Single View of Trains to Improve Railway Safety
Crashes involving trains are more common than one might think. Just this month in Indonesia, a train crashed into a parked railcar killing 36 people and injuring many more. It’s still uncertain whether the crash was caused by human error or a failure with the signals on the trains.
Hochbahn is taking no chances. The company that serves 500,000 daily passengers in Hamburg, Germany is expanding its already-successful RFID implementation to improve railway safety.
As part of Hochbahn's existing system, 2.45 GHz RFID interrogators are mounted on railroad ties and two MarkTag HDS S1456 semi-passive tags are placed on the bottom of each railcar. When a tag passes over a reader, it transmits an ID number. The collected data is then used to notify an operations control center – in this case it’s operated by Funkwerk IT – telling it which trains passed where, at what time, and headed in which direction. It seems as though this type of information would be just what we need to prevent accidents and crashes. Yet Hamburg is still enhancing its system, presumably because the ROI from an expanded RFID project is clear and demonstrable. Or to put it more simply, the benefits of RFID far outweigh the costs.
The intent of the RFID expansion is to provide a single view of the trains and their movement. The latest project involves GEN4HD Track Readers made by TagMaster which will be installed on the railway’s new U4 line. TagMaster has previously supplied RFID equipment to Hamburg for lines U2 and U3. The new RFID tags will be seamlessly integrated with the existing solution, making the desired, single view capability easier to attain.
This type of RFID application also yields other business benefits aside from safer conditions for travelers. By being able to better manage and predict train schedules, the technology can also help support revenue growth and reduce costs through more efficient operations. Knowing RFID was involved, would you expect anything less?
The Next Generation Parking Garage
I recently went out for dinner on Hanover Street in the North End of Boston where the food is great, but parking can be a hassle. The restaurant advertised a great parking option at a garage around the corner. For just 3 bucks I could park a few blocks away if I got my ticket stamped at the reception desk and returned to my car within 3 hours. Not bad. It was a nice night and it would just be a short 5 minute walk from the garage to the restaurant. And we were eating on the early side of the evening, so we’d be sure to get a spot in the garage, right?
As we turned the corner, there was a line of cars driving slowly past a ‘Garage Full’ sign. Oh well, too good to be true. Now we had to navigate our way back toward the restaurant to dish out $20 for valet parking. Couldn’t they have squeezed a few more cars into the garage? Probably – if they were using a system from Wöhr.
Wöhr is a leading manufacturer of car parking systems based in Germany that has been developing innovative parking solutions for the last 50 years. Their take is that as the world’s population and the number of cars increase, there is only one solution: compact parking spaces. In fact their tagline is “We compact parking space”.
Through the use of RFID and lift and shuttle technologies typically used to transport large equipment within buildings, Wöhr has developed next generation parking garages that not only maximize space, but allow cars to park themselves.
Upon entering the garage, the driver scans a user specific microchip-enabled key fob (RFID), drives onto a flat pallet and exits the vehicle. The car automatically descends into the garage where it is mechanically placed into an open space. When the owner returns to retrieve his or her car, the reverse sequence is initiated by scanning their key fob to identify themselves and their car. The average wait time is about 160 seconds and owners are able to monitor the movement of their car on plasma screens as they move through the parking facility.
Check out these cool videos and NY Times coverage of Wöhr’s parking solutions. And the next time you’re driving past the ‘Garage Full’ sign ask yourself if you’d rather have the parking attendant taking your car to who knows where, changing your radio station and helping themselves to valuables left behind, or would you like to keep that $20 to spend on another glass of the "Barolo" Marchesi di Barolo to wash down your dish of Anatra della Duchessa?