Directing traffic smartly.

01/09/2019

In the 17th century, Captain Frans Banninck Cocq, the central figure in Rembrandt’s masterpiece `The Night Watch’ (housed at the Rijksmuseum, pictured above) provided safety and security in Amsterdam. Today, the city relies on the Verkeer en Openbare Ruimte to ensure safe navigation through the busy streets. (See reproduction of the famous picture at bottom of this article)

Amsterdam is the largest city in the Netherlands, with a population of 2.4 million. The city is also one of Europe’s leading tourist destinations, attracting around 6 million people a year. Amsterdam’s oldest quarter, the medieval centre, is very small and has an incredibly complex infrastructure, with roads, tunnels, trams, metro, canals and thousands of bicycles. This creates one of the world’s most challenging traffic management environments, which the office for Traffic and Public Space (Verkeer en Openbare Ruimte) meets through vision, action and modern technology. This is typified by the new intelligent data communications network being installed to support the city’s traffic control system, for which they have selected advanced Ethernet switching and routing technology from Westermo.

In 2015, the municipality of Amsterdam created its own team that was responsible for the development and operation of the data communication network that supports the Intelligent Traffic Systems (ITS) in the city. Previously, this was managed by an external partner, but due to rising costs, and increasing performance and cybersecurity requirements, it was decided the best way forward was to take back full responsibility for the network.

Eric Bish, Senior Systems and Management Engineer and Project Manager and Albert Scholten, System and Management Engineer, were two key members of this team responsible for the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) systems for traffic control in Amsterdam.

Albert Scholten

“The existing communications network supporting the traffic control system had served us well for many years, but it had become outdated and the daily costs to maintain the leased line copper network was very high. With the challenges the city faced going forward, we needed to modernise our systems,” said Scholten.

“The old network was mostly based on analogue modems, multi-drop-modems, xDSL extenders and 3G routers from Westermo,” explained Bish. “These devices have proved to be very reliable, so when we started to look at the requirements for the new system, Westermo technology was given serious consideration.”

Project planning
“We worked closely with Axians, our supplier of network services, and Modelec Data Industrie, the distributor of Westermo products in the Netherlands. The collaboration between the three parties was essential to the success of the project. Modelec Data Industrie are very knowledgeable about industrial data communications and during constructive discussions regarding the system requirements they suggested that Westermo technologies would be a good choice for building a robust and reliable network for the future.

“From our meetings a roadmap was established. Our long-term plan is largely based on having a fibre optic infrastructure managed by Westermo Lynx and RedFox Ethernet switches. However, installing new cables is a costly and time-consuming process, so where existing fibre optic cabling is not already available, we have found the Westermo Wolverine Ethernet Extender to be extremely useful. This device allows us to create reliable, high speed, fully managed network solutions using the existing copper cables linking the traffic light systems. For remote connections, between the edge networks and the control centre, we have used Westermo MRD 4G cellular routers, which offer a redundant SIM option and simplifies the process of setting up IPSEC VPN’s.”

Equipment testing

Eric Bish

Before a large-scale implementation of the new system could begin, the Lynx switches and Wolverine Ethernet Extenders were tested at some of the less critical road junctions. To assess the Westermo MRD 4G cellular routers, a mobile test system was constructed and taken to popular parts of Amsterdam during King’s day, the annual Dutch national holiday and busiest day of the year. Despite the huge crowds swamping the mobile masts, the routers delivered excellent performance.

“Having met our required standards during testing, the Westermo devices were deployed extensively throughout the city and are now providing the data communications for several major traffic control systems. Over 1300 pieces of equipment are currently connected via the new network and with the traffic control systems being constantly upgraded this figure continues to grow.”

Westermo offers a broad range of products suitable for traffic control applications, which has helped us to meet all of our needs for this project. We have found the technology to be robust and reliable. The devices consume very low power, which means they generate little heat. This is important, as the switches are often installed in cramped, unventilated cabinets with other electronics that can be damaged if they get too hot.

“The Westermo Lynx switch is very versatile, offering an array of smart features and network connections. For example, the SFP option gave us the ability to easily switch between copper and fiber wiring, while the serial port enabled connection to legacy traffic light systems. The option to perform text-based configuration from a console port has supported our need for fine granular control and rapid mass deployment of devices. Every device received a consistent configuration, but we had the flexibility to adjust the configuration of specific devices, where required. This functionality has enabled us to install all the devices in a little over 12 months. This helped us to make significant savings because the costly leased lines to the datacenter could be terminated sooner.

