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OptaSense announces contract with Europe’s biggest rail provider – Deutsche Bahn Netz AG

OptaSense and DB to jointly validate a set of fibre sensing tools designed to reduce the operating cost of rail track operation.


World leaders in fibre sensing, OptaSense are pleased to announce a collaboration with Europe’s biggest rail operator, Deutsche Bahn Netz AG, to validate a set of fibre sensing tools designed to reduce the operating cost of rail track operation. The 18 month collaboration will see the validation of bespoke software tools which record and report train and track events along Deutsche Bahn’s network.

The project, which commenced this month was awarded to OptaSense in November 2013 following a competitive 10 month tender process, will verify the performance of OptaSense distributed acoustic sensing (“DAS”) to provide alerts and operational data for a large range of events. The collaboration will begin with eight priority applications which will be tested by DB Netz in all weather conditions over 18 months, with a view to giving DB Netz insights into the future of railway sensing:

The collaboration will report on the potential of DAS technology to reduce the number and cost of different sensor systems required to monitor the various train and track events. Commenting on the scope of work Mr Joern Schlichting, of Deutsche Bahn Netz AG, said : “We are very interested by the opportunities for this exciting technology, and believe that fibre optic sensing has the potential to replace many of our trackside sensors – greatly reducing the cost of running our network. Following technical trials in 2012 where we first validated the detection capability of OptaSense DAS technology we now seek to prove the business impact of this technology to deliver a multi-event detection capability within one trackside sensor deployment. We look forward to working with OptaSense over the next 18 months and using their sonar software and algorithm expertise to provide us with business tools that help us operate more efficiently.”

Magnus McEwen-King, Chief Executive of OptaSense, said: “We have been active in the railways since 2008 and are pleased to extend our collaboration with one of the industry’s leading companies to undertake a systematic approach to validate the potential for fibre sensing to change the status quo by combining multiple sensor function into one trackside fibre. Over the last 6 years we have validated a number of software modules independently e.g. intrusion detection or rock fall but for the first time we will be combining multiple capabilities into one implementation. Like Deutsche Bahn we firmly believe fibre sensing can reduce the costs associated with deploying and maintaining multiple different trackside sensor equipment and this project will provide the necessary validation of this belief.”

Upon successful validation of each event detection module, OptaSense and Deutche Bahn Netz AG will seek to commercialise the applications. The initial set of events and sensing requirements include:

Accurate platform announcements of the next train

Wheel flats and other wheel/rail interface problems

Hot axle box

Unauthorised access

Metal theft, vandalism and attack

Rock and tree fall detection

Animal detection

Train tracking with train integrity in real time

OptaSense’s DAS is in operation in over 40 countries globally, where it protects and monitors high-value assets in a range of other sectors – including oil and gas pipelines, borders and vital site perimeters, and is the world’s leading provider of fibre based vertical seismic profiling and hydraulic fracture profiling in the upstream O&G sector.


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