RFID research to make transit workers more safe

Posted on January 21, 2010

Bombardier Transportation, McMaster RFID Applications Lab (MRAL) and Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) are undertaking a $1.4 million research collaboration to develop location awareness technology that can be used to notify subway vehicles of the exact location of track inspectors and other trackside workers.


"Our customers have asked us if we could develop a better way of communicating the location of track workers for improved safety," explained Keith Sheardown, GM, Bombardier Transportation Technology Solutions unit. "We developed some early concepts and now we're looking to the RFID team at McMaster to help us complete the solution and test it."


The idea is to use radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to transmit a signal to approaching subway operators notifying them of the presence of track workers. Currently, subway operators have various manual methods of indicating the presence of inspection crews, such as system-wide broadcasts or coloured lights, that indicate sections where work is occurring. Lookouts notify track workers of approaching rail vehicles.


The project is expected to take three years to complete. Up to 10 graduate and undergraduate students from McMaster University and other Ontario universities will be involved.


The research group is looking to commercialize the technology once it is developed and tested. Estimates are that 20 to 40 direct jobs could be created upon successful completion of the pilot program, and another 40 to 80 indirect jobs.


Ontario Centres of Excellence is providing $600,000 in funding, with the remainder coming from the project partners.


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