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Networking rail freight transport wirelessly
Posted: 21-May-2003 [Source: Siemens]

[Deutsche Bahn monitors freight traffic using mobile radio communications.]

Munich -- Deutsche Bahn's freight cars are being equipped with modern monitoring and tracking technology. After a two-year test phase, the new telematics system is now commencing regular service in 13,000 freight cars. GSM terminals from Siemens' Information and Communication Mobile (Siemens mobile) division play a central role in this system.

In future, Deutsche Bahn will always know the current location and state of its freight cars, thanks to modern telematics and mobile information technology. The core of the system is a mobile station 20 cm in height and made of steel tubing with a domed top. Inside the box are electronic components, antennas and a battery, as well as a Siemens mobile radio terminal, which have all been integrated to form a compact and completely self-sufficient telematics unit. These mobile radio "guards" are either soldered to the car close to the buffer or they are mounted on a detachable frame and secured with a lock. From this spot, they accompany the freight and transmit position and status reports to the service centre of DB Cargo (a subsidiary of Deutsche Bahn) in Duisburg.

transportdata AG, a German telematics system provider, implemented this project. They chose a mobile radio communications terminal from Siemens mobile because it best fulfils the tough requirements of rail freight transport. The terminal is a closed, encapsulated mobile radio communications terminal for universal speech and data communication, which functions even at extreme ambient temperatures. In the DB Cargo application, the compact communication module maintains the connection using T-Mobile's GSM network. All data is transmitted in SMS format via mobile communications to T-Mobile's text message centre in Nuremberg, which, in turn, forwards the status reports to DB Cargo via the fixed telephone network. Thanks to GPS satellite positioning, the current location of freight cars can be determined accurately to within 20m. Sensors monitor the loading door and the car's load; if the doors open unexpectedly or without authorisation, an alarm is triggered. This also occurs in the case of a collision or a heavy shunting impact.

The mobile radio unit from Siemens enables maintenance-free operation and has at least four years of battery power. "In comprehensive crash tests, we were able to prove that our mobile station is capable of performing well under extreme conditions," states Rolf Portier, sales manager of transportdata AG's western division. DB Cargo profits in more than one way from this logistic innovation: its resources can be used more economically, and cars at both domestic and foreign locations can be dispatched more effectively. For example, a scheduler now knows where the freight cars are located, and whether they are empty or carrying a load. He/she is therefore able to plan further conveyances, no matter which country the cars are in. The upshot of this new transparency in freight transport is better service for freight customers -- the telematics system can be configured to meet various rail traffic requirements.

"Telematics in rail transport is an exciting form of mobile machine-to-machine communication," said Jose Costa e Silva, President of Wireless Modules within the Information and Communication Mobile Group. "We are actively participating in the m2m growth market, just like service providers and mobile radio communications companies."

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