Smart sensors measure chemical temperature in rail transit

A ‘zero maintenance’ smart sensor system which monitors the temperature of hazardous materials in rail freight transit has been customised for chemical logistics specialist The Bertschi Group. The system enables the real-time monitoring of both the chemical being carried and the steam pipes used to heat the cargo.

Developed by Swiss-based telematics firm Nexiot AG, the sensors harvest energy from the environment while in transit, which makes them self-sustaining, and means the control system can be updated with real-time updates every few minutes, giving the client added peace of mind on their consignment.

Temperature band

A global logistics provider for the chemicals industry, the Bertschi Group – which also has its HQ in Switzerland – specialises in liquid and dry bulk products. Much of the hazardous cargo which it transports must travel within a specific temperature band.

Markus Berner, Head of Digital Logistics at Bertschi Group, said: “Any means by which we can further raise the bar regarding safety gets top priority at Bertschi, and having continuous and detailed information about the containers allows us to be certain that everything  is well within safe operating conditions. Automated alerts on deviations provide us with one more layer of safety on top of all the existing  procedures and mechanisms.”

Delicate chemical compounds

The same measurements are also ‘invaluable’ for guaranteeing that the cargo, which often contains delicate chemical compounds, reaches its destination within the optimal temperature band, and in perfect condition, he added. “We have very tough requirements for the capabilities, ruggedness, cost and maintainability of devices in the field,” said Berner. “In my opinion, particularly regarding energy autonomy and frequency of updates, the technology speaks for itself.”

Daniel MacGregor, Marketing and Sales Director for Nexiot, said the sensor system was particularly suited for rail assets which have no native power source. “Connecting rail wagon and tank container fleets to extract critical data brings similar challenges and opportunities, as both asset types are non-powered,” he added.

Mobile assets

“Our self-sustaining technology has overcome the battery problems which were a major barrier to monitoring these sorts of mobile assets and made critical data available in real-time, so that our customers can make informed business decisions and ensure their cargo arrives safely and on time,” said MacGregor.

Nexiot is also trialling a new system of self-sufficient sensors, mounted onto the tank containers, and which communicate data wirelessly  to its Machine to Machine (M2M) devices, also installed on the tank containers. Location, so-called ‘impact events’, border crossings and mileage are all recorded. The firm also recently announced it was fitting smart sensors to the the entire European fleet – some 80,000 wagons in all – of Germany-based freight car leasing company VTG Aktiengesellschaft,

Increased demand

Markus Berner of Bertschi said the group was seeing increased demand from its customers for real-time updates and estimates, so they can use the data to improve their own logistics chains: “Nexiot provides a full-featured but specialised platform which can be integrated with sector-specific software. This is in line with our digitisation strategy – more data all by itself is of limited use; it is the links and connections that bring real value,” added Berner.

Author: Simon Weedy

Simon is a journalist for RailFreight.com - a dedicated online platform for all the news about the rail freight sector

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