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Smart condition monitoring: a data-driven, IIoT solution

CEO of Smart Component Technologies, Nick Koiza, talks us through the key technology that’s making a big difference to rail and mining companies around the world. 

With a name like ‘Smart Component Technologies’, you can be assured that technology – smart technology at that – is at the core of everything we do at SCT. Our smart condition monitoring technology has been developed and honed through years of experience, and importantly listening to the challenges facing industries like rail and mining. 

These are industries where critical components face a heavy workload in harsh environments. The very conditions they operate in can contribute to component or asset failure from intense vibration or changes in the substructure on which they need to perform, for example. Placing remote sensor IIoT technology, like our SWiX product, strategically close to key assets, provides a clear picture of what is happening either to the asset or to the substructure around it. 

There are obvious advantages to this kind of asset condition monitoring. Maintenance teams don’t need to physically visit the site to visually assess the asset. In the case of the railway, the line doesn’t have to be closed, and speed restrictions don’t need to be imposed, it reduces the need for high risk working in a mining context. 

Now for the technology 

So, how does it work? Remote condition monitoring works by taking measurements when the asset is being used. Let’s take a railway context to illustrate what I mean. The physical SWiX device is a small yellow box that – if you have sharp eyesight – you may see attached to a concrete or timber sleeper when you’re next on the train. 

SWiX features sensor nodes placed at critical areas of the switch to dynamically characterise the component health and substructure condition as rolling stock passes the site of the asset. 

The asset in this case could be switches and crossings (S&C) that are a critical feature of the rail network. S&Cs failures account for 20-30% of infrastructure related delays on Network Rail infrastructure – which can amount to millions of delay minutes. SWiX sends data wirelessly over 4G (with a 2G fallback) to the SCT Smart Cloud where it is processed and stored. This data can be viewed remotely by the infrastructure managers via SCT’s Smart Cloud portal. 

In a data-driven world, smart remote condition monitoring really does become the eyes of the infrastructure manager. It can be viewed at a high, macro level to show the overall condition of the line and to plan and record interventions and events on the line. From here, the infrastructure manager can drill down to review individual device metrics. This is invaluable for assessing the impact of interventions, such as tamping for example. 

Insights after taking action

Tamping and ballast renewals are highly disruptive and expensive activities that can cost up to £5 million per kilometre of track. It’s important to get it right as the opportunities to conduct maintenance interventions are limited. After a tamping intervention, SWiX records data on the condition and performance of affected assets. This can be viewed on the SCT Smart Cloud portal as a scatterplot showing the metrics from an individual device, giving evidential insight into the effectiveness of the intervention, 

The beauty of gathering large volumes of data at a highly granular level is that they can be presented in whichever way makes the best sense for the Infrastructure Manager. Some may prefer to have the data to process using business intelligence tools, others may ask SCT to provide analysis for them. Whatever their preference, they know that the data comes directly from the source device and is accurate. 

Over the longer term, the trusted data provides invaluable insights into an asset’s condition if it is deteriorating, for example. It can also be used to predict future behaviour under different climatic conditions, for example in extremes of heat or cold, or show the effect of flooding on the substructure. 

Sometimes, it’s what you DON’T do

Not to be overlooked is one of the chief benefits of using data and intelligence in asset condition monitoring. This is the insight it delivers about when NOT to intervene. Knowing where and when to act can save an enormous amount of resources; time and money that can be channeled into areas where intervention is needed, and where it will have a far more positive impact. 

Using data and automation through smart monitoring, infrastructure managers can visualise what the data is telling them without having to send a maintenance team out onto the track. When they do go out, they know that there is an issue that needs to be resolved, they know where it is and the extent of the issue. And, once they have addressed the issue, the data provided by SWiX shows how effective their actions have been. 

And there’s more …

The smart component technology that gives SCT its name isn’t completely contained within our little yellow boxes. It’s the combination of our mechanical, electronics, software and data engineering prowess, our deep analytical skills and a pragmatic approach to quality and listening that makes up the full package of what makes SWiX a revolutionary remote asset monitoring solution. 

To find out what we can do for you, get in touch with us on +44 (0)1223 827160 or at 


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