Embedded Solutions Enable Smarter Railway Systems

Computing, Connectivity and Control

Railway systems keep getting more advanced. On both the control side and passenger entertainment side, embedded computers play critical roles. Railway systems need sophisticated networking, data collection and real-time control—all while meeting safety standards.

By Jeff Child, Editor-in-Chief

There’s no doubt that railway systems represent one of the most dynamic segments of embedded computing design. There’s a lot for embedded systems to do aboard trains—ensuring both safety and precise control for the train, but also for the increasingly sophisticated entertainment systems installed on today’s modern trains.

Meanwhile, trains are evolving into moving Internet-of-Things (IoT) platforms, as system developers strive to leverage the many benefits of data collection and passenger monitoring. Even embedded artificial intelligence (AI) is finding its way into the mindshare of railway system developers.

Figure 1
An overview EN 50155, ISO 7637-2 and IRIS certified electronics that are embedded into trains (and buses) for control, supervision, communication, passenger information, security and testing.

Exemplifying these trends, MEN Micro is a leading example of an embedded computer vendor deeply immersed in railway system technology development. Among its offerings are its line of EN 50155, ISO 7637-2 and IRIS certified electronics that are embedded into trains (and buses) for control, supervision, communication, passenger information, security and testing. Figure 1 shows an overview of the MEN’s solutions along those lines. EN 50155 is one of a handful of standards targeted specifically for railway systems. Table 1 shows of summary of these standards.

Shown here is a summary of the key certifications for embedded computers for railway systems. (Source: Assured Systems).

DIN-Rail Mounting

In January, MEN Micro introduced the MC50M, its latest modular computer for DIN rail mounting. To clarify, “rail” in this context is referring not to railroad rails but rather to the metal DIN rail, a standard type of mounting used in industrial control equipment inside equipment racks. MEN’s DIN rail concept is designed for flexible configuration of module combinations and is suitable for embedded IoT applications in various markets. DIN rail mounting (35 mm) is standard. Wall and 19’’ rack mounting are possible using adaption brackets.

The EN 50155-compliant box is based on Intel’s Atom E3900 series with low power dissipation and scalability in performance and memory. The modular expansion concept makes the DIN rail family a cost-effective and flexible solution. For memory, the system provides up to 8 GB of DDR3 SDRAM and an M.2 NVMe slot for mass storage. The box embeds a Trusted Platform Module for security and for I/O the MC50M provides Gbit Ethernet, USB 3.0, RS-232, R-S485/422 and DisplayPort. Input voltage is 24 VDC nominal with ignition and it supports a full-range of PSUs from 9 VDC to 60 VDC. Operating temperature is -55°C to +70°C.

According to MEN Micro, the MC50M is well suited for transportation functions such as security gateways, predictive maintenance, CCTV, ticketing systems or as a diagnostic server. The MC50M can be used as a stand-alone product or in combination with a range of pre-fabricated extension modules, providing additional features and short delivery times.

Extension modules can provide application-specific functions such as wireless communication (LTE advanced, WLAN, GNSS), MVB, CAN bus or other I/Os. A removable storage shuttle supports the integration of one or two 2.5” SATA hard disks/SSDs. The wide range PSU allows isolated power supply from 24 VDC to 110 VDC nominal and extends the entire system to EN 50155 compliance.

The board management controller provides increased reliability and reduces downtime. The Trusted Platform Module supports security and encryption features. With an ignition switch for remote startup and shutdown control, the platform provides additional energy saving features. The aluminum housing with cooling fins ensures conductive cooling and fanless operation. The MC50M has no moving parts, so it can be operated maintenance-free. The long-term availability of 15 years from product launch minimizes life cycle management by making the MC50M available for at least that period.

Security and Safety

Security and safety go hand-in-hand when it comes to railway computing systems. With that in mind, in April Kontron and SYSGO jointly started the development of an integrated platform for safety-critical railway solutions based on Kontron’s SAFe-VX hardware. Their aim was to provide system integrators with a solid and flexible basis for certifiable applications in trains and signaling.

Kontron’s hardware is already used in many railway systems and has been certified up to SIL-4, the highest level of the IEC 61508 standard for functional safety of electronic systems. …

Read the full article in the July 348 issue of Circuit Cellar
(Full article word count: 3856 words; Figure count: 8 Figures.)

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