The client is a world-renowned rail tour company that operates high-end rail tours through the Rockies of Alberta and British Columbia, from April to October each year. The tours last anywhere from two days to more than three weeks, with exceptional service, food, beverages and off-train accommodations included in a single price.
The client operated in silos, which manifested in two distinct challenges:
- Create a technology solution that would enable the client to monitor and keep track of its 60 rail cars, knowing their exact location and condition at all times, as well as have a way to maintain contact with passengers on board to identify and notify the kitchens of any updated dietary changes or other demands placed on train staff.
- Consolidate several offices.
The second challenge was more straightforward and was accomplished in several months; the client had several separate office locations that it wanted to consolidate under one roof.
IOSecure’s CEO and founder, Tom Jacoby, notes that a static configuration for a networking environment is the preferred approach. “We like to know where something is, we like to have something on a wall, a cable running to it. That was not the case with this project.”
Indeed, it wasn’t.
The company’s rail cars, in many cases, are 50 or 60 years old. Not an ideal technology environment.
It was imperative that IoT sensors be included in the wireless project so that the operating condition of the cars could be monitored in real time. For example, food in the refrigerators on board the trains must be kept at 6 degrees Celsius, a regulation laid down and strictly enforced by Health Canada.
Sensors on the steel wheels were required to monitor vibration levels, a sure-fire indicator of wear and tear. Knowing the condition of the wheels at all times allows the client to make predictions on equipment failure and avoid potential safety risks.
Space is at a premium in rail cars and so working conditions were very tight, and regulatory requirements meant that the placement of every screw being used had to be noted on engineering drawings.
The installation brought its own challenges. Installing a wireless communication system aboard a train and making it work efficiently while the train is in motion, snaking through valleys deep between mountain ranges, was an enormous undertaking. Because the client’s trains are moving and vibrating, power stability can also fluctuate. Each of the 60 rail cars is different due to age and construction methods and materials used. To make the project even more difficult, no two trains are ever the same: the client interchanges cars, rearranges their position in the line or a car can simply break down and be pulled out of operation entirely.
And, despite the fact that travel through extremely remote areas means there are times when line-of-sight or wireless coverage drops, this travel company wanted those drops to be minimal and they wanted to have the trains back online again without any intervention required, such as re-booting or other methods.
IOSecure had to create a wireless system that was dynamic — one that could accommodate all the moving parts, literally and figuratively.
IOSecure designed a solution that included both satellite and WIFI technologies, implementing a state-of-the-art network based on Cisco technologies. Redundant power supplies support a business continuity plan for uninterrupted access. This ensures that the trains are available for as close to 24/7 as possible.
The offices were also fully consolidated so that knowledge workers at any office and at any time could collaborate with each other and with their trains.
While the office consolidation project was completed over the course of several months, the connected train project is slated to be fully operational by 2019. To date, the client has been thrilled with the results. “We had no idea of the complexities of connecting our rail cars via GPS and LTE networks with our head office but IOSecure is pulling it off and the benefits, to date, are immeasurable. We now have a central location and we can track our rail cars and their condition in real time. In short, we’re thrilled.”
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