Network capability
“While we were installing the new network, we needed to retain the old system and move the functionality across gradually. However, with the cost of maintaining the old leased line copper network was so high, we wanted the new network to be very simple and fast to implement. We started with a classic layer-2 approach, consisting of an MRD router and up to six Lynx switches or Line Extenders connected to it. Every Traffic Light Controller was then connected to a Line Extender or switch, depending on the existing cabling in place.

However, because it is difficult, time consuming and costly to install and maintain a data network of this size within a city such as Amsterdam, we knew the new network would eventually have to be able to support more than just the traffic light systems. In fact, it must support camera surveillance, traffic information systems, automatic number plate recognition camera and even public lighting systems. Critically, these other applications must be isolated from each other for security purposes, while changes or additions to the network must also be simple to achieve.

“Efficient use of the cable infrastructure is therefore critical, which is why we selected switches with layer 3 functionality at the start of the project. This enabled us to create a layer-3 network design. A clever combination of OSPF routing, local firewalling and layer-2 and layer-3 features has yielded a very flexible, secure and redundant gateway network design. The network is now sufficiently resilient to withstand common issues, such as cable damage and power outages.

“Using the Westermo Redfox switches, we will soon couple our updated network to the fiber optic rings used to control the city’s metro lines. This will provide fully redundant gigabit connections to our datacenter for many of our surveillance cameras and traffic systems.

“Using Westermo technology we have built a robust and reliable networking solution that will last for a long time. The technology offers the functionality we need to modernise the network and enable us to make quick system upgrades over the lifecycle of the system,” Bish added. “As far as we are aware, this is the most advanced network infrastructure in place in The Netherlands and to date the solution has performed flawlessly. We expect that within five years the industrial network will cover the whole of Amsterdam and its surrounding areas and this will almost completely rely on gigabit fiber links, with only a handful 4G connections still required.”

 

Use case 1: Traffic light control
There are several hundred traffic light systems throughout Amsterdam. These work autonomously, but can also be controlled centrally, which is one of the most critical tasks for the city’s department for traffic and public space. In the event of traffic congestion, traffic control centre operators can manage the flow of traffic and if necessary, reroute traffic to less crowded roads.

The traffic light control systems interconnect several traffic lights. The infrastructure connecting the traffic lights is a mix of existing copper cables and new fibre cables. However, in order to connect a string of traffic lights back to the control room, the city has been relying on leased lines. This solution is not only expensive, costing around EUR 2 million per year, but also does not provide the reliability required for a system of this magnitude. The savings made as a result of replacing the leased lines with the Westermo cellular routers is estimated to cover the cost of the network upgrade project within just three years.

Use case 2: Environmental Zone Enforcement
An environmental zone has been established in the central part of Amsterdam with the aim of decreasing pollution from motor vehicles. Vehicles that are not environmentally friendly are prohibited to enter the `green zone’ and automatic number plate recognition cameras have been installed to ensure that the restriction is followed by motorists. Approximately 80 control points have been established at the entrances to the city to monitor about three million cars every day. Between one and five ANPR cameras automatically read the vehicle registration numbers as they pass the control points. The photos are processed inside the camera, converted into simple text information and sent to the control centre through a secure encrypted IPSec VPN tunnel using the MRD 4G cellular router. The City of Amsterdam plan to participate in the European C-ITS smart traffic project, which will allow real-time traffic optimisation. This will mean that there will be a requirement for more bandwidth and lower latency so in time, the mobile connections will be replaced with a fibre optic network, using for example the Lynx and RedFox switches.

Use case 3: Traffic observation and situation assessment
The Amsterdam traffic is continuously monitored from the control centre to help operators maintain the flow of traffic, reduce congestion and minimise the risk of accidents. Operators make decisions based on the information provided by hundreds of cameras installed across the city. Many of the regular surveillance cameras are connected to the network via Westermo switches. The real-time video feed from the ANPR cameras can also be viewed for traffic controlling purposes. These are connected to the control room using Westermo MRD 4G cellular routers, which provide secure IPSec encrypted VPN tunnels. When traffic congestion occurs, the traffic control managers are permitted to disable the environmental monitoring system and activate predefined scenarios that reroutes the traffic to dissolve the congestion.

