Nexiot AG is equipping the whole European fleet of VTG Aktiengesellschaft (VTG AG) wagons with zero-maintenance smart sensors, which communicate important information and business-critical events up to every five minutes to enterprise control centres.
The smart sensors harvest energy from the environment to make them self-sustaining, giving them a unique message update rate and overall operating lifetime.
This overcomes battery problems which are a major barrier to customers who want to monitor their mobile assets that have no power source.
The modules relay updates including location, impact events, and border crossings. Geographical and historical information is combined with the raw sensor data, so the customer can see the wider context of their assets, including estimated times of arrival, detection of cargo loading, or recognition of intermodal changes, for example.
This data is processed in the Nexiot Cloud Engine so that VTG and other rail customers can use it to add value to their business. For example, the data includes accurate mileage for each wagon so that significant cost savings can be made through condition-based maintenance.
In addition, customised geofencing will enable VTG customers to be alerted whenever wagons enter or leave a defined area, such as a terminal, station, port or border region, and integrated sensors supply other important data like shock or impact events.
The customer can manage the setup of event notifications so they are informed only when something important takes place. This is vital when managing a large fleet.
"The modules are equipped with integrated energy harvesting and ultra-low-power embedded technology, developed over ten years of research by scientists at the ETH university in Zurich, Switzerland," said Daniel MacGregor, Director Marketing and Sales, Nexiot AG.
"Nexiot's wider expertise in complex systems and Big Data algorithms makes us much more than a hardware provider. Our company focuses on providing full asset visibility to enable the customer to make informed decisions."
The smart sensors are designed to be fitted to each wagon in under five minutes and are paired to a data centre using a smartphone, so no specialist knowledge is needed and asset downtime is minimised.
"We are a young company, but we are taking the market by storm because we provide cutting-edge technology and an innovative business model, which brings the entry barriers right down," said MacGregor.
"Increasing demand for supply chain visibility from end customers, and the need to compete with road-based transport are both important drivers."
VTG AG is installing the smart sensors as part of its new VTG Connect service.
"This pan-European telematics system and the resultant services will create the transparency that rail freight transportation so desperately needs," said Dr Heiko Fischer, CEO of VTG AG.
"Essentially, we are offering the entire industry the chance to realise further effective improvements.
"We are also strengthening rail freight's position as the backbone of smart and sustainable logistical solutions.