Quick installation kit for IIoT device developed for data collection

  • AI-startup KONUX relies on Zollner hardware know-how.
  • The KONUX solution uses IIoT devices and artificial intelligence to monitor, analyze and predict the health of railway switches.
  • Zollner Elektronik AG is accompanying the device installation kit throughout its product lifecycle: from new conception and validation to New Product Introduction (NPI – readying the product for serial production) and production.

Zollner Elektronik AG provided significant support in the development of an installation kit for KONUX, a Munich-based startup using machine learning and IIoT to transform railway operations. The installation kit makes it possible to securely mount the KONUX IIoT device on the rail crossties in less than ten minutes, and thus avoid any interruption of regular train traffic. The IIoT device gathers data such as vibration from passing trains and temperature, which is then fed into the KONUX AI core to generate insights about the health of the network. Predictive maintenance has the potential to save rail infrastructure manager companies millions. It also improves the availability of rail networks, extends the service life of assets and makes rail service more reliable.
The system continuously monitors and analyzes the condition of critical switch components, such as the track bed, and with that provides concrete recommendations for maintenance.

Certified by Rail Standards

Zollner Elektronik AG supports the business model of this aspiring startup company, whose headquarters are based in Munich with around 100 employees, as a strategic partner in the areas of development, readying products for serial production andmanufacturing. Here our experience as an EMS service provider with global placement comes into play. Zollner is also certified according to the international rail Industry standard, ISO-TS22163. One decisive plus point in the eyes of KONUX, as Chief Technology Officer Sébastien Schikora emphasized: “For KONUX, it was very important to obtain the necessary certifications for our Industrial-Internet-of-Things systems as well as the production processes. For that we needed a renowned and reliable EMS service provider as our partner. Our selection fell to Zollner – mainly because the company is known for creating reliable solutions for the rail Industry, their location and a very supportive team throughout their organization. We are thankful to have a great partner in Zollner on our side to obtain the necessary releases in a sector that is extremely safety conscious.”

Collaboration with Zollner came at a critical time to the startup: as the AI data analytics company developed the prototype for their system, the protective housing for the device caused headaches. An adhesive for attaching the device to the crosstie did not sustain the high accelerations. The time it took to attach, and its stability were not ideal for the installation on high traffic rail tracks. On the search for a development and manufacturing partner for the device housing, KONUX came into contact with Zollner Elektronik AG at the Mechatronic & Automation Cluster in 2016.

Hardware Problems Solved
The Research & Development division at Zollner (R&D), reconceived the device installation kit for KONUX. One significant change: the housing with the yellow cover is now anchored to the crosstie with a dowel. This solution significantly reduced the effort of installation and shortened the time expenditure from about 45 minutes to a mere ten minutes. Speed counts because installation can now be completed even during the day when there are sufficient gaps between trains without disturbing the regular traffic.
The second challenge in housing design was resistance against environmental influences. In order to send data, the IIoT device must always be reliably protected. The rail customer also needs assurance that nothing splinters away from the housing and lies loosely in the track bed – even then, for example, when chunks of ice are flying around in the track bed. Due to the customer’s request, the developers were restricted to a specific housing. “The central question for us was how we could fortify this housing in a suitable way”, said Ulrich Niklas, Director of the R&D Division at Zollner. “We developed three variations, which the German Center for Aerospace tested. They were shot at with a four kilogram block of ice, which slammed into them at 275 km/h.  It was a true endurance test.” Zollner Elektronik AG performed additional environmental simulations alone; comprehensive testing followed for the installation kit with regard to electromagnetic compatibility and adherence to radio regulations.

Full service for the sensor housing
Afterwards Zollner Elektronik AG drove the readying of the quick installation kit for serial production and started to produce. Thus, Zollner is a full service partner in the hardware area who covers the entire product lifecycle. KONUX already has its system deployed for customers in nine countries in Europe and Asia.