What is remote condition monitoring and how does it work?

23 May 24

The combination of the Internet of Things and Big Data is giving railroads unprecedented visibility over assets, optimizing maintenance and improving safety for workers.  
Instead of a rail engineer traveling dozens, even hundreds of miles to take multiple readings from trackside bungalows, they can now access the same information in real-time from their laptop or mobile device, wherever they are. 

Remote Condition Monitoring (RCM) platforms based on IoT technology enable railroads to shift their focus from reactive to preventative condition-based maintenance, tracking data on asset usage and performance over time to allow for more optimal planning and budgeting.  

What is Remote Condition Monitoring? 

Remote Condition Monitoring is used to improve the performance and reliability of machinery across several industries, including agriculture, industrial manufacturing, energy, and transportation. IoT sensors attached to an asset monitor performance in real-time and continually transmit data to an application for analysis1.  

The process prevents breakdowns by enabling engineers to discover and resolve issues before they escalate, reducing delays caused by malfunctioning equipment as well as optimizing the performance of equipment over its lifetime.  
In rail, RCM is used to monitor assets such as mainline switches, crossings, interlocking equipment, power systems, and rolling stock.  

Considering railroads spend millions of dollars every year on scheduled maintenance, RCM cuts costs by keeping trains moving, optimizing the time spent onsite by maintenance team and providing data insights for preventative maintenance. 

How does Remote Condition Monitoring work?  

At Tracsis, we have developed a centralized analytics tool called Centrix which utilizes a combination of non-intrusive IoT sensors, AI algorithms, and cloud-based analytics software to monitor rail assets. When a switch is thrown, Centrix monitors the current draw.

The resulting current waveform indicates the condition of both the switch machine and turnout. This data is collected from the switch and transmitted to the cloud, where it's analyzed for general performance and validated against asset specific parameter thresholds. 

Any detected problems are assigned a severity level, a descriptive text message, and a link to the switch analysis page. This is sent to subscribed users via text messages, emails or voice calls, while the graphical dashboard view is simultaneously updated to highlight any developing problems. 

Centrix alerts railroads to faults and incidents as soon as they occur but also spots asset deterioration so it can be fixed before malfunction. Railroads can add scheduled or repeated rail maintenance periods into the system to automatically suppress alerts for selected assets. 


How is an RCM system set up? 

Installing an RCM system is relatively simple – a railroad installs data loggers and current sensors inside for example: signal bungalows, and then logs into the RCM application. From then on, the machine learning-driven algorithms will become increasingly ‘smart’ as they collect more and more data. 
Read our blog about the 5 key benefits of RCM for railroads
Tracsis is the leading provider of software-based rail solutions, trusted by railroads in North America including Class I, passenger, and short line operators. Contact us to find out more about the latest rail technology. 

1 https://www.emnify.com/iot-glossary/remote-condition-monitoring / https://www.faradaypredictive.com/technical-education/articles/what-is-remote-condition-monitoring-and-how-does-it-work/