MCLAREN Applied has announced it has won a contract to supply British infrastructure manager Network Rail (NR) with 5G edge connectivity originally developed for Formula 1 (F1) motor racing.

The technology will be used by NR to provide onboard connectivity for its infrastructure monitoring trains, helping with the transmission of data in all sorts of environments to improve operation of the British rail network.

The contract will see the company’s patented F1-derived Fleet Connect software installed on its “first of its kind” Active Antenna hardware. The system will provide high levels of connectivity to ensure high-speed, reliable transmission of crucial data across the varied conditions of Britain’s 32,186km rail network.

McLaren says the technology will provide mobile teams with the ability to quickly and reliably transmit live data streams, including camera feeds and sensor readings for track, lineside foliage and network monitoring to enable NR to make informed engineering and maintenance decisions confidently and quickly.

McLaren Applied’s patented Fleet Connect software is already deployed on transport fleets around the world to facilitate seamless high-speed passenger Wi-Fi connections and operator uplinks (communications channels). Fleet Connect works by splitting data across networks in real time and then reassembling it in the cloud while it is enroute to its destination. This helps to reduce blackspots and provide a consistent connectivity stream for anyone travelling in a moving vehicle in any kind of environment, the company says.

This first use of the Active Antenna technology in Britain. McClaren says it will help to bring a new, simplified approach to on-train connectivity infrastructure. The system works by using Huber+Suhner componentry, an edge compute module, a modem and eSIM capability within the antenna to replace RF cables and routers with a single ethernet connection.

A McLaren image of its Active Antenna system apparatus. Photo credit: McLaren

The combination of these Fleet Connect and Active Antenna systems means that NR’s infrastructure monitoring trains will remain continuously connected to the required communication systems as they travel up and down the country through different types of terrain and varying strengths and formats of coverage by different network providers.

McLaren Applied says that the combination of systems also means that the equipment used can be lighter, faster, more economical and take up less space than alternative solutions on the market, in turn helping the transition of the rail industry to 5G connectivity.

McLaren Applied chief operating officer, Mr Samir Maha, said the contract was a “perfect illustration of how our work at the cutting-edge of motorsport can directly translate into game-changing solutions for transport.”

“By uniting our Formula 1-derived Fleet Connect software and Active Antenna hardware, we have created a turn-key product that is much greater than the sum of its parts,” Maha says.

“Gathering accurate data, in a timely manner across the whole network, is extremely important for the safe and smooth operation of the railway,” says director asset information, Network Rail, Mr Jason Saxon. “Having a system that enables us to transmit critical asset condition data from our infrastructure monitoring fleet will enable us to continue to put passengers and freight first with a safe and reliable railway that they can rely on.”