How important are embedded systems in the railway sector? What does the relationship between IK4-IKERLAN and CAF Signalling consist of? Jon Alzate, head of the onboard systems business unit of this Basque company devoted to the development, design, manufacture, supply and maintenance of railway signalling systems, answers these questions in the following interview.
What is the function of embedded systems in the electronics that controls trains?
Basically, their functions focus on improving the control, safety, comfort, operation and maintenance of the trains. In other words, they provide the ‘intelligence' needed to manage the technological and functional complexity of the trains, allowing them to operate as safely and efficiently as possible.
What are the most critical functions that depend on a train’s embedded systems?
We regard as critical functions those relating to safety, mainly those that have to do with protecting trains such as signalling, brakes and door operation.
What is more, there is another set of functions regarded as critical not so much in their relation to safety but in their role in the basic operation of the trains, such as traction control.
What are the main challenges facing embedded systems in your sector?
The main challenges facing embedded systems are related to their standardization, because right now there are many, very different embedded systems, and to the increase in the communication capabilities of the new functionalities set to emerge. What is more, the management of obsolescence is a key aspect to ensure the long- term viability of embedded systems.
What does CAF SIGNALLING value most about IK4-IKERLAN’s contribution?
IK4-IKERLAN is providing us with specific knowledge about the sector and the available technologies, in addition to quality in the results of the collaboration that takes place and flexibility when implementing it. Something we particularly value is the fact that our collaboration is within the framework of a long-term approach.
Apart from embedded systems, in what other areas is the CAF Group also working with the centre?
We have close collaboration in the fields of railway traction, signalling, ICTs and trainborne communication and energy storage, which are fundamental vectors of innovation in railway systems.
Recently, we have also embarked on collaboration in the field of hybrid traction for buses, a new line of business being promoted by the CAF Group, and we are taking the first steps in the field of sensorization to monitor and diagnose critical components with a view to improving the service.