You might have heard of the American software developer Chris Dancy, more commonly known by his nickname; the world’s most connected man. Dancy earned his title by linking wearable diagnostic gadgetry to smart technology in his house, thus recording every aspect of his life. He calls this network his ‘inner-net’. Here Amy Wells, Electroustic’s marketing manager, asks ‘if Dancy is the world’s most connected man, what is the world’s most connected train?’

The world's most connected train

Industrial Ethernet plays an essential part in the working life of a train. Much like Dancy’s inner-net, the system is used to relay real time information to operators and passengers on-board as well as rail staff in terminals and control rooms.

Ethernet also plays a vital role in a range of different aspects of train travel. On-board communications, security and surveillance, diagnostics, signalling technology, passenger information and train to ground communications are just some of the sectors that rely on industrial Ethernet connectivity.

Electroustic supplies industrial connectors and Ethernet products that are used in all of these rail applications. Moreover, the company is a preferred partner of Hirschmann andLumberg Automation, both of which are a part of the IRIS (International Railway Industry Standard) certified brand, Belden.

From rugged Ethernet connectors and switches, that can withstand a rough British winter (and summer), to plastic IP 65/IP67 connectors, widely used in rail embedded interior applications; we’re a one stop shop.

The connected train

In Germany and the Netherlands, Bombardier operates entirely Ethernet managed trains, where the system determines what kind of carriages the train is made up of, which direction they are travelling in and what order they are linked together. This allows it to determine what order to open doors in as well as providing a host of other functionality. It entirely replaces the traditional Train Communications Network (TCN), which was used for this purpose historically.

Meanwhile, in Zurich, a Hirschmann system controls a rail transport hub made up of shopping arcades and railway stations, which require complex building services. The communication between the management system and the automation stations is managed using a data network based on the Ethernet standard. It provides high availability, thanks to a homogeneous concept, as well as redundancy at crucial points and a smooth passenger experience.

Another application is the ‘Kölner Verkehrs-Betriebe AG’ (KVB AG) in Germany, which transports approximately 800,000 passengers per day in the metropolitan area of Cologne.

On the platform passengers are kept informed via dynamic LED displays and, in addition to train announcements and date and time, information such as delays or company advertising can be displayed as ticker tape or graphics. Again based on industrial Ethernet technology from Hirschmann, the application further illustrates the potential of the connected train.

Closer to home, Electroustic has recently been commissioned to supply network switches for security purposes, to help with the London Overground capacity improvement project. These include Ethernet switches, routers and transceivers to ensure fluid integration of the existing security and communications systems into the new network. The connectors will be used in the controlling and monitoring of surveillance on the new longer platforms, making the busy commute that much more bearable and safe.

What would Dancy do?

With train fares becoming more expensive, passengers now demand a better, more connected experience when travelling. Real time information regarding arrivals, departures and platforms is now expected, which means that communication between trains, control rooms and platforms needs to be up to date to the minute.

It’s fair to say that the demands a train places on its communications network aren’t as extreme as the ones the world’s most connected man places on his. Few passengers would go to the length of recording our heart rate and temperature when a train leaves without them, as Dancy does, so that next time it happened an iPod would automatically play soothing acoustic songs. But you get the gist.

The use of industrial Ethernet in the rail industry has not only improved infrastructure but also passenger safety and comfort. We, the customer, can relax in the knowledge that real time information is now only a few taps of a smart phone away.