How Perimeter Protection Is Improving Rail Line Security

In one real-world example, a major passenger rail company in Italy is using smart thermal cameras to provide rail yard security and prevent vandalism at one of the largest railcar maintenance facilities in the country. The rail organization serves more than 650,000 people every day, delivering crucial transportation services for the local financial district and the surrounding region. The company’s expansive rail yard stretches over two kilometers encompassing an area equivalent to 60 football fields, where millions of dollars’ worth of trains are stored and serviced.

Located along a busy public highway, the rail yard was experiencing a costly and difficult security challenge. Intruders were able to gain access to the yard undetected at night and cause severe damage to rail cars stored at the facility.

RELATED: High Growth Projected for Perimeter Security in Critical Infrastructure

In the past, the rail company relied on guards to patrol the large rail yard, but it continued to have ongoing vandalism problems. After a newly purchased line of rail cars was badly damaged by vandals, smart thermal cameras were installed to provide automated awareness along the two-kilometer perimeter. When the smart camera detects an intrusion, security personnel receive an immediate alarm along with the intruder’s location pinpointed onto a topology map of the facility.

For real-time visualization, p/t/z cameras are automatically steered to zoom and follow the intruders, allowing security guards to quickly assess the situation. Once an alarm has been verified, local authorities are notified to respond and intervene. Shortly after the solution was put into place, the technology detected several trespassers entering the yard. The system alerted rail security to intervene and local authorities were able to apprehend the intruders.

At another rail company experiencing vandalism, the use of longer-range cameras yielded additional benefits: Since fewer cameras and poles were needed to cover the area, the organization was able to use a portion of the cost savings for higher poles, providing more effective coverage over the entire yard at reduced cost. Key to the successful use of higher poles was on-board electronic image stabilization, which eliminated the impact of pole sway associated with height on the video analysis, along with the vibrations from passing trains – movement that would have otherwise resulted in excessive nuisance alarms.

The Compelling Case for ROI

Dealers and integrators will find a compelling business opportunity as they become familiar with the difficulties associated with these applications, as well as the technologies that can best mitigate the challenges. Thermal cameras with video analytics offer an excellent means to address the issues and help to significantly improve railroad security levels.

Return on investment (ROI) is seen in a security system’s ability to reduce financial losses; for example, the cost to refurbish a single railroad car following an act of vandalism could be as high as $5,000 to $10,000, along with lost revenue when a car is out of service. Thermal cameras improve a system’s ROI by providing highly reliable real-time detection that can be used to stop an incident in progress or avoid it altogether. And because thermal cameras can often be used to cover larger areas than standard visible light cameras, system camera counts can be reduced, with the resulting lower infrastructure costs further improving the
ROI equation for railway security, making thermal imaging an effective and cost-efficient option for providing a robust integrated security solution.

In both the near and longer-term future, those dealers and integrators who educate themselves about the challenges of railway security and specialize in deploying advanced thermal imaging technologies will put themselves in the best position to win more of these projects while delivering the high level of security necessary to protect the railroad industry’s vital assets.

John Romanowich is President/CEO and founder of SightLogix, a provider of intelligent video surveillance systems.

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