MWC 2012 Preview: Wood & Douglas to showcase remote railway monitoring

Wood & Douglas technology is being used to protect railways and farm machinery from equipment theft, while its dog mounted video and audio system is targeted at fire and rescue services and the military

MWC 2012 Preview: Wood & Douglas to showcase remote railway monitoring

UK-based Wood & Douglas will be showcasing several wireless products and service at this year’s Mobile World Congress including anti-railway and farm equipment theft and dog mounted video and audio intelligence gathering.

First up is TrackWatch, a covert modular security system for monitor railway tracks. The system combines motion sensors, infra red illumination, cameras, battery and a wireless control. It activates an alert system capable of sending TV quality still and video over large distances.

Grant Notman, head of sales and marketing at Wood & Douglas, told Wireless: ‘Theft of copper cable is a big problem for the railways, which have 20,000 miles of track to keep an eye on. In 2010, a single theft of £44 of copper cable resulted in delays and disruption costing £75m.’

Notman said it is reasonably easy to predict the areas of track that will be targeted – often the same place is hit more than once – rail companies can choose where to install covert surveillance equipment with some degree of certainty.

The system requires minimum operator intervention or maintenance. It passively watches the railway and if no activity is recorded by the motion sensors TrackWatch will enter a battery-saving sleep mode enabling the system to run for more than one week from a single battery charge. If the battery runs low, maintenance personnel will be alerted via a text message.

If the sensor is triggered, the system sends an SMS alert and can also send a time stamped photo to the British Transport Police.

The thieves need to have access to the track and a vehicle to transport the heavy copper, so it can take time to commit a theft. This gives the police time to respond, but if they don’t get there in time to apprehend the thieves, they can just drive by the surveillance unit, connect to it via Wi-Fi and download all the captured images. Alternatively, video and stills can be stored locally and recovered through a USB connection. Video images are standard TV quality definition.

Notman said: ‘We’ve done an initial trial and introduced some changes asked for by our clients (British Transport Police, Network Rail and the train operators). For example, some asked for individual photographs with time stamping, while others wanted a wider field of view covered.

Another application for Wood & Douglas technology is protecting farm equipment from theft. Notman said that while major farm equipment, such as a combine harvester is hard to steal, smaller machinery and quadbikes are frequently targeted.

‘To combat this, we install a radio base station in the farm and geo-fence the vehicles,’ said Notman. ‘When the ignition is switched off it registers on the local network. The farmer gets an alert on his mobile phone if it is moved from that position.’

The farmer then has to confirm whether it is an acceptable movement or not. Farmers often get up early, so what might be usually thought of as a theft at 4am, may be a quite normal movement on a farm – hence the need to confirm to the police.

Wood & Douglas’ portable all-terrain wireless system, or PAWS, is a long range live video, which supports low light, high res and infra red options and audio link attached to a dog (see photograph).

The PAWS system transmits on 300MHz or unlicensed sub-1GHz spectrum. Notman said it has two completely different uses: fire and rescue services; and the military.

He explained that rescue dogs are sent into collapsed buildings and are trained to find bodies. The issue for fire and rescue crews is that they lose sight of the dog in the rubble. A fireman then has to be put at risk from gas or a potential building collapse when he goes in to assess where the body is after the dog has located one.

‘The dog has microphone and speaker, so the handler can command it to stop barking and that allows him to talk to the victim if he is conscious,’ said Notman. ‘The microphone speaker is attached to the front of the dog, while the camera is on the head so it transmits a better view of the situation to the handler, because, as with humans, the head keeps steady as it is looking around.’

Alternatively, the dog comes back to the handler and the transmitter is transferred to the fireman who already has a camera on his helmet. He can then convey images to ambulance if necessary.

In the military, the dogs are used primarily for evidence gathering. A dog with a camera provides a big advantage if a building or tunnel needs to be searched, as it means soldiers do not need to be sent in.

Notman said: ‘If a dog encounters a ‘target’ it can be made to attack by grabbing an arm. The target will look straight at the dog biting his arm, so you should get a good view of the target’s face from the camera and may be able to identify who it is.’

Wood & Douglas believes its system offers something different in that most similar products rely on Wi-Fi. ‘We use video quality broadcast with the same modulators use for quality TV (COFDM - Coded Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplex) – that algorithm allow us to penetrate through buildings.

‘Wi-Fi turns off when you go round the corner and lose line of site,’ continued Notman. ‘With our system, you can send the dog into 20m of solid rock with an infra red camera in the dark – no Wi-Fi based system will penetrate that.’

Notman said PAWS is also being trialled by volunteers with dogs to look for dementia victims, or similar sufferers, who have wandered from home. They have worked out clever algorithms of where dementia victims go – often it is no more than 300m from home.’



Written by Wireless magazine
Wireless magazine

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