Five new shades of Violet™

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief

Integrating so-called “Big Data” is one of the biggest technical challenges the railroad industry faces over the next few years. It’s estimated that, by 2020, there will be some 44 zettabytes—the equivalent of 640 billion YouTube videos—of available data. New hardware and software tools are being developed to manage such data and, most important, render it useful. Enter Violet™, a new LDARS (Locomotive Data Acquisition Recording System) from Wi-Tronix LLC.

Violet Insert HWAfter several months of preparation accompanied by several strategically timed “hints,” Wi-Tronix unveiled Violet™ at its annual Chicago Conference on May 17, 2016. Appearance-wise, the hardware package, except for its case color, doesn’t look all that different from the now-ubiquitous purple Wi-PU™ boxes installed in thousands of locomotives worldwide that accounted for more than 2.6 million downloads in 2015. In fact, it is identical in width and depth. Height-wise, it’s only slightly taller. Thus, upgrading from a Wi-PU™ to Violet™ in most cases will involve a simple changeout.

It’s what’s inside Violet™’s two-tone orange and purple case that makes this LDARS different from anything Wi-Tronix or its competitors currently offer, the company said.

Wi-Tronix describes Violet™ as a “revolutionary LDARS.” It incorporates five key elements—interestingly, like the five petals on a violet:

• Violet onboard platform.

• Violet Live event recorder functionality. The catalyst for development of Violet™ Live was a tragic aviation incident, the March 2014 disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, in which 239 people are missing and presumed dead. 370’s Boeing 777—one of the most technologically advanced commercial airliners in the world—vanished, and no one will know what happened until its flight data recorder is found. What if that data recorder had been streaming live information?

• Violet View, “a new way to analyze data.”

• Violet VI (Visual Intelligence), described as “a sophisticated video analytics platform that transforms petabytes of data per day of raw video content into usable data, utilizing machine learning and neural networks, integrating best rugged cameras available to meet our architectural vision.”

• Violet VR (Virtual Reality).

“If you already have a LDARS, we just obsoleted it,” said Wi-Tronix President and Chief Technology Officer Larry Jordan. By his own admission, that’s “a bold statement,” but Jordan and his team are confident that Violet™ has the capabilities and features to take LDARS technology to the next level, which involves providing data in real time, going well beyond periodically downloading an event recorder, for example. “We asked ourselves, why can’t we download in real time—for example, automatically download video and event data when critical events occur?” Jordan said. “We architected Violet™ from the ground up with live capability and a full 360 degree [onboard camera] view.”

Violet™ is based on a “scalable, configurable, and over-the-air onboard platform” that incorporates LDARS functionality with other onboard systems:

• Event Recorder (ER).

• Digital Video Recorder (DVR).

• Crash Hardened Memory Module.

• Multipurpose Onboard Platform that incorporates all existing Wi-PU™ functionality.

Violet™ is the only device to include Wi-Nav™, a patented inertial navigation system, and Wi-Tronix’s Universal Event Recorder Interface. Its flexibility “offers railways the ability to monitor and adjust their PTC (Positive Train Control) safety plans while implementing cutting edge applications,” the company said.

In terms of software, Violet™ “utilizes a revolutionary platform incorporating powerful IoT “Internet of Things) driven technologies.” They are:

• Virtual Reality Camera Integration.

• Web-Based Viewer Capabilities for ERs and DVRs.

• Condition Based Data Streaming.

• Visual Intelligence Software.

• Unmatched Data Fusion Capabilities.

Wi-Tronix’s information hosting is cloud-based, through SaaS (Software as a Service), “providing access anywhere and on any device with proper user authentication,” Wi-Tronix noted. “This eases IT application management of ER and DVR players. Traditional ER and DVR players do not provide mobility, traceability, trackability, or advanced security. Lessons learned from the current user experience of these players in the industry has inspired the new Violet™ player, which offers advanced security protocols that track and trace user plays/views. This significantly improves the user’s experience for viewing data while tracking and controlling access.”

“In the past two years, a new generation of hi-definition DVRs has been developed,” said Jordan. “Violet™’s onboard platform is high-performance and multi-purpose, with all current Wi-PU™ functionality, plus ER, DVR (4-7 ports), a removable solid-state drive, and a crash-hardened memory module. Fully backwards-compatible with our Wi-PU™, it can record thousands of signals. It’s expandable, extendable and sustainable, designed for a 10-15 year life span.”

In terms of integration with other LDAR systems, a Wi-PU™ feature, “Violet is not changing this,” said Jordan. “We’re look to push the industry but it doesn’t mean we are changing our stance in supporting technology from other suppliers.”

Download a PDF of the Wi-Tronix technical specification publication at the link below.

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