HID helps ensure Belgian rail service runs on time

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The national railway company of Belgium, NMBS/SNCB, has successfully deployed a real-time location service platform with BEEKs Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE) beacons from HID to accurately monitor train location and ensure on-time departures.

NMBS/SNCB maintains and operates 3,607 kilometres of track and approximately 30 train stations throughout Belgium with passenger safety and on-time departures serving as key priorities. Prior to the HID solution, when an approaching train reached a preset GPS coordinate, an app on the onboard attendant’s smartphone would signals software at the station to start running the digital safety-check programme to ensure passengers can safely disembark and the train can depart for the next station on schedule.

However, many locations such as tunnels, have limited cellular coverage. When this happens, the train’s GPS location can appear as far as 10 kilometres away from the station, thwarting the entire safety check process.

“We knew we had to find a different way to mimic someone’s location within the vicinity of the station. That is when the idea of using HID beacons to transmit a specific ID came into play,” explained Nathan Willekens, Innovation Project Manager, NMBS/SNCB.

NMBS/SNCB deployed HID Global’s real-time location services (RTLS) platform and BEEKs Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE) beacons on its platforms to ensure the safety check process would not be compromised. Now, when the system detects the Bluetooth device, it is given priority over the potentially inaccurate GPS signal.

“We were impressed not only with the accuracy — we knew with more certainty that the train was in the location identified by the beacon — but also by the efficiency with which the beacons were able to operate and the area they could cover,” said Willekens. According to HID Global, NMBS/SNCB is planning the system to be deployed in at least 10 additional stations across Belgium.