Thales Lite4ce™smart sensing solution

A new sensor is about to transform railway industry

Thales Lite4ce™ smart sensing solution 

  • will transform rail signalling safety applications as well as added value services on traffic and vehicle condition,
  • is 100% copper-free,
  • is 100% outdoor electronic-free and
  • requires zero outdoor maintenance.

Train detection is like a central nervous system for railways. Just like real nerves, train detection systems transmit vital information so that critical decisions can be made. Unlike the human nervous system, though, the sensors of conventional train detection are only set up to do one simple job: to detect the presence of a train. And today, that’s all it does.

What if you could do more with the sensors for train detection? This is a big question for our customers. As we enter the era of the Internet of Things (IoT), there’s a hunger for information about the way assets are performing. Our customers want to take data-driven decisions. They also want to reduce the costs around conventional train detection, which relies on hundreds of kilometres of expensive copper cable. This is about pivoting on traditional methods, harnessing big-data, machine learning and AI – enabling our Customers ambitions, delivering lower LCC, and providing the basis for better decisions. 

Thales Lite4ce™ is a revolutionary smart sensing solution designed to meet all of these needs – and more

The secret of Lite4ce™ is that it uses light, instead of induction, to detect trains. It works by measuring tiny and transitory deformations in the rail caused by the weight of passing train wheels. These deformations are detected by the Lite4ce™ sensor as changes in the wavelength of light.     

“Every deformation has a unique digital fingerprint,” explains Dr, Amine Arezki, Product Line Manager for Field Elements at Thales. “By coupling it with our Digital Platform, it’s possible to gain insights that have never been available before.”

First, data gathered from Lite4ce™ can be used to measure the speed of the train. 

Second, it can be used to calculate the weight of the wagon passing over it. “This is interesting to rail operators because it can be used to determine how many passengers are on board, or if a freight wagon is overloaded. Weight data could also be used to optimise braking curves – a key capability for Automated Train Operation and for tomorrow’s autonomous trains,” says Dr. Arezki. This together with the ARAMIS™ Traffic Management System and GreenSpeed™ Driver Advisory System (DAS) will enable a huge step change in providing added value services to our customers and their customers.

Finally, Lite4ce™ provides added value services, it provides asset data like vehicle speed and vehicle load as well as information on the condition of the vehicles Thales Lite4ce™ is revolutionary in other ways as well. One is that it is a passive device: there are no  outdoor electronics, so there’s no need for a power supply or copper cable.  It’s 100% fibre optical – all the way from the sensor to the central signalling room.  

It’s also immune to electromagnetic interference and compatible with any rolling stock, compatibility tests between existing rolling stocks and trackside equipment is eliminated. No trackside equipment is required. 

Lite4ce™ is resilient. The sensor is about the size of a smartphone and it fits within the web of the rail, out of harm’s way. There’s no need to remove it for tamping or rail grinding. And it is maintenance free – you can just fit and forget it. 

Finally, installation is simple. The sensor is fixed to the rail using a controlled bonding process and takes about 10 minutes. No drilling and no special skills are needed. 

Thales Lite4ce™ sensors have been tested at various applications including different environmental conditions as well as operational conditions: on main line bridges, in areas with high train diversity and high EMI level, in main line tunnels, on slab track and inn shunting areas as well as in urban rail. 

Thales Lite4ce™ is a good balance between a disruptive technology with its new capabilities and staying compatible with signalling and operational rules applied by our customers today. It meets our customers’ primary need for reliable train detection with low life-cycle costs. But what makes it truly transformational is its unique ability to generate new insights when used in combination with our Digital Platform. 

The revolution has begun.