AusRAIL, Market Sectors

Entertaining rail commuters

With the current push toward greener transportation, how can the rail industry incentivise commuters to jump on the train instead of in the car? Kontron Australia’s Mike Schwaab says in-train infotainment systems are one sure way to do this.

Focusing on passenger comfort as a way of encouraging greater rail patronage, mainly through the adoption of in-train infotainment systems, is becoming an increasing area of focus for train constructors .

At this point, much of this push is being realised in Europe but Schwaab says there is real potential to make in-roads into the Australian passenger rail sector.

“As more pressure is put on Australian rail infrastructure, especially in regards to longer distance lines as well as the possibility of high-speed rail to connect major cities, we will see the push towards in-train infotainment increase,” he said.&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp

So what is infotainment? Although the definition is basically inherent in the name, infotainment describes anything that keeps people informed or entertained, usually through a digital medium. TVs on airplane seatbacks are one such example.

The most common use of infotainment in rail at this point comes by way of passenger information systems, where each train car is fitted with a digital display that not only shows passengers their current location and trip information (utilising GPS for tracking), but also streams breaking news, local weather, and sports highlights, etc.

To be able to receive, analyse and distribute all this information though, each train needs to be equipped with the proper computing capable of handling such a workload.

Up until recently, employing these technologies in rail was a difficult undertaking as on-board computing systems were constantly under heavy strain with high levels of shock and vibration. Not to mention the fact that in the past, several embedded computers were required to handle what a single computer can now handle today.

Schwaab says Kontron’s KISS 4U KTC5520 server overcomes these issues.

The new server has been designed specifically with the transportation industry in mind and is compliant with rail standards EN 50155, EN 50121, and EN 60068.

“But the biggest benefit of this server comes from its computing power, and how such a powerful server translates into infotainment abilities,” he explains.

“It is capable of distributing hundreds of HD-quality video streams, manageable by its ability to run up to eight processor cores and 16 threads. This allows for updated train line information (via GPS), digital signage and internet-on-train to now all be consolidated in a single server system to conserve space and costs.”

On the maintenance side, engineers will be happy to know&nbsp the server is equipped with an intelligent platform-management interface (IPMI) that allows it to be monitored from any PC, easing maintenance and diagnostic checks as they can be done from any remote location, rather than requiring onsite attention. The server’s integrated out-of-band management function allows the system administrator remote access to the server whether it is powered on or not, greatly simplifying server maintenance.&nbsp

Schwaab believes it is only a matter of time before Australians will start to see the infotainment push in trains.

“Although it may seem like a bit of a luxury at this point (especially considering the state of some of the trains still in service), upgrades like this could be a deciding factor in winning the next large tender bid,” he said.

Schwaab said the question remaining is whether there is sufficient added benefit by means of passenger comfort and advertising opportunities to justify such technical upgrades, though these benefits have already started being realised in Europe and Asia.

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