As part of a CGI-led consortium, Icomera has been selected by the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the UK Space Agency, and the European Space Agency (ESA) to demonstrate a hybrid satellite and terrestrial communications network for use on trains.
The Satellites for Digitalisation of Railways (SODOR) project will also support various IoT application pilots aimed at cost-effectively improving passenger experience and rail safety.
Today, wireless connectivity for trains is largely delivered through cellular networks, with dedicated trackside networks emerging as the leading technology to in-fill areas where cellular coverage or capacity cannot meet the demand for data. The SODOR project aims to demonstrate the benefits of utilising satellite technology in remote rural areas where there is often a lack of existing cellular or fibre infrastructure.
A key component of the trials will be Icomera’s SureWAN™ aggregation algorithm. SureWAN allows Icomera’s onboard routers to intelligently connect to multiple cellular, trackside, and satellite networks simultaneously, and seamlessly transition between them as the train passes through their respective areas of coverage.
Specifically designed for use in transport environments, the SureWAN algorithm aggregates all available communication networks along a route to accomplish maximum data capacity, coverage, availability, and redundancy for systems on moving vehicles, along the entirety of their routes.
The enhanced connectivity arising from this hybrid approach will be leveraged to provide a testbed for a range of IoT sensor applications, including a ride quality monitoring system. The value of reliable and secure real-time or on-demand access to the data generated by these systems, directly from the train anywhere along its route, cannot be overstated.
Fast and appropriate responses based on this data will be essential to a cost-effective “predict and prevent” maintenance strategy for the Rail industry, as well as numerous other initiates aiming to benefit passengers, transport operators, and ultimately, the environment.
Icomera and its design and engineering division, DG8, will offer extensive collective experience in system architecture design, network integration, hardware installation, and network operations management to support project partners CGI, Isotropic Systems, 5G3i, Network Rail, and rail operators ScotRail, Northern, and LNER in delivering the project.
The SODOR project is ongoing, with trials set to begin in the latter half of 2022.
The required coverage and capacity along most routes can usually be supplied via a combination of cellular and trackside networks. In cases where vehicles travel through long stretches of rural or remote terrain with no existing cellular or fibre infrastructure, satellite networks can be used to fill in “not-spots” to provide seamless connectivity.