De Nachtwacht (The Night Watch)

@westermo @hhc_lewis #Netherlands

Robust and reliable data communications support in Czech mining enterprise.

27/02/2018

In times of increasing digitisation of industrial processes, the importance of robust and reliable data communications is becoming more evident. The communication network is often critical to operations and failure to get data from A to B can have serious impact on production. Data networks supporting monitoring and control systems within mining applications require a special kind of robustness. Not only do the operating conditions include fluctuating temperatures, dust and dirt, but there is also constant vibration, which is extremely tough on network devices and cables.

The Vršany Lom brown coal surface quarry is using Westermo Lynx Switches and Wolverine Ethernet extenders to make up its entire data communications network.

The sheer size of an open-pit mine makes it difficult to maintain a data network and the need to constantly move mining equipment puts a considerable stress on the network cables.

Monitoring from the control room.

At Vršany Lom, one of the largest mines in the Czech Republic, all of these challenges have been overcome with the implementation of robust industrial networking technology from Westermo. Vršany Lom is a brown coal surface quarry located in the North Bohemian coal basin near the town of Most. The site is mined by Vršanská uhelná a.s., which is a part of the Sev.en group, a major European mining company responsible for the largest coal reserves in the Czech Republic.

Over the course of an eight-year period, Marek Hudský, chief technical engineer at Vršanská uhelná a.s., has strived to create the perfect monitoring and control system and supporting data communications network.

“The communications network is my responsibility and something I have designed, built and improved over many years,” explains Marek. “The continuous improvements have made a massive impact to overall production. The average time to transport the coal from the mine to the collection site has been reduced from 25 minutes to less than four minutes. On an annual basis this adds up to an extra month’s worth of production.

Control of the bucket wheel excavator is performed by the operator, but the communications network enables operation to be monitored from the central control room.

“This significant improvement has been achieved by reducing network downtime, which previously was very common and required many hours of maintenance. Today, interruptions to production due to network issues are rare.”

The Vršany Lom open-pit quarry covers an enormous area and mining takes place at several locations simultaneously. The coal is extracted using large bucket wheel excavators and loaded onto kilometer long conveyor belts that transport it to the collection site. Some sections of the conveyors are permanently positioned, whilst others are moved as the digging location changes.

Conveyor belts stretching out over many kilometers transport coal to a central collection point. The data communication cables are installed along the conveyors, connecting monitoring and control equipment for the excavators and conveyors to the control room.

The entire network is now running entirely on Westermo WeOS-powered devices, consisting of 60 Westermo Lynx switches and 40 Wolverine Ethernet extenders. The data communication equipment and cabling are installed along the conveyor belts. This connects several hundred sensors that provide critical operational data to the central SCADA system, which helps to ensure safe and effective mining. Fibre optic cables are located inside the permanent conveyors, with the Lynx switches installed in substations at set points along the conveyor belts. The fibre network is configured in a ring topology with Westermo’s FRNT super-fast ring reconfiguration protocol providing network reconfiguration times of less than 20 ms.

“The fibre network works flawlessly. The switches and cables have been in operation for quite a while now and have required very little maintenance,” explains Marek. “The real challenge is the data communication closer to the actual mining. This is where operating conditions are really tough due to continuous vibration and electromagnetic interference from the machines. Also, because the equipment needs to be constantly moved this exposes the cabling to constant wear and tear.

“We have been familiar with Westermo technology since the days of short haul modems. We knew they produced high quality products and when first introduced to the Wolverine Ethernet Extender we were immediately interested. At that point we were using a custom-made communication device, which was not really suitable for a tough mining environment. It caused regular network downtime, maintenance and production standstills, which was a completely unsustainable situation.”

“The first thing that appealed to me about the Wolverine was that was able to provide reliable data communication over regular twisted pair copper cables,” said Marek. “We use copper cables because they can withstand a lot more abuse than fibre before failing, however, when the digging location changes cabling is often bent, cut and sliced, which can reduce the quality of signal. . Despite this we are still able to achieve reliable data communication thanks to the Wolverine device which enables reliable communication even if the copper cabling is not in pristine condition. Secondly, the device had the robust characteristics that are needed to operate reliably in this type of environment. Finally, the Wolverine offered a lot of functionality, such as super-fast ring reconfiguration, LLDP and SNMP that enabled both a very technically advanced and very robust network solution.

