Managing Network Devices in Wayside Rail Applications via Cellular Broadband

The task of managing network devices in wayside rail applications presents a unique challenge for those responsible for keeping rail networks up and running. For one thing, the remote nature of wayside rail applications makes out-of-band communication difficult, and for another, when a network element in a wayside monitoring station malfunctions, rail traffic comes to a halt. One solution to this conundrum is to use 3G/4G modem communication to manage wayside network devices via cellular broadband.

In rail applications, wayside monitoring stations are used to provide a clearer view of conditions and events along a stretch of railroad. In a typical case, a wayside monitoring station might include sensors to keep track of factors such as train speed, traffic levels, open/closed switches and track security systems. When a wayside monitoring station in a rail application fails or malfunctions, this temporarily eliminates the ability to ensure that a given stretch of track is safe, secure and free from other rail traffic. These capabilities are so vital to railroad operation, that in serious cases, the loss of monitoring capabilities at a single wayside station can force a rail route to be temporarily closed to rail traffic.

Obviously, a remote management solution for network devices in wayside rail applications is absolutely vital in keeping rail traffic moving. When a network device at a remote wayside station ceases to respond, administrators need a fast, reliable means to correct the problem at the wayside station immediately … and they don’t have time for a service team to arrive on site and deal with the problem in person.

In many cases, the remote nature of wayside monitoring stations eliminates many of the popular solutions for out-of-band communication. Communication via secondary network is often not an option due to the distance involved, and access via dial-up connection is impractical due to lack of a phone line at the remote site. Fortunately, communication via cellular broadband is not hampered by distance or lack of a phone line.

Communication via 3G/4G modem provides an effective solution for managing network devices in remote wayside monitoring stations and allows remote administrators to instantly access unresponsive network elements at remote stations in order to initiate a power reboot or issue console port commands to reconfigure or restart malfunctioning devices. Rather than shutting down a rail route until the problem is fixed, administrators can reboot or reconfigure problematic network equipment at remote monitoring stations without even leaving their offices.

WTI offers a comprehensive line of serial console servers and switched PDU products that support communication via 3G/4G modem in order to ensure ready access to power switching, reboot and console port command functions at wayside monitoring stations. In addition, WTI also offers power control + console access hybrids that combine two valuable remote management tools in one compact package, well suited for the cramped environment found in many wayside monitoring stations.

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