Railnova deploys multi-network roaming SIMs from Podsystem M2M for railway fleet management solution
With strict regulations to comply with and a lack of component standardization to overcome, Railnova has developed a comprehensive railway fleet management solution that all players of the railway industry can benefit from. As a leading technology company that provides telematics, hardware and software solutions, Railnova fully understands all of the obstacles and difficulties their customers face and has created a solution to meet the needs of a transforming railway industry
The need for multi-network M2M data SIM cards
Christian Sprauer, founder and CEO of Railnova, started the company in October of 2010 and since then it has been providing cutting-edge solutions for the railway industry throughout Europe. Railnova’s premier product, the Railster UG, is a custom-made railway specific telematics and GPS platform solution with exceptional GPS functionality, revolutionary connectivity, continuous performance, easy installation and removal and future proof capabilities. Railnova’s Railfleet Software utilizes the data gathered by the Railster UG and gives customers full control and visibility of their fleets.
Railnova needed data SIM cards to insert into the Railster UG to transmit approximately 200 fields of data to their servers and also use GPS for monitoring operations. “We wanted to get a grip on the full chain of data transmission, from capturing the fieldbus information on the train, to sending it through GPRS, to managing message queues and front end display on our web servers,” Sprauer says. The device features real-time tracking and exact positioning and can also detect events such as departures, arrivals, and timetable delays. Engine hours, fuel consumption and component fault codes can also all be measured and transmitted. In order to be able to report this information accurately, a secure, reliable data connection is indispensable.
When looking for a data connectivity provider in July of 2011, Railnova spoke to several European companies, including Podsystem M2M. “When I first spoke to Charles Towers-Clark (Managing Director of Podsystem Group), I had assessed it was a flexible and knowledgeable company in its field. Some of our suppliers advised against taking a third party and insisted on staying with a premier operator. We were a small company at that time and had nothing to lose, especially as incumbent telcos were also refusing to do business with our six-month-old company,” explains Sprauer. “I spoke to Charles one evening and we were testing the SIMs the day after.” Compared to other SIM card providers, Sprauer says Podsystem M2M was “unbeatable.” “We stopped there and bought the cards,” he says.
Throughout Railnova’s three-year partnership with Podsystem M2M, they have used several different solutions, which Sprauer says “perform superbly.” The main SIM they are currently using is Podsystem M2M’s European Best Signal Multi-network SIM that connects to the strongest signal as soon as the device is turned on. Because there is no “steering” on the Home Location Register (HLR), the SIM will not hang on to weaker signals as the train changes location. When it loses signal on one network, it automatically connects to the next available network to eliminate coverage issues. Multiple networks are covered in each country, which make the SIM ideal for this application as the trains can pass through multiple countries and potentially poor coverage areas with no disruption to the connection. Railnova’s current geographical markets are France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Luxembourg, which makes the multi-country, multi-network functionality of the SIMs especially important. They would like to expand into Russia and Kazakhstan in the future, both of which are supported by Podsystem M2M SIMs.
Flexible M2M data packages
“The Best Signal multi-network SIM was a product that really fit our needs, with a flat fee and clear extra usage pricing. We can transmit a lot of data within a fixed price to our end customers, which is crucial,” says Sprauer. Flexible data packages were very important to Railnova because it is often difficult for them to forecast usage. Depending on the needs and requirements of their clients, the usage is generally between 20 and 100 megabytes. “We are really happy with the ability to easily increase the packages,” Sprauer continues. “One of the reasons we chose Podsystem M2M was because with our incumbent provider we were locked into the package.” Podsystem M2M offers the opportunity to increase the package on a per SIM basis based on the requirements of the customer. Therefore data is used efficiently and avoidable extra costs are eliminated.
Railnova not only needed a flexible solution, but also one that they could control. “Podsystem M2M – even before they manufactured their own SIM cards – was attractive in the sense they had a tighter control and transparency over the SIM cards,” Sprauer says. Podsystem M2M’s SIM billing and management solution, the FreedoM-2-Manage (F2M) Platform, allows for granular control of data limits, activations, alerts and connectivity status on all SIMs, including real-time data, location and billing information. Now that Podsystem M2M provides proprietary SIMs, by purchasing Podsystem M2M SIMs, Railnova – not the network – owns them. They can therefore manage and monitor their SIMs through the F2M Platform, as well as easily obtain debug information. This level of control allows them to confidently offer their customers an unparalleled level of accuracy and reliability.
Multi-IMSI SIM cards for maximum reliability and control
Moreover, Podsystem M2M’s new unique patent-pending solution allows IMSIs to be added OTA and for the ability to swap between multiple IMSIs on the SIM, each of which runs across a separate infrastructure. This OTA capability will be the next step for Railnova moving forward to ensure resiliency and also that the data connectivity solution has a lifespan that matches that of the application. This is crucial for Railnova’s promise of a future-proof device. With the new solution, SIMs won’t have to be swapped if there are fluctuations in network pricing or if there are any potential commercial or technical issues on the network. If the core network is unavailable, IMSIs can be swapped over the air (OTA) to avoid any disruption to the connectivity thanks to a “No Single Point of Failure” infrastructure. It is extremely difficult for Railnova to access devices once they are mounted on trains, which is why both the hardware and software of the Railster UG can be upgraded over time to meet new needs. The embedded software can be upgraded OTA to continuously improve the device performance and add new features. As a result, all elements of the product can evolve with the changing market and network capabilities as new requirements are discovered.
Despite the complexity of railway systems and devices, user software needs to be as easy to use as possible. Sprauer says they are now moving to a full custom-made web and mobile ready software with an easy and rich user experience. The ability for Railnova to link their front-end system with Podsystem M2M’s back-end system will provide an even better user experience for their customers.
Quick service and support from M2M experts
According to Sprauer, the railway industry faces a complete lack of component standardization. This lack of standardization paired with strict electronics and device production regulations make Railnova’s objective of getting their product to market even more challenging than their freight fleet counterparts. The standards require a lot of interpretation, says Sprauer, which meant six months of lab testing and iteration on their design. The battery technology they developed also demanded a huge amount of research and development. For that reason, they need a data connectivity solution that will help them overcome some of the major industry challenges so the rollout can be as quick and efficient as possible. For these reasons, Sprauer says it is helpful to receive the SIMs quickly, which is one less critical component to worry about. “With Podsystem M2M there is flexibility to get the SIMs fast and change packages. We are also very happy with the Podsystem M2M team and the support they provide,” he says.
For further information on Railnova please visit http://www.railnova.eu