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Monitoring axle bearings with the IoT

With this project on autonomous and connected sensors, Innovation & Recherche is once again exploring the possibilities offered by the Internet of Things (IoT).

The ability to rapidly and precisely detect overheating bearing is of major importance to safety in rail operations. However, the “hot boxes”, devices used to detect overheating is an area where there is still much room for progress. Whether placed on the ground or on-board trains, the existing systems are both costly and hard to maintain. “Hundreds of metres of cabling are necessary for the systems installed on the TGVs”, notes Amine Didioui, IoT and telecommunications project leader at Innovation & Research. “The ones attached to the tracks are expensive, hard to install, and are known to give false warnings from time to time.”

From heat to information

This situation calls for the development of a third approach that would perform better while being less expensive and easy to deploy. “That is what we wanted to explore in our project with the CNRS at Grenoble since the beginning of the year”, notes Didioui. “We want to develop an autonomous sensor that can be glued to the bearing boxes on any type of train and that will recover thermal energy when the box overheats and will convert it into electrical energy. The sensor and its radiocommunications system for transmitting information via the cloud to the entity monitoring the equipment would thus be self-powered and have no need of batteries.” The system has been successfully tested in the laboratory, and initial trials in a real environment are planned before year-end. “If the results of this next phase are positive, the development prospects are vast, especially for freight trains”, says Didioui.