Rajant - Reliable connectivity on the move

After 9/11, inherent weaknesses in traditional wireless networks were identified. Peter Lenard, senior vice-president of Rajant, speaks to Urban Transport Agenda about the strengths of wireless kinetic mesh network technology in demanding environments.

What is Rajant's history?

Peter Lenard: Rajant was established in October 2001 after our founders, Robert Schena and Paul Hellhake, identified significant shortcomings in traditional wireless mesh networks following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The technology available at the time enabled the formation of fixed ad-hoc communications networks, but it did not provide true mobility, nor did it allow for scalability. Our founders envisioned a new, more robust wireless mesh technology to allow networks to grow stronger as nodes were added and to be truly mobile - with all nodes and clients able to be in motion all the time and all application data able to use the best available frequency.

Today, Rajant is widely recognised as the pioneer of the world's most reliable, scalable and readily deployed wireless kinetic mesh network technology, with large, trusted installations providing 24/7 communications in some of the most demanding environments imaginable in mining, military, oil and gas, and rail transportation.

What connectivity challenges does rail face?

The rail industry has few viable options for the commercial haul of wireless broadband connectivity to locomotive and rail cars. While there has been a slew of legislation introduced in recent years designed to help improve rail communication and safety, such as positive train control and communication-based train control, adoption is still in its infancy and limited to low-bandwidth options. The challenge lies in keeping multiple moving rail cars constantly powered and connected with a broadband signal between wayside points and locomotive for voice, video and data applications.

This is a significant issue, because safety officers and engineers would benefit from continuous, real-time data on the health and performance of rail cars. This includes everything - from train speeds and locations, wheel sensors and freight status to weather conditions, fuel consumption and traffic optimisation to help improve safety, reduce operational downtime and prevent accidents.

As monitoring technology for freight lines becomes more sophisticated, the volume of data generated increases. How can companies sustainably invest in data networking solutions?

Well, this has really been the million-dollar question in the transportation industry, and, until now, there has not been an economical solution with the capacity to support increased data flow demands, especially as more equipment is modernised and added to the network.

Railroad companies need access to affordable, high-availability broadband communications networks that are rugged, scalable and able to connect hundreds of moving assets quickly and reliably.

Rajant Corporation's kinetic mesh networking technology answers this call by providing reliable and secure mobile broadband connectivity in which bandwidth availability actually increases as the network grows.

Rajant BreadCrumb nodes can interact with the railroad data command centre across a meshed, self-healing network to provide critical real-time information that touches all aspects of railroad operations. The nodes rapidly adapt to any changes in the network topology, assuring that IP traffic uptime and bandwidth are maximised.

Talk us through kinetic mesh technology - what are its advantages over traditional networks?

Traditional mesh networks rely on a single access point that acts as the parent node or controller, with all other radios as clients. This means there is a single point of failure; if this node loses connectivity or fails, then the entire network is shut down, sometimes for days at a time.

Rajant took an entirely different approach with its proprietary InstaMesh technology. We are able to create a true peer-to-peer network, in which every node is independent, with continuous, advanced routing capabilities of wireless and wired connections.

Unlike traditional solutions, Rajant kinetic mesh networks provide redundancy on multiple frequencies, allowing data to be automatically routed over the best available frequency by using multiple radios. Each network node proactively scans the environment and takes corrective action, switching channel or frequency the moment it senses interference, an obstruction or just a better network data path.

What are some of your newest products?

We recently introduced our rail power generator (RPG), an innovative, low-cost and low-maintenance power solution for the freight rail car. The RPG is unique in that it produces up to 50W of DC power from the wheel of a standard rail car. This power can be used to charge a battery system that, in turn, can provide power to multiple sensors. This data can then be aggregated and transmitted from the freight cars by the Rajant BreadCrumb wireless network to the locomotive, where it may be available for analysis or transmission to a remote site. These systems will keep train operators informed on the health and performance of rail cars.

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