SNCB train

BELGIUM: National passenger operator SNCB has completed an initial deployment of HID Global’s real-time location services platform and BEEKs Bluetooth Low-Energy beacons to provide more precise data than is possible with GPS.

This approach replaces the use of an app on an onboard attendant’s smartphone which would detect when the train reached a preset GPS co-ordinate. This would then trigger software at the station to start running digital safety checks to ensure passengers can safely disembark and the train can depart on schedule.

The older system faced problems in locations such as tunnels with limited cellular coverage, where a train’s GPS location could appear as far as 10 km from the station, thwarting the safety check process. As a stopgap, train attendants used to manually update the train’s GPS location in their mobile devices.

‘This was a workaround and not something we felt was sufficient for our digital process, so we started looking for a solution that wasn’t reliant on improving the cellular network, which is not in our control’, said Nathan Willekens, Innovation Project Manager at SNCB. ’We knew we had to find a different way to mimic someone’s location within the vicinity of the station. That is when the idea of using HID beacons to transmit a specific ID came into play.’

When the system detects the Bluetooth device, it is given priority over the potentially inaccurate GPS signal. Four stations have now been equipped with the system and 10 more are planned.