Nexxiot, Knorr-Bremse integrating technology to build better rail brakes

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Switzerland-based rail technology company Nexxiot and global braking systems provider Knorr-Bremse have struck a deal that Nexxiot CEO Stefan Kalmund says could significantly impact how freight and passenger rail companies keep track of their railcars’ performance and location.

Knorr-Bremse will integrate Nexxiot’s hardware and software into its products for the company and for North American subsidiaries New York Air Brake and Knorr Brake Co. Knorr-Bremse, a customer and investor of Nexxiot, will integrate Nexxiot’s software into rail brakes, doors, HVAC, sanitary and other systems developed and manufactured by Knorr-Bremse.

“We’re combining two very clever, different technologies and systems for the benefit of clients. I think it will be a game changer to the industry,” Kalmund told FreightWaves. 

(Image: Nexxiot)

The integration of the technology into railcar components is significant because it can help railcar owners and railroads monitor the health of railcar components, including whether the components need maintenance, according to Kalmund. The company also says the data visibility may also optimize life cycle costs and promote operational efficiency, which in turn could bring about a more proactive approach toward maintenance. 

“Brakes have never been historically digitized. You buy a brake and that’s it. But if you want to optimize the entire network — if you want to optimize maintenance, if you want to offer new services — then it’s important that you also collect broad data,” Kalmund said.

Nexxiot estimates that there are 5 million railcars globally but only 8% has been digitized, so the passenger and freight rail industries are a ripe audience for this kind of technological integration, according to Kalmund.

“By combining our systems technology with Nexxiot’s digital ecosystem, we’re creating a win-win scenario that will boost vehicle availability and lower the total cost of fleet ownership by leveraging a new generation of data-based services,” Jürgen Wilder, a member of the executive board of Knorr-Bremse AG, said in a release Tuesday. Wilder is responsible for the Knorr-Bremse’s rail vehicle systems division.

Nexxiot’s arrangement with Knorr-Bremse follows an April 26 announcement in which Nexxiot said ocean carrier Hapag-Lloyd would equip a significant share of the carrier’s fleet of 3 million twenty-foot equivalent units with Nexxiot technology. 

How Nexxiot’s technology works

Nexxiot has developed hardware devices that can be placed onto railcars, containers or railcar equipment such as braking or HVAC systems. The company also developed the hardware’s technology.

(Photo: Nexxiot)

The device, powered through solar panels, is placed on the outside or inside of a railcar and can handle tough environments and extreme temperatures. It collects a myriad of real-time data through its sensors to help track freight, according to Kalmund. For intermodal containers, the device can send real-time data every five minutes to the cloud, or it can send data four times a day, such as during key moments like the first mile or last mile. The device for a rail equipment system can track the performance of that system.

The sensors can determine whether a car is empty or full as well as how full that railcar may be. That data can also help railroads in their sustainability programs if one of the railroad’s goals is to limit empty railcars. 

The railroads want to have visibility over their fleet, Kalmund said, explaining that the device and technology can help railroads reduce their assets through knowing the assets’ efficiency, and it can reduce maintenance costs through tracking the health of a brake. 

“The industry can start measuring things they always wanted to measure and were never able to do,” Kalmund said. 

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