IT for Transportation Safety

We imagine a future based on a national network that speeds smoothly along. What we don’t imagine is a guy in a truck going out during a snowstorm to examine overhead lines along a track. 

“But these tracks have been in existence since the 1880’s, as have much of the infrastructure. IMpulse NC is changing that,” says Jeff Wharton, Executive VP at IMpulse NC. 

To execute this change, IMpulse has developed IMPro OCS, an smart overhead wire system that uses a wireless alert system to detect obstructions, ice, or vandalism, while sending a text message to managers so they know exactly where to go. IMPro OCS is currently patent pending, and is exclusive to IMpulse NC. 
The notion of a “smart grid” isn’t new. This magazine has reported on the advancements that modernize electricity delivery via implementation of automated technology and two-way communication. In addition to putting the old image of workers sent out to gather data and repair equipment to rest, this also allows for increased cyber-security, as well easier addition of wind energy, solar energy, and even electric vehicles to the grid. While progression marches on in the energy arena, one industry trailblazer seeks to apply this concept to transportation. IMpulse NC, based out of North Carolina, is the first company to work towards a smart transportation system, standing not only to streamline track maintenance, but to promote safety as well.
While IMpulse’s advancements have already earned them a Champion of Change award from the White House, in order to understand the potential impact this could have on the transportation industry, we need to take a look at the current state of transportation grid maintenance. Wharton reminds us that “today, everything is done visually, and is very expensive and non-intuitive.” He also mentions that IMPro OCS also has potential for solar implementation, something not feasible in much of the old infrastructure. As high-speed rail begins to gain traction, Wharton remarks that other aspects of transportation needs to evolve with it. “High speed rail is talking hundreds of miles in city and urban areas, and we need to take the guesswork out of it.”
Currently, IMPro OCS is in use in Los Angeles and Hampton Roads, Virginia, but Wharton hopes to take this technology nationwide, as well as include a wide range of transportation, from commuter rail to electric mining to freight lines. For a company that created the first streetcar system ever in Richmond, Virginia, it sounds like IMpulse NC has plenty of innovations yet to come. 
Video from IMpulse NC