Rail & Railways Use Embedded SBCs

Rail, Railway and Trains

Gateworks Corporation is a leading supplier of industrial grade ARM based SBCs that can be used to implement high performance rail and railway solutions. Many train and rail applications require rugged, industrial temperature rated hardware which is where Gateworks SBCs excel. These SBCs are Made in the USA which result in a high quality and robust product. The railway plays a large role in passenger transportation and freight transportation industries.

  • Advantages to a Smart Rail solution include:
    • Train tracking which includes maximizing rail availability and health
    • Monitoring for environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity
    • Predictive analysis for maintaining trains and detecting problems early
    • Safety monitoring through speed and location geo-fencing.
    • Remote monitoring train engine and diagnostics systems, such as CAN Bus.
    • Calculating delivery ETA
    • Analyzing train speeds and idle times
    • Expediting emergency response
    • Breakdown diagnostics and location
Freight Train Embedded PC
Freight is often monitored on the railways

Smart Rail Architecture

The rail industry has many uses, including passenger trains and freight trains. Each train, and at times times each rail car, needs to connect to a central platform (cloud) for scalable management. The train will typically connect to the central platform directly, but other times through a gateway. Typical direct communication channels include, but are not limited to: CATM1 Cellular, 4G LTE & 5G Cellular, WiFi, and Iridium Satellite.

Besides monitoring the railways, using technology to serve in train WiFi to passengers is required. An access point in each train car provides WiFi that may have a cellular backhaul (5G). A media server may even store content for passengers to watch in areas out of cellular range.

Rail & Train Hardware

Gateworks SBCs are the perfect gateway for a railway solution. The Gateworks SBC allows for both sensor and cloud communication via different technologies.

GPS is an optional soldered on option for Gateworks SBCs. A u.FL or MMCX antenna connector allows for a variety of antenna options. The typical GPS used on Gateworks SBCs supports NMEA, GLONASS, BeiDou, Galileo, QZSS, SBAS, WAAS/EGNOS/MSAS, Differential GPS (DGPS).

GW7200 Rugged Industrial Dual Ethernet Single Board Computer
A Gateworks SIngle Board Computer for use on a train

Gateworks SBC’s feature Mini-PCIe expansion slots which allow support of a variety of wireless standards such as Cellular (LTE/CATM1/4G LTE/5G), WiFi, Bluetooth & BLE, Sub 1-GHz, Thread, WiSun, Zigbee LoRa, SigFox and Iridium Satellite. The Mini-PCIe slots provide customers with a flexible plug-n-play platform that can be tailored to meet their exact specifications. Different wireless standards support important communication modes, such as mesh and point to point networking. Different MIMO and power rated wireless cards are available for a custom rail access point for passengers.

One special feature of the Gateworks Single Board Computers is that they have a sleep functionality to conserve power. The Gateworks System Controller, or GSC, can be powered off of a coin cell battery. This allows vehicles that are parked for extended periods of time to conserve power. A timer can be used to occasionally wake the SBC up to read GPS coordinates and update the location to the cloud. Additionally, a vibration sensor can be connected to the SBC to wake the SBC up when the engine is started.

Single, dual and 6-port Gigabit Ethernet SBCs are available. These high speed wired connections are typically used to communicate with other onboard devices.

The Gateworks railway SBC is also capable of computing at the edge, whether that is storage, analysis or alerts. eMMC, MicroSD and mSATA storage expansion is available. For serving media such as videos for passengers a high capacity NVMe can be used.

A variety of sensor interfaces are available for monitoring data include GPIO, USB, CAN, RS232, RS485, SPI and I2C as discussed below.

Using a fanless design, the Gateworks SBC has a long MTBF rating. Being Made in the USA, the quality ensures a robust and reliable product.

Train Management & Monitoring Sensors & Data

Sensors play a crucial role in tracking and monitoring trains. These may include GPS location, temperature, humidity, motion, vibration and infrared. Gateworks SBCs include GPIO, USB, CAN, RS232, RS485, SPI and I2C interfaces for connecting local sensors.

Bluetooth Low Energy has become extremely popular for interfacing to vehicle sensors wirelessly. This sensor data can then be stored and analyzed locally on the Gateworks SBC or pushed up to a cloud server for more long term storage and heavier analysis.

Some trains may utilize the CAN Bus for monitoring critical rail data, such as engine temperature, speed, and oil levels. SAE J1939 and SAE J2284 are common standards used in the automotive industry. Various Gateworks SBCs have CAN Bus capabilities.

Rail Learning & Recognition

freight train single board computer monitoring

Gateworks SBCs can act as as platform for certain machine learning applications utilizing things such as a tensor processing unit (TPU) to detect machine abnormalities and patterns. Something such as an abnormal vibration may be a sign of a failed wheel bearing. Camera recognition can also be implemented through the TPU. The TPU device would interface through one of the high-speed Mini-PCIe slots. The detected information through the TPU can then be used to detect collisions or send alerts for vehicles in danger or requiring attention.

Using GPS Location data, daily vehicle patterns can be analyzed and optimized for fuel & time efficiency. Idling time can be detected and ETA times can be calculated.

Flexible Software & Clouds

All Gateworks Single Board Computerse support an Open Source Linux OS (Ubuntu, OpenWrt) which provides the user with complete access and control of the data and allows the use of any of the large number of cloud providers such as Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Service (AWS). Vehicle data can be sent to the preferred cloud of choice over a variety of connections, including cellular or satellite, for storage, analysis and alerts..

Flexible Configurations

Gateworks can also provide customers with a “Special” configuration of our standard single board computers. This “Special” program allows customers to create cost and feature optimized versions of our standard products. The special is assigned a unique, revision locked, part number so customers can be insured they receive the same exact configuration every time they order. Note there is a 100-piece minimum order quantity for special configuration models. Some of the items that can be configured under the “Specials” program are:

  • Changing components such as DRAM size, Flash size, or CPU type/speed
  • Removing components not used to lower the cost of the product
  • Adding optional components designed into the product but not loaded on the standard version (ie. locking headers)
  • Programming the customer firmware

For high volume applications, Gateworks can also design a full custom SBC to meet the customer exact needs. Contact sales@gateworks.com for more information and to discuss your exact needs.

Recommended Embedded SBCs for the Rail and Railway Industry

Recommended Single Board Computers:

  • Venice GW7100 – Small 35mm x 100mm, 1x Mini-PCIe sites, 1x GbE, i.MX8M Mini Quad Core CPU
  • Venice GW7200 – Small 70mm x 100mm, 2x Mini-PCIe sites, 2x GbE, i.MX8M Mini Quad Core CPU
  • Venice GW7300 – 105mm x 100mm, 3x Mini-PCIe sites, 2x GbE, i.MX8M Mini Quad Core CPU
  • Venice GW7400 – 140mm x 100mm, 3x Mini-PCIe sites, 6x GbE, i.MX8M Plus Quad Core CPU
  • Additional SBCs available in a variety of form factors and with up to 6x Mini-PCIe sites. See here for more information.

Recommended Mini-PCIe Cards for Wireless Support:

Recommended Enclosures: