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Spotlight on WA Public Transport Authority

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Smart Foreign Object Detection

The Public Transport Authority (PTA) recently launched a pilot project in order to find a solution to an ongoing operational issue with their escalators. When an object such as a screw, coin, or other hard object becomes lodged within the end tongs of the escalator, it starts to abrade the aluminium steps and sharpen the top edge of each step until it becomes a safety hazard to users.

The damage and repairs from these incidents would cost up to $100,000 or more per incident, with the PTA experiencing an average of $1.8 million per year in damage of this type.

The challenge in this project was the small window of opportunity to detect the object before the damage to the escalator steps was irreparable and required the escalator to be taken out of service for maintenance, which would significantly inconvenience daily commuters.

The initial scope was to review several sensors to determine which ones provided the best outcome and could then be implemented into a production environment in a cost effective and scalable manner. The initial list for the project included:

• Vibration sensors
• Acoustic sensors
• Video

After testing the system by introducing a variety of obstructions into the escalator, it become apparent that the best way to detect an obstruction was with acoustic sensors. As each step passed the obstruction there was a noticeable sound made, allowing detection of the obstruction within two seconds.

Having identified acoustic sensors as a viable solution, IT Vision are now working with the PTA, Cisco, and Curtin University Innovation Centre to create the device and ruggedized sensor pack for deployment in 30 escalators for an initial production trial.

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