“It has been quite a long process of continued improvement to get to where we are right now with the network in terms of functionality and reliability. Last year, I replaced the remaining legacy devices. We are now running the network entirely using Westermo WeOS-powered products and I am very pleased with the overall performance.

“We have always looked for that next improvement that will further strengthen the resilience of the monitoring and control system. By selecting Westermo products and utilising the WeOS operating system to its full capacity, Vršanská uhelná will now see many years of robust and trouble-free data communications.”

@Westermo #PAuto

Switches in critical control networks in petrochem plant!

03/10/2016

unipetrol_rpa_plant_01

Unipetrol is a major refinery and petrochemical company in the Czech Republic. One of the company’s biggest assets is the industrial premises Chempark Záluží which is the largest chemical production facility in the country. The facility is currently the seat of several dozens of important chemical and service companies and is a daily workplace for 6,500 employees from 180 companies.

The part of the plant where Ethylene is produced is particularly important since it is widely used as a component in many other products produced at the plant. A stoppage in the Ethylene production would have enormous economic implications because it would affect the overall production. A complete new network backbone for power control and distribution as well as an upgraded network backbone for the emergency shutdown system has been built with Westermo switches to support the applications in the Ethylene unit.

The communication infrastructure and the systems has been built and implemented by Inelsev, a Czech company that provides services for industrial automation and energetic systems. The decision to use Westermo devices was based on a strong working relationship between Inelsev and Westermo’s Czech distributor.

Pavel Ješina with one of the Westermo RedFox switches.

Pavel Ješina with one of the Westermo RedFox switches.

“This is a plant where reliability is absolutely crucial. The systems are designed to be extremely robust in order to guarantee continuous operation and to protect the plant and the people who work here. In the previous network solution, we used another switch brand that we had to replace. The main reason for that was the network ring recovery time. Whenever the network had to recover, it took so long that connected equipment (OPC servers) would not start up and connect properly. WeOS powered Westermo products, including the ring network protocol FRNT with 20 ms recovery time, was a perfect fit. Extremely fast, robust and easy to use,” said Pavel Ješina, R&D manager at Inelsev, who has designed and implemented both networks.

The two networks were built in 2011. The emergency shutdown system was an upgrade project where old switches from another brand were replaced with Westermo Lynx switches in a dual ring network topology. The purpose of this network is to shut down the plant in an emergency situation. The power control and distribution network was built as a completely new system and connects 30 substations throughout the plant with a central control room. The network consists of 270 communication devices, over 500 process screens and panels, 13,000 I/O connections and more than 300,000 alarms. The network consists mainly of Lynx L210-F2G and a variety of RedFox industrial switches.

The many combinations of ports and the possibility to mix copper and fibre media was another big driver for selecting Westermo products. “Inside a building we can use regular copper Ethernet cables, but the cables connecting the different buildings must be fibre due to safety legislations,” explained Pavel. “The many models and port combinations in the RedFox Industrial range allowed us to select the ideal product at every location and to prepare for expanding the network in the future.”

Another positive outcome from using Westermo devices is that configuration and maintenance is extremely simple. All managed Westermo devices are powered by the same operating system, WeOS. This means that you will get an identical experience whether you configure a Lynx, RedFox or any other managed Westermo device, regardless of model. It also means that any new functionality added to any new WeOS version will be backwards compatible and available in any previously installed WeOS device. The operating system is designed to be as robust as the hardware. It is made to be simple to use and configure and thoroughly tested in the Westermo software test lab. “I have worked with many different brands of switches and routers, and compared to many others, configuring a Westermo switch is like kindergarten,” said Pavel.

To make configuration and maintenance even simpler, the company also provides WeConfig, a “Made Easy” network configuration management tool designed to simplify both the initial configuration and network commissioning which can be performed much quicker than before and over the lifetime of a network hundreds of man hours can be saved. “I use WeConfig for upgrading the Westermo devices when a new firmware upgrade is made available. The tool makes upgrades simple and hassle free and I can access all units from one central point and automated updates are performed swiftly and securely. I am excited to start experimenting more with WeConfig when we expand our network.

“We have created a straightforward, robust and reliable network solution. This is exactly what is needed here and the Westermo units have been working flawlessly since they were installed. The products are easy to use and I would not hesitate to select Westermo products for another application where the same type of requirements are needed,” he concluded.

 @westermo_global #CzechR #PAuto