Just as trains connect people and places, the Internet of Things (IoT) connects railroads with real-time information that improves safety, efficiency, and customer satisfaction. Some essential rolling stock applications for the IoT (Figure 1) include:


  • Positive Train Control (PTC) Systems. Used to monitor vehicle status, PTCs are communication-based systems that use GPS for position assessment and radio frequency data links for communication with dispatch offices, grade crossings and railway workers along the right-of-way. PTCs help prevent train-to-train collisions and ensure compliance with speed restrictions and temporary slow orders.
  • Passenger Information Systems. Deployed to keep passengers on commuter or long-distance trains informed of route stops, schedules, and train changes. Passenger information systems can also provide Internet-on-train services, weather forecasts, news and entertainment.
  • Network Video Recorders (NVRs). Used to perform real-time security and surveillance, NVRs monitor individual cars, track conditions, and component wear.


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Figure 1. As the Internet of Things (IoT) grows, IoT solutions are enabling transportation systems to improve efficiency and safety in many ways.


To help developers roll out these IoT solutions, Kontron recently announced two transportation computers, the TRACe B304-TR railway computer and the TRACe V304-TR network video recorder. Housed in identical IP54-compliant fanless enclosures,(Figure 2), the computers share a flexible design that enables long-term support through replaceable processor, storage, I/O and power supply modules.



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Figure 2. At 246x72x138mm (LxHxD), the Kontron TRACe computers provide powerful, compact solutions.


Both Kontron computers share:


  • Easily upgradable COM Express* module with a low-power, quad-core Intel® Atom™ processor E3845; 2 GB DDR3 ECC; and 8 GB SLC Flash
  • Front plate with EN50155-certified I/O connectors (Ethernet, USB, serial ports, audio, and digital I/Os)
  • Rear plate with maintenance connectors (DisplayPort, USB, serial, Ethernet)
  • Health management with continuous independent monitoring
  • IP54-compliant fanless enclosure providing dust and water protection from all directions
  • EN50155 Class Tx (-40°C to +70°C/10 min @ +85°C)
  • Wide -range power supply (from 24VDC to 110VDC)
  • Pre-installed Linux OS


Kontron TRACe B304-TR Railway Computer
To help integrators meet application-specific requirements, the Kontron TRACe B304-TR is specifically designed for easy customization through multiple configuration extensions and Mini PCI Express* (PCIe) slots. In addition to operational connectors, the front plate includes an option plate enabling the addition of other interfaces, such as MVB, CAN Layer2, CAN Open, and Profibus. The rear plate hosts maintenance connectors, plus provides a reserved area with 6 pre-holes for routing optional Mini PCIe-Express cards for I/O signals (GSM, GPRS, 3G, LTE, 4G, GPS, Wi-Fi*, Bluetooth*). The TRACe B304-TR also offers dual SIM support and provides 2 x 2.5" SATA disks connections. For more convenience and ease of use, a tray for one extractible SSD/HDD is also available as an option.


Kontron TRACe V304-TR NVR
Kontron’s rugged NVR solution records up to 16 IP camera video streams. The unit includes one pre-installed internal 256GB SSD for data storage, enabling immediate deployment in any rolling stock IP video surveillance application. Storage can be increased through a rear plate that hosts a removable tray to add up to 2TB of optional SSD/HDD storage. Available RAID 0/RAID 1 functions offer data performance and reliability choices. The Kontron TRACe V304-TR provides dual-band 802.11n 2T2R and 802.11 a/b/g Wi-Fi* access point and client modes, along with 300 megabits per second (Mbps) bandwidth, 2 SMA connectors for optional antennas at rear, and critical 64/128-bit WEP, WPA, WPA2 and 802.1x security.


Health Management Features

Kontron TRACe platforms integrate comprehensive health management capabilities based on sensors and a microcontroller for system health monitoring. The intelligent Power-on Built-in Test (PBIT) solution provides a modular and scalable set of uniform test routines to assess the health status and configuration of the complete system. It monitors boards and inbox ambient temperature, voltages, current and even manages vital product data (P/N, S/N, EC Lvl, and more) of main components.

The health management middleware reports, logs, and transmits any out-of-specifications parameters and/or failures at power-on and operation.


Having dedicated health management resources in the computer independent from the main CPU enhances security and improves diagnostics and maintenance. The system enables operators to monitor an entire fleet to anticipate maintenance, reduce turnaround times, and increase the availability.


A Processor Designed for Rail Travel

In designing platforms to meet these application needs, Kontron needed a processor that would reliably and securely operate in rugged conditions and provide efficient performance, fast data throughput, excellent graphics performance, and multiple I/O options. The company chose the Intel Atom processor E3845.


Based on Intel’s Silvermont microarchitecture and industry-leading 22nm process technology, the Intel Atom processor E3845 provides over 3X the processing performance of the Intel® Atom™ processor N2000/D2000 family. A quad-core, 1.91 GHz design, this versatile system on chip (SoC) delivers its performance in a thermal envelope of only 10 W, enabling advanced features in small, fanless designs.


Reliability and security are strongly supported. An industrial temperature range (-40° C to 110° C) enables operation in cold and hot conditions. Error correcting code (ECC) memory support helps ensure data integrity.


Three security enhancements provide important protection against threats:

  • Secure Boot ensures the system starts in a known, verified state.
  • Intel® Virtualization Technology (Intel® VT) enables developers to separate critical operations from less-sensitive applications.
  • Intel® Advanced Encryption Standard-New Instructions (Intel® AES-NI) accelerates data encryption and decryption, reserving more compute performance for other tasks.


For information display, entertainment and NVR applications, the Intel® Atom™ processor E3800 product family uses a version of the Intel® HD graphics first introduced in Intel® Core™ processors. This on-chip graphics engine offers full hardware acceleration of H.264/AVC, VC1/WMV9, MPEG2, MVC, VP8, and MJPEG encoding and decoding. For localized video analytics, the quad-core design of the processor provides plenty of headroom and performance for analyzing multiple video streams.


Full Speed Ahead

These two TRACe platforms are just the start. According to Kontron, the TRACe product family roadmap includes an upcoming train control and management system configuration that will provide direct access to a multi-vehicle bus (MVB) interface on the front plate and support the international IEC 61375 Train Communication Network (TCN) standard. An upcoming gateway product will deliver high Wi-Fi connectivity for passenger infotainment applications, as well as support for alternative vehicle buses such as Profibus and CAN/CANOpen. Bottom line, we should be seeing much more of Kontron on rolling stock.



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Kontron is a Premier member of the Intel® Internet of Things Solutions Alliance.


Mark Scantlebury

Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® Internet of Things Solutions Alliance

Associate Editor, Embedded Innovator magazine