Bristol-based Video Intelligence SME One Big Circle has been announced as one of the winners of Innovate UK’s 2022 ‘First of a Kind’ (FOAK) competition, funded by The Department for Transport and delivered in partnership with Innovate UK KTN.

Providing a two-part collaborative delivery project with Network Rail and Angel Trains, One Big Circle’s winning entry utilises their multi-award winning AIVR (Automated Intelligent Video Review) system, which facilitates rapid access to video footage captured by train mounted cameras – combined with third party instrumentation and analytical insight – to detect defined areas of interest across Overhead Line Equipment (OLE).

Users can then gain contextual information with which to collaborate and communicate with colleagues, and drill down into detailed information from the instrumented and analytical systems. The project aims to use remote observation and Computer Vision Techniques to preserve and refine OLE maintenance against impactful weather changes.

The FOAK competition is a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) which looks to target projects attesting to ‘deliver high maturity demonstrations of innovations to the UK Railways.’ The SBRI competition provides a significant opportunity for SMEs working to implement innovative projects within the rail industry, and to show-case outstanding collaboration with rail organisations.

This news comes after One Big Circle also took home the ‘Safety Achievement of the Year’ at this year’s National Rail Awards.

Keeping our railways safe from extreme weather

Overhead Lines which provide electrification to keep trains running on the track rely on track-side tensioning assets which keep lines taut and safely suspended. Dramatic weather changes however can cause detrimental impacts to these tensioners, with extremely hot temperatures causing OLE wires to overextend and slacken which forces tensioners and the connected lines to sink. Severe service disruption, track closures, and in some cases dewirement can be the result of tension reduction, generating an array of safety risks and unforeseen maintenance costs. 

“Unprecedented weather conditions in recent years have become a growing challenge facing OLE maintenance,” comments Ndaba Moyo on behalf of the North-Western & Central region of Network Rail.In the NW&C region, we have set out a maintenance strategy that is focused on modernising how we as an organisation can use technology to shift from reactive to more predictive maintenance. We have had to think outside the box to find solutions that allow us to improve both performance and safety whilst reducing boots on ballast and workforce exposure to on-track hazards.”

The winning project utilises One Big Circle’s AIVR software to access existing footage collected from in-service trains, where highly trained Machine Learning techniques are engaged to automatically detect tensioners on rail routes and also ingest the temperature at the time of the run.

Providing vital visual insight, the extent of tensioner drop can be continuously measured using Machine Learning and statistical analysis combined with temperature data as further footage is collected. AIVR’s Machine Learning proficiency enables engineers to be rapidly alerted to any potential issues, reducing the need for manual preparation surveys, and allowing rail companies to plan and execute maintenance works before – rather than after – major faults develop.

The project stipulates the deployment of a UV camera affixed to the top of the train to allow direct capture of Corona discharge along the Overhead Line. Using a combination of the UV camera instrumentation, locally measured temperature and humidity levels, statistical analysis and Machine Learning, levels of Corona discharge on assets are automatically measured and classified within the AIVR platform. The project aims to help rail engineers make data-driven decisions to plan proactively and take preventative action against the ‘invisible’ risks facing OLE maintenance. 

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.