Smart Track: Wireless, Continuous Monitoring of Track Conditions
The mission of the Smart Track research project is to improve the rail industry’s ability to answer critical safety- and maintenance-related questions on track infrastructure by monitoring and predicting track health. This mission will be accomplished through the development and implementation of embedded, wireless, “smart” infrastructure technologies capable of autonomously transmitting state-of-repair exception reports. This Phase 1 effort was conducted by University of Illinois between April 2020 and April 2021. This report summarizes the development of a conceptual design for future Smart Track development and deployment. The conceptual design study included a review of FRA track-caused accident data, the development and execution of a focused industry survey to assess industry track inspection priorities and current needs, and an analysis of the type of track conditions that can be measured or detected with modern sensor technologies – and their impact on rail safety. The team also evaluated current wireless communication architectures to provide a fully wireless solution for field data acquisition. The project concluded with a SWOT analysis and the development of a gap analysis to understand any remaining laboratory developmental work before full site design and field installations.