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DB-Netz AG: How optiMEAS improves availability

The maintenance vehicles for overhead lines (IFO) of DB Netz AG are indispensable - for the ongoing maintenance of the approx. 20,000 kilometres of electrified network and as a "fire brigade" in emergency situations. The optiMEAS solution, consisting of IoT hardware and software as well as interfaces, enables the precise determination of locations and the automated determination of operating days and kilometres travelled.

The challenge: Maintenance vehicles must be ready for use

An exceptionally strong storm that causes trees to topple onto overhead lines can suddenly paralyse rail services over a wide area. Especially
In the event of major disruptions, restoring the power supply is a huge challenge and the availability of IFOs is essential. Several vehicles from different regions have to be dispatched to an area in order to be able to quickly resume operations on the lines even in such a critical situation. For this, the control centre must know where the vehicles equipped with special technology are and whether they are ready for use. Another problem is that the vehicles do not start after long periods of inactivity because the battery voltage is insufficient. DB Netz needs a solution for this too. In addition to acute defects, vehicle availability is limited by regular maintenance, which is carried out at set intervals. The aim is to optimise maintenance intervals based on the actual kilometres driven and operating times and to reduce workshop visits. For the development of a future-proof solution, DB Netz relies on the digitalisation and railway expertise of optiMEAS. The company has already worked successfully with DB Systemtechnik.

The solution: The optiMEAS system continuously provides operating data

The smart solution from optiMEAS is being developed in several stages for the IFO series and the logistics locomotives. On the vehicle side, an IoT device always collects the data, processes it intelligently and transmits it to the "land side". Two railway-certified device types are in play: The smartRAIL is installed in the IFOs and the particularly compact smartMINI in the logistics series. Via their firmware smartCORE, the systems offer GPS, various interfaces, intelligent functions for data acquisition and processing as well as cloud connection. Via GPS signal, each system records the position data at short intervals and records the battery voltage. The device sends the data to the optiCLOUD via mobile radio. The position values automatically flow into the digital map of DB Netz. The running kilometres and operating day data are calculated using an algorithm and are available for the IT system in which the maintenance strategies are implemented. Tracking, mileage counter and battery monitoring are basic functions of the overall solution.

optiMEAS Smart Services

In some test vehicles, so-called sample conversions, additional operating hour meters have been implemented. Via CAN bus adapters, the control units of the main engine, auxiliary engines and power units of the driven machines are connected to smartRAIL, which collects the data. The system records analogue signals via optionally installed sensors in combination with the specially developed smart I/O MIO1 and smartI/O 8U12 measuring modules. Depending on the series, these are the temperatures of oil and coolant, the fill level of fuel tanks and the pressure in the soot particle filter of diesel engines. The open system architecture makes it possible to integrate further data sources, sensors and measuring modules without having to change the basic system. The smartCORE firmware merely receives another software module for a new measurement task.

The smartI/O BATMON measuring module is to play a key role in the future. It continuously records the battery voltage and at the same time serves as an "intelligent power supply unit": If IFOs are on standby on the siding, smart-RAIL or smartMINI is set to battery-saving mode. From then on, the smart measuring module independently records the battery voltage and only wakes up the IoT device at definable intervals to transfer the data to the optiCLOUD. The cloud is both a data server and an interface to the devices. No technician needs to travel to the locomotive to install software updates or change device configurations; this can be done remotely via the cloud. smartRAIL is fully railway-certified and fail-safe thanks to integrated watchdogs.

The benefit: Transparency, higher availability and data-based maintenance

By now, almost 80 vehicle systems are driving with an optiMEAS system on board, via which they continuously transmit position and vehicle data to the shore side. The control centre can locate each vehicle digitally on the map and see via a traffic light whether it is ready for action. This is especially valuable for major incident management because IFOs from different network areas can be coordinated quickly this way. DB Netz uses the GPS-based mileage counters to derive the actual wear and tear and maintenance requirements of components such as wheelsets and brakes and to adjust replacement intervals in future based on usage. This should save maintenance costs, consume fewer resources and increase the availability of the IFOs in the machine pool. The permanent monitoring of the starter battery ensures the operational readiness of the fleet. With the help of historical diagnostic data, battery failures are to be predicted in the future and automatic alarms triggered. Thanks to additional intelligent measurement technology, DB Netz will have the main engine and the working machines - including the important but failure-prone aerial work platforms - under control in future. Recorded as well as calculated runtime data should make it possible to maintain engines and units in time based on their use. After successful testing, the IFO 708 series will be equipped with this technology across the board. The scalability of smartRAIL ensures that unlimited further measurement technology can be integrated to monitor the "state of health" of components. A current topic is the monitoring of soot particle filters in diesel engines. A highlight of the solution: it continuously feeds the IT system with performance values on the vehicle systems. The intelligent use of the constantly growing database makes it possible to optimise maintenance times and, in the long term, to implement condition-based maintenance. DB Netz's goal is to provide high-quality rail infrastructure with the greatest possible efficiency. The digitalisation of the IFO fleet with smartRAIL makes an important contribution to this.

optiMEAS has been our digitalisation partner for years.
That works out great and, above all, is always solution-oriented. This gives us exactly the performance data for our vehicles that we need for optimisation.
Norbert Stegemann
Norbert Stegemann
Project Manager Digitalisation at DB Netz AG