We never really give it a moment's thought, but whenever we take the train, streetcar or subway, huge amounts of data are constantly being exchanged between the coaches and the rail control centers to ensure that every journey runs safely.
But safety is not the only key factor. Passengers have also become a lot more demanding and want to be kept continually updated on delays, breakdowns and maintenance work that might affect their journey and schedules.
And all of that is happening in an environment where guaranteeing a stable wireless communication network is not a given: the high speed of trains, the terrain they cross (tunnels, mountains, rural areas, etc.) and the use of overhead high-voltage power cables are all detrimental to good wireless communication.
Televic Rail: making rail transport safe, efficient and comfortable
“So that is the complex environment that Televic Rail works in,” says Dirk Van Den Wouwer, Research Lead at the Belgian company. “Since 1985, Televic Rail has been part of the Televic Group. While the larger group focuses on building mission-critical communications systems, we concentrate specifically on developing and selling passenger information systems and sensor-based solutions for railway vehicles. Our goal is to make rail transport as safe, efficient and comfortable as possible. Televic Rail has over 200 employees working towards this goal, including 70-odd engineers who are responsible for researching and developing new solutions.”
“Our main customers are large train manufacturers such as Alstom, Bombardier and Siemens. And we are active worldwide: today, over 24,000 train coaches, streetcars and subway cars – across Asia, Europe, North America and Australasia – are equipped with Televic Rail technology.”
Innovation is ingrained in Televic's DNA: the company invests 10-15% of its annual revenue in R&D, derives 80% of its revenues from products that have been developed in the past five years, and has its own small army of engineers. Yet, the company feels that collaboration across company boundaries is an absolute must for it to keep on reinventing itself and increase its competitive advantage.
From imec.icon research project to important contract win in the U.S.
“The solutions we deliver are particularly varied and complex. Typically, they consist of a combination of (wireless) communication components, software and hardware. By collaborating with other companies and research centers, we can quickly embrace new technologies; technologies that help us create added value for our customers and that allow us to always stay a step ahead of our competitors. This is why we got involved in the imec.icon research program,” explains Dirk Van Den Wouwer.
Indeed, in recent years, Televic Rail has taken part in a series of imec.icon research projects - with names such as TRACK, RAILS and TraPIST; projects that have produced technological results and insights which Televic could translate into actual products. And these products have formed the basis for a number of important contracts, both in Europe and the States.
From Brussels and London to San Francisco
For instance, the Eurostar trains that run between Brussels and London have been equipped with technology that was developed in those imec.icon projects. The same applies to the contract that Televic Rail recently signed with light rail in San Francisco, for which the Belgian company is delivering a customized IP network along with information screens, an audio communication system and supporting software.