Cisco IOx: Real World Benefits

February 17, 2014 - 4 Comments

IoT Railway SystemsIn my previous blog I have attempted to describe some of the distributed computing and data processing challenges that have to be solved in order to release the full potential and value from the Internet of Things, and how Cisco is addressing these challenges by enabling a Fog computing model via Cisco IOx. Let’s now review some real world scenarios where benefits from the application enablement capabilities I have described can have a measurable and relevant impact on everyday life and business.


Whether it’s a passenger train in a bustling city or a freight train slithering through the mountainside, news of derailment is a tragic story. You may have heard about the fatal train accident in New York City’s Bronx or the recent incident in Philadelphia where a train hauling crude oil was dangling over a river. The US federal government has seen more oil spilled in rail incidents in 2013 than was spilled in the nearly four decades since it began collecting data. The demand for preventative measures is greater than ever.

Train derailment is typically due to equipment failure, specifically in the ball bearings of a wheel. Today, train operators have routine schedules to swap out wheels and engines without fully knowing if the equipment is used beyond repair. Or in worse case scenarios, damaged equipment is not replaced in time to prevent failure and accidents. In addition to performance, train operators face fierce competition from alternative transportation providers and must find ways to offer better amenities and services to retain and attract new passengers.

With Cisco IOx, an 819 router sitting on a freight train can monitor the ball-bearings and monitor the utility of bearing to let you know if its overheating or has worn down to a lower-threshold of useful material. An alert can be sent to the train operator notifying him to pull over at the next available station or to stop and repair the wheel.


Take for example today’s city infrastructure and its design for public health and safety. When an ambulance is dispatched to respond to a crisis, it relies on GPS and a little bit of luck to get to the patient as quickly as possible. In crowded cities, congestion often delays the emergency vehicle from reaching its destination. Even though established laws would allow a vehicle from entering a busy intersection to make room for an ambulance—and in we all know that in those situations every minute can be the difference between life or death – the drivers may not be able to do it because they are stuck in place behind other drivers or confused about where to move to to make room for the emergency vehicle.

A connected smart city can ensure timely response to a crisis. IOx-enabled cameras detecting emergency vehicle lights can trigger traffic signals connected and move congestion out of the way and allow the ambulance or fire truck to safely and quickly reach its destination. Connected street lights and parking meters connected via IOx-enabled routers also offer a way for cities to improve energy consumption and collect fines from parking violators; this will reduce costs to power the city and bring in more revenue.


If oil companies are not stressing over potential spills from train derailments, they fear the damage and lost revenue from a major pipeline spill. In some parts of the world, oil pipelines stretch across thousands of kilometers carrying hundreds of thousands barrels of oil per day. Today, pipeline leaks are discovered days after the initial spill and only because someone in a nearby community complains about a foul odor in the air.

Pipelines aren’t the only things suffering from undetected leaks. In recent news, a storage unit at a chemical plant spilled 7,500 gallons of toxic substance into the ground, leaving 300,000 West Virginia residents without usable water for days.

Cisco IOx offers a way to deploy data aggregation and other critical applications across those thousands of kilometers of oil pipelines. Sensors can monitor pressure measurements, flow rates, or video footage of the surrounding area. If pressure were to drop or if the video captures fluid pooling on the ground, commands can be sent right on the pipeline to slow down the pumping of oil and send an alert to dispatch the closest maintenance crew.

These are three of many examples we’ve heard from our customers and we believe that they can overcome these challenges by connecting their trains, traffic lights, or pipeline sensors to the network. These companies need more than the ability to connect, they need a way to manage and analyze the terabytes of data and send commands in response to critical alerts.  They need this without compromising the speed of sending the commands or adding significant costs to move the data around the network. This requires a new way in how data is computed and stored. This requires Cisco IOx.



And now, a quick preview OSIsoft – one of the first Cisco Developers to embrace the new Cisco IoX platform with the PI solution to provide solutions to utilities as well as oil and gas companies.


NOTE: If you liked this blog you may also like:

Cisco IOx: An Application Enablement Framework for the Internet of Things
IOx at Distributech: An Open Framework for the Internet of Things
Charting a New Course
Business News: Increasing Business Investments and IT Opportunities
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  1. Thanks for your comments Ralf, this is just one of the many use cases where adding intelligence at the edge can help to make things work better. The combination of systems dedicated to check the health of the moving parts of a train with other applications that would allow to sync maintenance operations and automate support and logistics will mean a sea of change on the Internet of Things.

  2. Great achievement!

    I got first time really curious about this automatic back in 2008 when the Deutsche Bahn AG had difficulty time with their ICE fleet, and severe rolling wheels issues. That was overcome to check rolling-material more regularly than planned, which led to scheduling problems, missing trains, and a not small amount of spent money on physical labor (checking the material).

    Actually there is (to my knowledge) a patent here in Dresden that would enable automatic checking of the conditions of the wheels itself during in action (learned about that also in 2008 during conversations with relevant persons in the field).

    Very much looking forward to hearing more about IOx in European rail systems.

  3. Great work indeed! I like the work done by author, keep it up.
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