system can also be used to send an SMS alert to the facilities team if there is a fire, medical alert or breach of an entrance security barrier, indicating that there has been an unauthorised entry onto the facility.

The future

Enormous progress has been made in the area of health and safety within the rail network, both for passengers and workers. Much of this has been driven by advances in wireless technology, which have had the effect of increasing visibility of everyone working in and around the rail estate. Combined with this has been the revolution in IoT (Internet of Things), predictive data analytics and advanced diagnostics, long used in other industries, which now allow management teams to optimise their operations.

About Ramtech

Ramtech Electronics is the UK’s leading wireless systems technology specialist, delivering innovative safety and security solutions for leisure, construction, marine, rail and other industries. Ramtech Electronics Limited has been the leading developer of radio frequency technology for over 25 years and continues to develop innovative new technologies. Ramtech developed the WES wireless firm alarm system, which has become recognised as the system of choice for the UK’s top 50 construction firms, due to its ease of use, system reliability and the highest level of third-party certification. The current WES system remains the only wireless fire alarm system for construction that fully complies with EN54 part 25.

For more information on Ramtech Electronics call 00 44 (0) 115 957 8282 or visit https://www.wesfire.com/products/hotspot/