Nature of the Problem

Railroad ride quality refers to a variety of elements including passenger comfort for passenger rail and transit systems, safe transport for manufactured products, and a range of dynamic aspects relating the rail car and the rails. Traditionally, ride quality is measured using three-axis accelerometers mounted onto a locomotive or other car with the data being mapped to specific locations using GPS.

Current devices for monitoring ride quality require external power sources and require a wired connection between the sensors and the device accumulating the data. There is a desire on the part of railroad operators and regulators to measure ride quality in a more comprehensive manner, including measuring at multiple locations on a car and providing a means for transmitting the data to a central data collection point for analysis.

IEM’s WISE Solution

IEM is working with Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Administration to develop a wireless sensor node capable of measuring ride quality without requiring wired power and communications. IEM’s Self Powered Sensor Node, which can be mounted wherever required either in or on a rail car, measures three axis acceleration and contains a GPS unit to enable mapping software to pinpoint possible track problems.

The Ride Quality SPSN is in advanced development and will be tested on Amtrak passenger cars late in 2011 and early in 2012. Data from these sensor nodes will be directed, either in real time or stored for later transfer, to existing ride quality monitoring systems.

The Ride Quality SPSN’s are specifically designed for compatibility with IEM’s WISENet™ wireless sensor network architecture, which will enable the ride quality sensors to be mounted on multiple cars within a single train and maintain connection with a central data repository.