Knorr-Bremse, Nexxiot to Launch Suite of Smart Products for Improving Rail Connectivity

Written by Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor
In spring 2022, Knorr-Bremse took a stake in asset intelligence specialist Nexxiot. The two partners also concluded a cooperation agreement and are now presenting market-ready products for the digital train. (Nexxiot)

In spring 2022, Knorr-Bremse took a stake in asset intelligence specialist Nexxiot. The two partners also concluded a cooperation agreement and are now presenting market-ready products for the digital train. (Nexxiot)

Knorr-Bremse, together with Zurich, Switzerland-based asset intelligence specialist Nexxiot, announced on Dec. 11 that the two companies are about to bring a suite of smart products for connected passenger and freight trains to the market.

Starting in 2024, Knorr-Bremse Node, Knorr-Bremse Hub and associated cloud services will be available for outfitting and retrofitting passenger and freight trains.

According to Knorr-Bremse, smart analytics of operating data gathered from braking and other systems will “improve train availability, operational efficiency and punctuality.” Key projects are already under way in the UK and the U.S., and the company expects digital solutions to “generate steady growth, achieving Rail division revenues in the lower double-digit million-euro range by as soon as 2025.”

With these solutions, Knorr-Bremse says it is “creating the basis for high-growth digital business models in the areas of connectivity, cloud solutions and software as a service.”

“The rail industry is asking for solutions that will enhance cost efficiency, operational efficiency, and reliability,” said Dr. Nicholas Lange, Member of the Executive Board of Knorr-Bremse AG with global responsibility for the Rail division. “Digitalization and data management technologies offer enormous opportunities in this respect. With the smart solutions we’re presenting with Nexxiot, we’re creating a new level of connectivity for our braking and other systems that will help our customers to improve the productivity, availability and punctuality of their rail services.”

“Together, Knorr-Bremse and Nexxiot are shaping the future of the rail industry. Our partnership will help the industry to achieve the levels of efficiency and reliability that are already taken for granted in other transportation segments,” said Nexxiot AG CEO Stefan Kalmund. “As a key technology partner, Nexxiot is proud to be accompanying global market leader Knorr-Bremse on this pioneering journey.”

“In less than 18 months, our focused collaboration with Nexxiot has seen the development of market-ready products for outfitting new train fleets and retrofitting existing fleets. Among other things, we’ll be able to leverage the potential of real-time operating data to make precise statements about the condition, performance and maintenance requirements of our systems,” said Knorr-Bremse Vice President of Digital Products Dr. Maximilian Eichhorn. “This means more trains on tracks and fewer trains in workshops—a major benefit for our customers.”

To develop the products, the two partners combined Knorr-Bremse’s systems expertise with Nexxiot’s proven competence in IoT (Internet of Things). The innovative workflow, which involves collecting operating data, transferring it to the cloud and turning it into useful knowledge, is based on three products:

  • Knorr-Bremse Node: The adapter is connected to the control units of systems, such as braking, entrance, climate control and coupling systems, where it gathers data on parameters, such as noise, geolocation, temperature, energy consumption, and shocks or vibrations. Each Knorr-Bremse Node then sends the data by Bluetooth to the second new piece of hardware, the Knorr-Bremse Hub.
  • Knorr-Bremse Hub: The Hub aggregates the data streams from the Nodes attached to the various system controllers and sends them to the Nexxiot Cloud via the cellular network (in the future, via the rail vehicle’s own bus). Thus, the Knorr-Bremse Hub acts as the gateway between data nodes and the cloud.
  • Cloud Services: AI (Artificial Intelligence) and algorithms are used to analyze the data streams and turn them into specific insights. Customers can call up information on the location, condition, performance, maintenance requirements and potentially imminent malfunctions of vehicle systems and components via user-friendly dashboards—so they can more efficiently plan the operation and management of their train fleets.

The large number of Knorr-Bremse systems installed worldwide is a source of huge business potential for the company. More than 130,000 units of the CubeControl brake control system alone are currently in operation around the world, as are more than 100,000 climate control systems produced by Knorr-Bremse brand Merak, according to the company. A significant proportion of these systems are capable of being upgraded with the new solutions. When equipping new vehicles, this can be done directly via the systems’ control unit software.

Knorr-Bremse says it will start rolling out the products in 2024, creating the basis for a range of digital business models. Alongside the Knorr-Bremse Node and Knorr-Bremse Hub hardware, the company says, customers will benefit from scalable data services enabled by the Nexxiot Cloud ecosystem. These will be provided via subscription models (software as a service) charging a monthly fee, or via pay-per-use models.

According to Knorr-Bremse, the new technology is already being used in several customer projects involving predictive maintenance. Examples include the data interface between hardware and the Nexxiot Cloud, currently in use by rail freight operator VTG in the UK. Starting in 2024, 50 freight cars will be equipped with the technology. New York Air Brake (NYAB), Knorr-Bremse’s rail freight subsidiary in the U.S., has partnered with customers in the U.S. freight transportation sector to install Knorr-Bremse Nodes in brake control systems on freight trains, enabling them to communicate with pre-installed Nexxiot technology. These projects, the company says, “underscore both the innovative character and market maturity of the solutions, customized versions of which will be available starting in 2024.”

In May 2022, Knorr-Bremse invested approximately €60 million ($64 million) in the acquisition of a strategic minority stake in Nexxiot. The companies have also concluded a comprehensive cooperation agreement to rapidly progress digitalization and connectivity in the rail sector by creating advanced solutions—with the aim of “contributing to sustainable, reliable and efficient rail mobility.”

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