Protecting Critical Systems in Transportation

Critical systems can be found everywhere, not just at obvious locations such as power plants or manufacturing environments. As observed by Praveen Kulkarni of Schneider Electric, one niche where utterly reliable power is required would undoubtedly be the transportation sector, such as the rail system and the airport.


Understanding Critical Systems

Consider the typical railway or mass transit system. For passenger safety and security, each station is typically protected by many scores of security cameras for real-time visual feedback to control stations. Elsewhere, emergency lighting, visual signages, and public address systems are equipment that must not fail. There is also the signalling equipment required by the trains themselves, as well as vital fire detection and suppression equipment required in case of fire.

The picture is similar at the airport. Air traffic control and other management systems for directing air traffic aside, it is arguable that the typical airport has pretty much the same equipment as a train station. Additional systems to consider would be passenger boarding systems, baggage handling and screening systems, and ticketing systems.

As systems in the transportation sector are increasingly digitised and integrated, it becomes important that they are adequately protected from power outages or downtime. The reason is simple: The complexity of the modern mass transit system and airports means that the disruption of one system can easily cascade to impact the safe and smooth operation of the entire train network or airport.

Malaysia - Kuala Lumpur City

Battery Power for Reliability

Protecting critical systems in transportation starts with a robust design and a reliable power grid. But given the impossibility of completely negating all power trips or blackouts, a temporary source of power is hence needed as a fallback. Fortunately, backup power is well-understood, and even the highest power requirements can be met using an “industrial” uninterruptible power supply, or industrial UPS.

Of course, the UPS is hardly an “install and forget” piece of equipment. Much like the batteries found in an internal combustion engine-powered vehicle, the lead-acid batteries found in a standard UPS does degrade over time. And depending on how heavily they are used, they must be replaced every three and five years. This makes it imperative for organisations in the transportation sector to closely monitor the health of their UPS deployments.

  • Battery Management System (BMS): One way to extend battery life is by leveraging a battery management system (BMS) to carefully monitor the status of UPS batteries at the cell level. By protecting against excessive battery discharges and ensuring that each cell is charged to the expected voltage, a BMS can ensure battery longevity while alerting the facility or operations managers of a failing battery.
  • Lithium-ion batteries: One option is to consider the use of lithium-ion batteries. The key appeal lies in the fact that lithium-ion batteries have a far longer life expectancy and can tolerate higher environmental temperatures without the performance degradation common in other types of batteries. You can learn more about the benefits of lithium-ion UPS batteries here.

Ultimately, the industrial UPS is but one piece of the puzzle for delivering reliable power for critical applications. To learn more about what it takes to deliver utterly reliable power, check out Schneider Electric’s UPS offers here.

Article by Bhagwati Prasad, Vice President, Business Development, Secure Power Division, Schneider Electric