Network Rail, has signed a five-year deal with McLaren Applied to provide on-board 5G connectivity for the UK rail administrator’s infrastructure monitoring trains. McLaren says it will deploy its patented Fleet Connect software on the existing Active Antenna hardware. The programme was developed for connectivity in Formula 1 racing.
The software is already being used in several transport fleets around the world. According to McLaren, it provides seamless, high-speed passenger WiFi connections and operator uplinks.
Uniquely, the data is transmitted across available networks, but the software splits it in real time. It is then re-assembled in the cloud as it moves towards its destination. This process helps overcome breaks in service due to so-called blackspots and deliver a consistent connectivity stream for any moving vehicle.
Network Rail has a vast array of assets to keep tabs on, spread across its 20,000 miles of track. These include, 30,000 bridges, tunnels, and viaducts, not to mention stations, signals and level crossings all of which it needs to monitor. Clearly, any help that it can get to quickly and reliably transmit data back to operations’ HQ is to be welcomed. The monitoring trains will report back using live data streams, including camera feeds and sensor readings on the track, foliage and network monitoring.
According to McLaren, the combination of Fleet Connect software and Active Antenna hardware will enable trains to continuously connect through various network providers, formats and strengths across the country. All radio frequency cables and routers on board have been replaced with a single ethernet connection that uses Huber+Suhner componentry with an edge compute module, modem and eSIM capability embedded within the antenna.
McLaren Applied chief operating officer Samir Maha said: “The innovative solution proposed by McLaren Applied to secure this contract is the perfect illustration of how our work at the cutting-edge of motorsport can directly translate into game-changing solutions for transport.”
He continued, “By uniting our Formula One-derived Fleet Connect software and Active Antenna hardware, we have created a turn-key product that is much greater than the sum of its parts.”
Track-side connectivity and on-board WiFi services will be the main subjects of BWCS’s WiFi on Trains Conference in 2023 (www.Traincomms.com ).