Around the World with COTS – Part 1

Commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) solutions are not a one-off phenomenon. Many companies are already demonstrating the diversity of COTS applications and experiencing the full range of benefits. The versatile technology is revealing its enormous potential around the globe – from France to Australia. Join us on the first part of our world tour.

Open Systems Sending Positive Signals

Our journey begins in France with the Clermont-Ferrand project. French systems integrator Colas Rail was the first company in the country to use COTS controllers in a signaling solution. The reason? Proprietary safety technology is too expensive and can very quickly become obsolete. The company added three new stations to the Clermont-Ferrand tram network and used a HIMax controller in the SIL 4 certified signaling system for the extended area. But the biggest benefit is that Colas Rail can now offer an open solution for interlockings, allowing its customers to make their own modifications as needed.

Mobility follows a similar concept. The French transport infrastructure specialists developed their Light Rail Solution (LRS) using COTS components. Not only can this solution be easily adapted to customers’ needs, but it is also easy to install and saves space. Where the old relay technology required a 50m³ control building, the new solution only takes up 2.4m³, meaning it can be installed on train platforms. Mobility is using COTS technology for the ongoing extension to Nice’s tramways, as well as for Luxembourg’s new city trams.

Fast-Track to Market

Of course, signaling systems are not the only application for COTS products. SafeinTrain, a German company that specializes in rail safety software and embedded systems, used HIMA COTS technology to develop a train control and management system. Time to market was the crucial factor in this project, and pre-certified HIMA systems enabled the company to deliver on time despite tight deadlines. The customer, Polish tram manufacturer Solaris Bus & Coach, has already deployed the safety solution in a number of its trams. It keeps trams and passengers safe by monitoring drive systems and preventing unintentional roll-back.

Scaling Up for Success

Scalability is one of the biggest drivers behind COTS components: at least for Austrian company RDCS Informationstechnologie. The rail-specialized systems integrator uses HIMA COTS hardware and software components in its rail traffic management system as well as its ILOCK-RC interlocking system. Thanks to a modular architecture, the solution can be scaled up easily – but it is also a key driver in digitization. By laying fiber-optic cables along the tracks, railway companies can use the ILOCK-RC system to replace physical interlockings with virtual ones. Controllers are decentralized, and functions are defined using software instead of hardware. This concept has already been successfully implemented by Kazakhstan’s national railway company.

Our COTS expedition doesn’t end there. Read the second article in this two-part series to discover more successful projects at the other end of the world.