Transportation: A moving target of opportunity

Robust technologies in transit, airports, rails, highways and other infrastructures signal jobs for systems integrators


"A lot of times when you build an infrastructure along the roadways, it allows for building a larger infrastructure for the end-user which allows them to resell some of that capacity," explained Swope. "For example, if you put in two fiber cables, they use one and they can sell the other to carriers looking for capacity, so they can offset some of their costs," he said.

Wireless technology on rail and across other transportation networks is not a new concept. And while rail does boast a lot of opportunity for wireless devices, the reality is that the network of fiber cables is not going anywhere, anytime soon.

"Wireless is a supplemental technology," explained Swope. "I don't think you're ever going to see wireless replace fiber optic communications. There's not enough RF capacity to replace what you can do with fiber-based capacity."
One of the issues with wireless is getting signals in a robust manner, because of the environment.
"Wireless signal is notorious for being affected by a lot of different environmental factors such as metal in areas, noise, or other obstructions; especially when you're talking about a moving vehicle, clear line of sight is extremely important," explained Ariana Drivdahl, product marketing manager, Industrial Wireless, Moxa Americas Inc., Brea, Calif.

"If you don't have line of sight, the integrator will have to know what types of factors can affect a wireless signal and what types of antennas they can use to optimize the wireless signal. They need to do site surveys of the area to ensure there is continuous wireless coverage whenever the train operator requires it."

The solution is a hybrid approach of both wireless and fiber technologies.

"On the trackside networks, we're seeing a high predominance of fiber being run along the backbone but that fiber can't communicate by itself back to the train so you need a wireless interface between the fiber and the train," continued Drivdahl. In regards to integrating it within the different train systems, it depends on the current communications infrastructure. "Nowadays, most modern systems are going to be based on TCP-IP and that is the default for Ethernet and wireless communications," said Drivdahl. "So if you have a system that is based primarily on TCP-IP, it's going to essentially be a rip-and-replace install, where it's going to be much simpler because there is no protocol conversion that needs to go on in order for that communication to take place. You essentially just plug them in, configure them so they are talking properly to each other and in the most simplistic terms, you're basically up and running."

Other things to consider in rail include: extremely high and low temperatures; higher shock and vibration than on traditional transportation networks; and a lot of extra voltage fluctuations.

Since its inception over 100 years ago, the Port of Freeport located in south Texas became one of the fastest growing ports on the Gulf coast. This 400-foot wide, 45-feet deep channel ensures a fast turnaround for many cargo ships.

In typical port applications, it is common to find the radar system acts independently from the video surveillance system, having operators respond to incoming vessels by manually prompting cameras deemed closest to validate the vessel in question.

"The radar application is key for ports because you can draw boundary areas or a virtual fence around the sections of port that require more security," said Steve Rogers, vice president and managing partner, LANAIR Group, Los Angeles. "The Port of Freeport sees a lot of traffic from commercial fisherman and if the port was alerted on every one of those commercial fish boats that went through the port, it would become useless information very quickly," Rogers explained.

Looking to incorporate a more advanced IP system that would allow integration with the port's vessel-radar system, Port Freeport worked with LANAIR to install Genetec's Omnicast IP video surveillance solution.

"One of the biggest challenges was in the distance and in the lack of physical infrastructure in place," explained Rogers. "A lot of these locations are very remote and there is not a lot of hardline or fiber infrastructure. We installed a lot of wireless connectivity and also ensured the equipment could handle the weather in Freeport."

In addition to the custom codes for the Omnicast and radar system integration, written by LANAIR, 40 Pelco cameras were placed throughout the land and water side of the port and additional wirelessly-connected cameras were installed on radar towers miles away. Using Omnicast's gateway server, LANAIR assisted Port Freeport in firewalling to prevent intrusion into the closed and secure network where the system is running and used the Web client to redistribute video feeds out to end-users outside the port so they could access the cameras via a browser.

"As ports advance in their security infrastructure, they realize they have a lot of disparate systems that are difficult to manage and train folks on all these different systems, so they would rather have a unified front-end for each of their operators to use," explained Rogers. "In ports, there is still a push for more situational awareness and there will be another big push on TWIC. Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) and BlueForce asset awareness tracking applications are also going to play more of a role in security applications."

Intermodal hubs come on strong