connectivity matters
railroad wireless network January 16, 2013

Of Networks – Finite and Infinite

Although the sight of lumbering, rusty freight cars may lead some to believe that railroads are an antiquated industry, quite the opposite is true.  Railroads are a growth industry. In 2012 alone, companies were forecasted to invest a record $13 billion in 2012 to expand, upgrade, and enhance the nation’s freight rail network.

The infrastructure they rely upon is a finite resource, and is mostly owned, built, maintained and paid for by the freight companies themselves – unlike trucks, barges and airlines, which operate on infrastructure paid for by taxpayers. Profitability hinges on the optimized flow of freight across the network of rails and trains. This flow – or ‘rail velocity’ – is maintained through a careful balance of human judgment, automation, and information technology.

Wired and wireless networks play a crucial role in routing the real-time data that helps maintain rail velocity.  Sensors and analytics monitor and measure everything from equipment health, train speeds and locations, wheel conditions and freight status to weather, fuel consumption, traffic optimization and more.  As the monitoring technology becomes more sophisticated, the volume of data generated by freight lines grows, requiring further investment in data networking infrastructure. Adding track is expensive enough – about $2.5 million per mile of added rail. Adding fiber optic networks along the thousands of miles of track is impractical. The increasingly vital data infrastructure supporting these lines must be flexible, robust and easily deployed.

With its ability to reliably connect the railroad’s in-motion and fixed assets with a self-healing, high-availability broadband connection with no single point of failure –which actually grows stronger as network nodes are added – Kinetic Mesh represents a nearly infinite data network resource to help orchestrate the delicate balance of freight flow on the finite network of rails and trains.

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