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Maintaining Reliable Communications – Even Underground

The Challenge

To improve overall communications on US railways, the Federal Transit Administration (division of the federal Department of Transportation) sought to initiate a trial project of a Subway Train Overlay Location System on a major city’s subway system. The intent of this program was to gain precise information related to train location in the event of a disabled train or other incident, with a goal of improving the effectiveness of first responders. While ensuring effective communications in an urban environment is hard enough on its own, doing it underground had thwarted many previous attempts.

The Solution

Edge Velocity was awarded the grant, with the deployment consisting of placing wireless routers, equipped with embedded tracking software, in subway cars and Intelligent Base Stations (IBS) located at various points along the subway track. The solution also included integration with mapping software that provided a graphical representation of the train’s location, as well as specific details on the distance from the nearest IBS located along the track. It’s worth emphasizing that this deployment achieved an end to end wireless system, a feat not achieved by our competitors.


After an initial test deployment covering more than 1.5 miles of subway line – including a mile of underground track – the results were very positive. The solution was able to provide a precise view of the train’s location, including specific details on the distance from the nearest IBS located along the track. Mobile underground communications is a very challenging result to achieve. By correlating the train’s location with the known location of each IBS, the transit authority was able to effectively pin-point the train’s location (tracked in real time to within 42 feet of its actual location). Having this specific location information will enable teams to respond as quickly and efficiently as possible in the event of an incident – even underground.

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