Senceive, leading provider of wireless condition monitoring technology for infrastructure protection and asset management, has partnered with the Black Country Innovative Manufacturing Organisation (BCIMO) at its centre in Dudley. 

Since 2005, Senceive has been bringing intelligent wireless condition monitoring in the rail, mining, infrastructure and construction industries. Senceive not only design and manufacture solutions; they also invest in research and development, nurturing a culture of continuous improvement and invention to ensure that the endless possibilities for intelligent monitoring are harnessed and that customer problems are solved.

In the rail sector, wireless condition monitoring can be used to help the industry better understand the attributes and performance of its assets so it can make better decisions, thereby improving the running and efficiency of the railways. Assets include track, earthworks and embankments, and tunnels, bridges, and other structures.

In 2023, Senceive partnered with BCIMO, operators of the Very Light Rail National Innovation Centre (VLRNIC), a unique, world-class centre for rail innovation based in Dudley in the West Midlands, to test their sensor technology in a real-world environment.

The objective was four-fold:

  1.  To evaluate current and new technologies
  2. To test products in new applications
  3. To train staff in the use of products
  4. To demonstrate products to clients
An array of tilt sensors being fitted to track sleepers to asses changes in track geometry
Wireless monitoring solutions can include multiple sensor types. Here an optical displacement sensor is fitted to the tunnel wall, with tilt sensors on the sleepers

The VLRNIC provides the perfect location for this activity, utilising the centre’s Rail Development & Test Site for the testing activity, and its Meeting & Event Spaces for training and demonstrations. It’s this combined offering that really brings the facility into its own, enabling companies to develop, test, demonstrate and commercialise their current and future rail technologies, all from one location.

Another key benefit of using the VLRNIC is its licence exemption from the Office of Road and Rail (ORR). This means that companies can freely access its extensive range of facilities, avoiding the logistical challenges and costs associated with testing on the mainline railway and in multiple locations.

In fact, there’s no other facility like it in the UK!

Solar powered cellular gateways collate sensor data and send it to a cloud-based data portal
Senceive use the facility for training sessions with in-house and external groups

Senceive have installed a range of their sensor products along the Rail Development and Test Site’s 2.2km Rail Test Track, including on the track bed, embankments, and 870m Tunnel. Test and monitoring studies undertaken to date include assessments of:

  • Track geometry, looking at changes such as cant (the amount by which one rail is raised above the other rail) and twist (the difference of the track cant between one point of measurement and another along the track)
  • Track buckle (where the rail expands and starts to curve horizontally). Network Rail is currently working with Senceive on a research project examining the impact of rising temperatures / increased stress on rails and how this affects the likelihood of track buckle. The aim is to improve track buckle detection using automated methods to supplement the current approach which is reliant on watchmen observing track movement.
  • Stability of earthwork slopes.
  • The maximum range from sensor node to communications gateway. A 1km range has been established which means that key elements of the monitoring package can be setup well away from the track, in places that are safer and easier to access and may provide a stronger cellular network signal.
Installing a wireless crack sensor on a bridge abutment
Tilt sensor used to monitor stability of earthwork slope

Discussing the partnership, Dominic Kisz, Head of Product Management at Senceive, said:

“Monitoring technology has evolved significantly over the last 20-25 years; it used to be an insurance policy, whereas now asset managers are using it proactively to manage their assets. Our products are being used on several major projects to safely monitor high-risk assets, providing rich data to inform decision making and mitigate risks. In Sussex and Wessex alone, Network Rail have more than 40km of track being monitored, so the scale of monitoring technology rollout is rapidly scaling up.

“There is a movement towards installing sensors at the design stage, creating ‘intelligent infrastructure’ as a better way to extend asset life. We are excited about promoting an understanding of the wider value of this.”

Dominic added: “We have a growing roadmap of innovation requiring development, test and demonstration activity and the VLRNIC provides the perfect location for this. We’ve been both impressed and really pleased since setting out on this journey with BCIMO. They have been very accommodating to our requests and across our business; all who’ve attended have been thoroughly impressed with the facility. We really see a long-term partnership with the team and want to continue to build on this.”

For more information on wireless condition monitoring visit the Senceive website.

For more information on the VLRNIC please visit the BCIMO website or Contact Us to make an enquiry.

BCIMO is a not-for-profit Research and Technology Organisation (RTO) and operator of the Very Light Rail National Innovation Centre (VLRNIC), a unique, world-class centre for rail innovation based in Dudley in the West Midlands.

BCIMO Project Funders

Very Light Rail National Innovation Centre
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