Rail industry news (Australia, New Zealand)

Rail monitoring led by industry

IoT technology company Kallipr is working with some of Australia’s largest logistics and rail organisations to help them meet safety requirements and regulations, achieve cost savings via reductions in delays, and deliver more efficient processes. 

Kallipr has established a reputation for its innovative engineering solutions, but interestingly, the company hasn’t always been involved with the rail sector.

Rail Express speaks to Kallipr Chief Commercial Officer Stelios Trikoulis about how the company’s pioneering expertise in other industries was extrapolated to the rail industry, which is now benefitting from Kallipr’s cutting-edge rail monitoring devices.

“When we first started in 2017, we had a very strong focus in the water and wastewater industry, and still do,” he said. 

“We do a lot of work with water customers measuring things all the way from water consumption through to water levels, temperature, water quality, etc.

“As we continued on that journey, we started to see that the issues and problems facing the water industry weren’t just specific to a water authority, but were also impactful on other industries. 

“We realised that factors such as water and temperature can also have, through the natural environment, an impact on the rail network.

“For example, flooding impacts various sectors in the rail industry: specifically, it impacts culverts. When the culverts become flooded, it can lead to significant operational delays and safety risks. 

“Meanwhile, temperature deviations can lead to buckling or contraction of the tracks, posing further risks and complications.

“So we saw that our solutions to one industry were directly applicable to others. In solving problems caused by the natural environment, we saw their applicability in rail.”

Trikoulis said it was only about 24 months ago that rail customers began to connect with Kallipr to see if their products could help solve rail infrastructure issues.

“One of the best examples was the rail pit monitoring device used by Keolis Downer Yarra Trams, which alerts operators when rail pits flood,” he said.

Kallipr Chief Commercial Officer Stelios Trikoulis. IMAGE: Kallipr

“This early detection enables swift action, ensuring timely maintenance and preventing potential damages.

“Yarra Trams came to us and said it saw that we measured overflows in sewers, and wanted to know if we could do the same for tram pits.

“It’s interesting that it was the rail subject matter experts who drew the delineation, who approached us. It was great to see how the industry looked at it and said, hey, you’ve done it there, can you do it here? 

“Obviously, each industry understands its own subject matter and problems: the maintenance operators, the track operators, the system providers, the customers. 

“Our challenge as a technology provider is in best connecting with them so we can bring the technology and the subject matter expertise together. What we bring to the table is the technology and what it can do, and then the experts guide us on how to deploy it, what we can and can’t do on the infrastructure, and the environmental impacts, and we incorporate that into our product development process.”

Trikoulis said that as an Australian company, Kallipr designed and manufactured all its products in the country. 

“Manufacturing of the circuit boards as well as the final assembly is all done in Australia. Our products are actually assembled at our head office in Murarrie on the Brisbane River,” he said.

“What’s been really important for us is also being very hands-on with the customers. So we go out to meet with all of the rail providers and get further insights to bring to the product development process. 

“What we always say is that the hardest thing of what we’re developing isn’t actually the technology, but it’s the deployment of the technology into the rail environment. 

“When you think of the things that can go wrong or the many things that can have an impact, whether it’s extreme temperature, wind, rats eating cables, ants nesting or flooding events, you have to design the appropriate solutions to deal with them.”

Trikoulis cited Kallipr’s Rail Temperature Monitoring solution as a strong example of this collaboration.  Sensors placed on the wayside measure both the ambient heat and the actual rail track temperature, providing accurate data on how hot or cold things are in each location and informing where the maintenance priorities are. 

“We’ve effectively built an enclosure that the device sits in, and we’ve made sure there’s adequate space for air flow to pass through because we know where these units are deployed, the temperature can get to 50° plus,” Trikoulis said.

“So we’ve had to design the solution in a way to withstand the very harsh environments … and being very close to the customer helps in that development process.”

Trikoulis said Kallipr was not just sitting on current products, but always constantly developing new solutions and modifying existing ones to suit. 

“We have cutting-edge devices that can collect data being integrated into different sensors that can measure both the physical and natural environments,” he said.

“But we think further. In the case of rail temperature, we  leverage a magnetic rail temperature sensor that sticks on to the rail track and allows the operator to manage the rail culverts.

“When we monitor flooding, we leverage a radar sensor for water levels and a trigger switch for small water levels.

“So while the devices haven’t basically changed, the sensors and the deployment approach have. 

“And why that’s really unique is that as rail customers bring us new business problems, we’re able to easily augment the solution to deal with those different requirements. 

“We don’t have to build everything from scratch. The fact that our solution is very modular enables us to tackle different business problems for our customers.” 

For instance, Trikoulis said freight   operator Aurizon had approached Kallipr to augment the temperature kit with a sensor to measure rainfall.

“So we added a rain tipping bucket to the product without having to redesign everything. We didn’t have to put in new units.,” he said.

“The flexibility of the solution means that we were able to solve their problem by adding an additional sensor on top of the existing technology.

“That’s really critical because if we have to go and redesign the hardware and redesign everything every time, it probably wouldn’t be easy to maneuver. 

“Our same customers are now saying to us, ‘You solved this problem for me, can you solve this one now?”

Another advantage of Kallipr products is its compatibility with operating systems.

“While we have out of the box dashboards and applications that can be utilised, rail operators are very large organisations with existing systems and processes and they tend to want the data to go to them” Trikoulis said.

“We enable our solutions to get the data directly to their system. So we’re not going to try and recreate the application layers for the customer. 

“They already have their systems developed internally. They don’t need us to redevelop that. So all we’re doing is providing them the data to power the systems.

“And that’s critical. Because when you think of the operational user or the person who’s using the tech, they don’t want to have to swivel chairs between systems. 

“They know how to use this one system, so let’s just get the data into that same system.”

Kallpir makes the products fully pre-packaged and configured so that they are easy to install.

“We also offer the ability to provide installation services, so if the rail operator requests an installer to do additional quality assurance on the job, we can also provide that.

“Many of our clients in fact  prefer this. They are happy to pay for an installer because a high level of  QA is required, and having it properly installed lowers the business risk of the project.”

Trikoulis said a priority was now on deploying this technology to more operators.

“For us it’s all about how we take the technology we’ve deployed to our customers and extend it. Secondly, how do we solve more of these business and user problems, and probably more importantly, how we start to introduce more smarts into the solutions, so we can effectively drive better predictive maintenance solutions,” Trikoulis said.

“The focus is on helping rail operators get the most value for the data. We may have solved the solution for one stakeholder within a rail organisation, but that data may have value to other groups in the business too. So we look at helping the customer or the rail operator join the dots between the different teams so they can benefit from the same data.”

In essence, what began as a rail industry query has now blossomed into a dedicated industry service focus for the company.

“The best part about it is that it’s come through the voice of the customer, the voice of the rail industry,” Trikoulis said.