Transforming the future of rail
The world leader in vibration harvester powered wireless sensing systems, Perpetuum is committed to transforming railway and fleet management without wires, batteries or maintenance

Perpetuum was originally focused on providing industries such as industrial and oil and gas with its award-winning, quick-to-install and maintenance free technology when it was established in 2004 as a spinoff from Southampton University. However, having revolutionised the way vast amounts of information can be gathered perpetually, the company researched target markets and saw immense opportunities within the rail industry and entered the market in 2010.

An expert in vibration engineering, the company is able to supply a total solution to the rail industry, comprising of hardware components, operating software and an information service. In more detail, the hardware is comprised of an energy harvester, sensor, RF transmitter and microprocessor; the software, meanwhile, gathers vibration data from the trains via the sensor systems that are transmitted wirelessly to the company’s database. This information service adds real value for customers as the company’s algorithms translate the raw vibration data into simple actionable information in the form of for example a Bearing Health Index and a Wheel Health Index. Data is reduced from millions of temperature and vibration data points that are collected each day into a colour coded and numerical number to signify the level of condition. Automatic email alerts are then sent to the train operator when vibration levels move above set parameters.

Perpetuum 141 b“We set out three years ago with a strategy to demonstrate that the solution was viable in three challenging key markets that we identified as progressive railway markets outside of the UK: Scandinavia, the US freight market and Australia; I am pleased to say we have now picked up contracts in all of these locations. Part of converting the railway industry into a railway business is through reviewing the ways of providing maintenance in order to generate more availability and resource savings; the fact we have been able to gain successful trials and fleet deployments in these four markets not only demonstrates to us, but also to the marketplace and our investors that what we have is not isolated to the UK. There is a need and benefit to using our solution that has been seen across the world,” says Justin Southcombe, Commercial Director at Perpetuum.

Since previously featuring in Railway Strategies magazine in August 2016, Perpetuum has seen an increase in demand for its technology within the rail sector thanks to its ability to predict and prevent issues by providing information months in advance. Moreover, since successfully trialling and improving its technology on wheels and bearings, the company has also diversified into other segments of a train’s operations. “We have seen a prolific increase in the interest in track monitoring and ride monitoring, so this is something we have been working on in development with Network Rail and a number of other operators across the globe. The uptake has been considerable and we have gained two further contracts that we signed for track and rough ride monitoring already since August last year,” highlights Justin.

He continues: “While I can’t go into detail on these projects, I can say one is in the UK while the other is in Australia; one of them was an international open tender, which demonstrates the growing demand in the market for remote condition monitoring and information service. I would say, particularly after being awarded this contract, that buying information rather than buying hardware that collects data is the direction the market is moving.”

Additionally, the company deployed on two additional fleets in the UK, one for wheel and axle bearing monitoring on 1000 wheels, and another which was for wheels, bearings and gearboxes across 40 trains – the company’s first gearbox fleet deployment of gearbox monitoring. Another first for the company took place in Amsterdam, where it deployed a system on the Siemens Combino trams, its first tramway application. “This project involved three local trams as the client was looking to identify bearing failure in advance of catastrophic failures,” explains Justin. “The customer didn’t want to compromise the timetable with more maintenance so their strategy was to use predictive maintenance through the remote condition monitoring system, which would allow them to see the damage arise earlier. This project also demonstrated that even in a low floor tram, where there is very little space for modification, we can still equip and instrument a tram with wireless sensors. To me, this is a good case study for the flexibility of our system, even in the tightest of spaces.”

Having now developed a joint venture that is responding to an enormous tender from Indian Railways, sold a hundreds of units to its partner in China for local trials, Perpetuum looks set for further success in Asia and across the globe as it continues to provide clients with true value for money and greater availability of their rolling stock. “In January 2017 we doubled our office size in Southampton in response to us growing four-fold over the last three years. Approximately 90 per cent of this recruitment is in the delivery of the projects we now have in hand and in particular in the field of data scientists, programmers and analysts. To continue growing we are looking at other markets and applications where we can show our extensive proven experience and six information offerings, namely our algorithms for bearings, wheels, gear boxes, traction motors, track and rough ride. Because each client has a slightly different issue to solve, this breadth in our offering allows us to address an everincreasing client base,” Justin concludes.