“First of a kind" train tech in action

Veea Systems and rolling stock leasing firm Angel Trains have completed a joint project demonstrating smart rail edge computing and mesh wireless networking for use on board trains.

According to the partners, the system makes it easier to connect new technology to existing trains, with potential to benefit train operators, on-train staff and passengers.

Improved passenger service

The network allows local applications to be developed to improve the functionality of passenger information, CCTV, as well as passenger entertainment systems.

The companies were selected to receive grant funding to develop the project as part of the “First of a kind: demonstrating tomorrow’s trains today” competition, funded by the UK’s Department for Transport (DfT) and delivered by Innovate UK.

The project concluded with a demonstration of the Veea platform to the DfT and Innovate UK, showcasing on-board technology deployment and the capabilities that can be used to deliver a wide variety of applications for both train operators and passengers.

“This project saw a productive collaboration between technology specialists and the railway industry,” Kelvin Davies, innovation lead rail at Innovate UK.

“The technology demonstration that has been delivered has the potential to transform the landscape for all train operating companies [which] wish to provide their customers with an outstanding digital experience without the need for costly and time-consuming major overhauls of their carriages.”

He continued: “We are delighted to have seen the successful conclusion of this project and look forward to the potential future commercial deployments to deliver benefits to rail operating companies and the travelling public.”

To achieve the project’s objectives and effectively demonstrate this capability, eight rail- certified VeeaHubs were fitted into modular enclosures and used to form a local wireless network on-board four of Angel Trains’ Mk3 HST trailer vehicles.

“The technology demonstration that has been delivered has the potential to transform the landscape for all train operating companies [which] wish to provide their customers with an outstanding digital experience"

Veea, claims the deployment of new technology into the fabric of a working train demonstrates the potential for train operating companies to update their fleets more efficiently without the need to remove the vehicles from service.

Once the VeeaHubs have been installed further feature rich applications can be deployed almost instantaneously to a single carriage or an entire fleet of carriages using remote cloud management software, it said.

As part of the demonstration, the two companies showed several use-case applications including:

  • staff communications use-case – demonstrated how staff could access CCTV footage on their mobile devices throughout the length of the train using high definition IP cameras connected to the wireless mesh to provide a live video feed;
  • predictive maintenance use-case – through the edge computing platform monitored several IoT sensors on the train, providing engineers with critical information on the performance of key systems and identified required maintenance;
  • passenger entertainment use-case – showed how a server-based game, Minecraft, could be made available to allow passengers to play in the same virtual world, by hosting it within the VeeaHub enabled mesh network, without the requirement of an external internet connection.

“The rail industry can reap huge benefits from the adoption of digital services on-board for passenger services, operational services and efficient IoT services,” added Alan Jones, CEO of Veea Systems.

“The successful end of project demonstration showed how transformative this technology can be with applications available to deliver greater efficiencies, safety, security, information and entertainment, with the hardware platform deployed in a matter of hours without the need for a major overhaul of carriages.”