Bristol-based startup One Big Circle is celebrating success after this year’s National Rail Awards. The ‘Safety Achievement of the Year’ accolade was won in collaboration with the Signalling Innovations Group at Network Rail for their work in automatically detecting hotspots on the third rail. 

One Big Circle’s premise is to create smart solutions which will help people facing challenging industrial problems. They create intelligent video solutions in challenging industrial environments to improve efficiency and safety by fusing new technology in the field of Video, IoT, Cloud and AI.

This award recognises the fantastic work One Big Circle has been involved with to ensure rail travel is as safe as possible through detecting hotspots on the third rail.

The third rail is the conductor rail for electric trains in many lines in the Eastern area of the UK. Faults in the conductor rail caused by overheating components can lead to huge delays for passengers and freight, and are dangerous for teams to attend  and fix; detecting hotspots in advance of the failures enables rapid preventative response, whilst significantly reducing costs and delays.  

Automating safety

Based at Temple Studios, the team uses their innovative AIVR (Automated Intelligent Video Review) system to capture thermal imagery from cameras mounted onboard trains; Machine Learning is then applied to detect hotspots to alert engineers to their exact location.

The video data is accessed online which removes the need for engineers to be on site for inspection, whilst the thermal images enables them to see what the naked eye cannot. This saves thousands of hours of time on site and keeps teams away from the live rail with all its associated risks. 

“We are so passionate about making data accessible in challenging environments – we know that remote inspection improves safety every day, and that’s what drives us”

Speaking on receiving the Saftey Achievement of the Year Award, co-founder Emily Kent tells us, “We’re so proud of achieving this industry recognition. For a company of our size to win such a prestigious award amongst such heavyweight competition is a real testament to what our specialist team can do. Equally importantly is how we work closely with our partners at Network Rail and the Train Operators to ensure we are meeting their needs, as they deliver their vision for the Digital Railway of the future.”

The National Rail Awards are considered one of the most prestigious events in the UK rail calendar and are hotly contested every year, with a record number of entries received in 2022. They are an opportunity for all areas of the rail industry to share best practice and outstanding achievements from the previous twelve months.

The judging panel deemed the One Big Circle innovation to be ‘a truly impressive entry’ that is ‘game-changing’ in its ability to enable remote inspection and to direct response teams to the components that are experiencing early stage failure. 

One Big Circle is no stranger to winning awards, having secured the ‘Innovation of the Year’ award at the same event in 2021 and securing a number of rail and technology accolades in the past twenty-four months.

“Winning two separate categories at the National Rail Awards in two consecutive years is pretty extraordinary,” continues Emily. “We are so passionate about making data accessible in challenging environments – we know that remote inspection improves safety every day, and that’s what drives us to continue to deliver robust innovative solutions.”

Shona Wright

Shona covers all things editorial at TechSPARK. She publishes news articles, interviews and features about our fantastic tech and digital ecosystem, working with startups and scaleups to spread the word about the cool things they're up to. She also oversees TechSPARK's social media, sharing the latest updates on everything from investment news to green tech meetups and inspirational stories.