Progress Rail PowerView: More Than Just a Black Box

Written by Marc MIller, General Manager, Inspection and Information Systems, Progress Rail, A Caterpillar Company
image description

Progress Rail’s Power View is a family of products that we’ve developed over the past couple of years, working closely with the rail industry. We spent a lot of time talking to our customers to try and understand what they were looking for in a next-generation locomotive event recorder. They told us they wanted the ability to synchronize data from multiple sources to obtain a complete operational view of what’s occurring on their locomotives. They were looking to synchronize all the locomotive data—PTC, audio, video, etc.—and as such we started developing this platform when PTC was being installed nationally on locomotive fleets.

Locomotives have traditionally been equipped with multiple pieces of onboard hardware. Reviewing data from multiple platforms is complex: One person looks at locomotive event recorder data. Another looks at fuel burn, or lube oil consumption. Little is synchronized. On top of that, hasn’t been a large-enough display to handle all this data. Our goal with PowerView was to synchronize and blend all data, making it easier to review locomotive operational aspects. 

PowerView’s design is similar to the black box on a commercial aircraft. Essentially, it’s a repository of on-board recorded locomotive data in one box—the locomotive operational data plus the train consist. One of its unique features is that it can combine the data from the locomotive control system with recorded data from the PTC system. It can also record all the audio and video that’s required by our customers and by the industry. All this data is synchronized in one secure, tamper-proof, compact MCU 5unit that meets industry shock and vibration specifications and saves critical space for other locomotive electronics.

PowerView is “OEM-agnostic.” Since we’re part of Progress Rail, this platform will of course operate on EMD locomotives. It directly integrates into an EMD® FIRE display, but we’ve designed it to work on almost any type of locomotive. In fact, the majority of PowerView installations to date have been on large mixed fleets. It contains an integrated, internal, field-replaceable crash-hardened memory module. The recorder has a full industrial switch and multiple Ethernet ports for flexible network connectivity, as well as digital inputs with the capability to add additional inputs for multiple requirements. A SATA drive bay with locking mechanism, when combined with industry-standard network IP cameras and a solid-state drive, optionally expands PowerView to include full LDVR functionality.

Because of this design approach, our customers can standardize on PowerView across their entire fleet. It’s not a product specific to one OEM or cab design or locomotive type. As such, it brings a lot more flexibility to our customers through the ability to review data that otherwise would be segmented. 

PowerView also works with many third-party devices, such as monitors or sensors—IP network cameras, for example. There’s a lot of innovation going on in that space in terms of camera technology. Think of an iPhone or other devices that record video. As that technology increases in the general marketplace, we’re able to quickly adopt and integrate it with PowerView. 

The same is true for other sensors—for example, fuel monitoring. We are doing some groundbreaking work with our parent company, Caterpillar, in utilizing proven technology for equipment such as fuel flow sensors. This equipment is typically locomotive-OEM-agnostic, and as such can integrate with the PowerView platform. This feature enables our platform to expand in terms of what our customers and what the industry would like to monitor as new technology develops over time. There’s a lot of “runway” in the product due to its ability to adapt new technology as it gets released, not only to the rail market but to the market in general. We can leverage on that new technology.

In terms of what PowerView brings compared to legacy technology is encryption. As an event recorder, its primary focus is on the data chain of custody. A lot of effort was made to ensure that our customers’ data is protected and encrypted. We’re using all the latest encryption technology, and various steps have been employed to make sure that customer data is as secure as possible. PowerView can also provide data in real time or near-real time for railcar and shipment tracking and tracing. 

We designed PowerView in conjunction with Caterpillar to collect and organize data through a back-office portal. Data can be downloaded remotely from an event recorder and analyzed. Remote alarming and monitoring is also possible. PowerView enables users to create custom alarm logic and identification, where all alarm notifications are integrated.And it comes with Progress Rail’s next-generation Event Playback software for downloading and analyzing secure event recorder data.

PowerView also works with other railroad software platforms. The railroads have a tremendous amount of data storage and analysis tools. PowerView can integrate with those systems and connect with back-office platforms, the desktop displays, which typically are configurable. For example, it can provide a high-level view of a specific locomotive, to see its status, or its location on a network map, or video snapshots from multiple on-board cameras. Users get a comprehensive visual view of that locomotive’s operational history and where it has been. PowerView can also generate reports that can be transmitted to other devices like cellphones, tablet computers and laptops.

PowerView is part of the evolution in the industry toward Big Data. The challenge is how to manage all the data collected on multiple platforms and systems, and turn it into usable information that drives a lot of value to our customers, and to the industry. We need tools to be able to parse that data, and then create the rules and logic to extract the operational value that’s being sent in from a system like PowerView or other locomotive and train management systems.

PowerView will be an important component of the next iteration of PTC—so-called “PTC 2.0,” where the PTC platform is hosting numerous other communications-data-based technologies, supporting what’s changing in the regulatory space. For example, Transport Canada will soon require inward-facing audio- and video-recording cameras. The PowerView platform will operate and auto-configure, based in what North American country the locomotive is operating. As a locomotive crosses the Canadian border from the U.S., PowerView will auto-configure from FRA regulations to Transport Canada requirements. If it moves across the U.S. border into Mexico, it will auto-configure to ensure compliance with Mexican regulations. 

PowerView’s design flexibility enables it to adapt to new technology as it becomes available in the market, such as PTC 2.0 or new Transport Canada regulations. That’s really the strength of this platform. 

For additional information, download the PowerView brochure:

Categories: Analytics, Class I, Commuter/Regional, Freight, Intercity, Locomotives, Mechanical, News, Short Lines & Regionals, Switching & Terminal Tags: ,