The key to wireless sensor systems in practical applications is power supply. By its very name, “wireless” implies that even the power for the system must be self-contained within the monitoring sensor nodes. Even if, with low power usage and proper design, small enough batteries could run the system for years, the problem in widescale deployment is that this would still mean literally millions of batteries being changed out every few years; this equates to a huge number of labor hours no matter how quick the changing process may be, a logistical process in determining which batteries are to be changed at what time, and ultimately a significant increase in the problem of disposing of so many batteries which contain various environmentally toxic substances. It is therefore crucial to have a method to power sensor nodes for unlimited amounts of time from some onboard device.

IEM is developing our “RailPower Suite™” to address precisely this need. The RailPower Suite™ comprises no fewer than seven separate energy harvesting technologies for use on various locations of railcars and locomotives, depending on the precise energy source – vibration, sway, heat or others – most available at that location. The work on the RailPower Suite™ derives from and builds on multiple projects for the U.S. Navy, Army, DOT, and others.