Sensors used in the monitoring of railway stock and infrastructure management are typically developed to meet the toughest technical criteria while resisting the hardest shocks, vibrations, a range of other forces, and environmental conditions. Designed to make certification testing and smooth railway operations a lot easier for clients, and bring down their costs, the triaxial ASC DiSens® ECO-Rail digital accelerometer recently passed the rigorous tests according to EN 50155 (IEC 60571) and was approved to this important international standard.

Enhancing railway capacity, safety and productivity

The digital ASC DiSens ECO-Rail-3325 with CAN interface has been specially developed to detect, monitor, and help prevent subtle yet damaging vibrations impacting railroad construction and maintenance machines over time. It smoothly integrates with rail infrastructure operators’ hard and software standards, ensures the comprehensive tracking of all parameters determining a machine’s ‘health’, and helps reduce the cost of maintenance, repair, breakdown, and service disruptions.

The sensor innovation premiered at the recent Railway Forum 2023 in Berlin, Germany. “Since our digital accelerometer passed all requirements under EN 50155, it is now available to rail network operators who wish to further strengthen their system’s capacity, safety and productivity,” says ASC Sensors managing director Renate Bay.

To install electronic equipment on a train or other rolling stock, it must comply with EN 50155 (IEC 60571) standards for environmental, shock, vibration, power supply, EMC, power surge, ESD, and transient factors that could occur when in use.

Benefits for rail and infrastructure operators

Galvanic isolated sensors offer enhanced protection to railway electronics against harmful voltage transients and electrical noise, commonly arising from traction systems, motors, and other onboard equipment. These sensors effectively break ground loops, eliminating unwanted current flows and ensuring accurate measurements. Additionally, they seamlessly interface between varying voltage levels within a train’s subsystems, promoting efficient communication, without direct electrical connections. This ensures optimal performance and prolongs onboard electronics’ lifespan, leading to reduced maintenance and costs.

“In addition, for our clients EN 50155 conformity of our sensors means a significant simplification and cost reduction of their overall railway operation and certification processes,” states Bay.

Sensor control made simple

In addition, the ASC DiSens ECO-Rail comes with integrated ‘Micro Control’ firmware. “This empowers customers to configure their own sensor equipment and make direct adjustments,” Bay explains. Flexible parameters including measurement ranges, frequencies or various filter settings are now under the direct control of the rail operator. “Our firmware facilitates the interaction between sensor element, CAN interface and the user, for simple control and smooth operation.”

Integration in the train’s digital network via the digital CAN interface and compatibility with the 24 volt power system are additional features that make this latest digital accelerometer from the ASC range particularly suitable for rail applications. It had been developed for a project in partnership with the Digital Railway Solutions Alliance.

Solutions for a ‘digital railway future’

In May, 2022, at the International Railway Forum (IAF) in Münster, Germany, 15 leading European rail infrastructure technology companies launched a new collaboration: the Digital Railway Solutions (DRS) Alliance. Through an open innovation platform, the manufacturers and service providers of diverse high-tech solutions collaborate to improve the safety, efficiency and capacity of the world’s railway networks.

“We are proud to be part of the DRS Alliance,“ Bay says. “With our analogue, digital, and smart sensor products, ASC is able to make unique contributions to the success of this group and, importantly, to that of our customers benefiting from the combined expertise and integrated solutions across the breadth of this unique alliance.”

From digital to smart

However, despite its compelling features, the digital ASC ECO-Rail sensor is not yet the end of rail sensor innovation. As the ASC AiSys ECO-Rail smart sensor takes it another step further, “customised to client requirements, our smart sensors are able to ‘predict’ future maintenance needs to save yet more time and budget,” Bay clarifies. They do this by combining the captured real-time data with historic and environmental data to produce instant repair alerts or timely recommendations for the maintenance or replacement of weakening components before something breaks down.

The smart ASC AiSys ECO-Rail sensor, too, adheres to EN 50155 standards. With that, it is as easily embedded in rolling stock as its digital relative. For this smart sensor range, ASC has further optimised its firmware to support a wide range of applications and market specifics. Sensor parameters can be set to align with individual client preferences and needs. Algorithms for FFT and the computation of velocity and displacement can be implemented directly at the sensor, which means that data evaluation and analysis happens in the sensor, which then ‘communicates’ the resulting guidance to the operator to act upon.

Sustainable rail mobility

“Our ASC AiSys ECO-Rail smart sensors combine ‘intelligent’ data interpretation and communication,” Bay summarises. Communication between the sensor system and its user is bi-directional. It is facilitated through a standardised technical interface.

“With this end-to-end ecosystem of rail monitoring, external data integration, analysis, and communication, all in real-time, our smart sensors provide the basis for the development of digital twins to achieve further gains in passenger safety, network capacity, and a sustainable future of railway mobility.“