Work Stream 1 (WS1): Cargo condition monitoring

The concept behind cargo condition monitoring is to develop an autonomous self-powered wireless sensor system for cargo tracing and condition monitoring of key parameters for critical types of freight, such as perishable goods, high value sensitive goods and dangerous goods. Energy harvesting technologies will be employed for power generation, while wireless sensor networks will be established for data communication. This concept overcomes the main obstacles of wiring and power supply within the context of rail freight vehicles. The data obtained can be transmitted from the train to the ground either through the interaction between onboard RFID tags and wayside readers or via remote communication, such as mobile networks. Finally, the cargo conditions will be presented on a web-based logistics application to provide up-to-date information to interested stakeholders. The novel technology concepts and the key functions of the cargo condition monitoring system (CCMS) will be validated in an appropriate railway environment (TRL 5).

Based on this concept, WS1 within the project scope aims at integrating the suitable existing solutions/technologies of each system module to develop a prototype of the innovative CCMS. The functionalities of the CCMS include data acquisition by means of sensing and geolocalisation, energy generation, wireless communication, as well as data processing, storage and representation. For the purposes of outlining the foundation and paving the way for further development, Work Package 1 (WP1) will provide a benchmark of the current technologies and solutions in the technical areas involved, respectively, covering sensor technologies, energy harvesting technologies, identification and tracing technologies, data communication technologies and big data management solutions. In addition, WP1 will define the requirements, technical specifications and restrictions for the innovative technologies and the integrated solutions envisaged by WS1.

The implementation and validation of the CCMS prototype are addressed in WP2. The prototype will be demonstrated for two application cases, namely:

  1. Container wagon with sensitive goods
  2. Tank wagon carrying hazardous goods

Based on a modular design concept, the general sensing platform will be set up as the first step. With regards to the individual application cases, applicable sensors will be selected, along with other required electronic devices, to monitor the conditions inside the container/tank; however, this is restricted by the available harvested energy. The greatest challenge within WS1 is the design of the energy harvesting powering system and, in the context of rail freight transport, the potential energy sources could be solar, vibration and radio wave. Through proper utilisation of energy harvesting technologies and a suitable installation of harvesters, sufficient energy could be provided for the onboard unit.

Another focus is on the implementation of wireless communication within sensor networks as well as between the onboard unit and a central application server. With regard to wireless sensor networks, various established industrial standards will be considered for networking based on the results of WP1. Similarly, the suitable technologies, such as RFID technology, mobile network, satellite communication, etc., will be selected to close the communication loop from the onboard unit to the central server.

Finally, the CCMS demonstrator will be validated in several scenarios simulating a real railway environment. Sensor systems, energy harvesters and data communication will be respectively tested to face typical railway conditions such as operating in a shunting yard.