Electrical & Computer Engineering, Department of


Date of this Version

Spring 4-18-2013


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Telecommunications Engineering, Under the Supervision of Professor Hamid R. Sharif-Kashani. Lincoln, Nebraska: May 2013.

Copyright 2013 Sushanta Mohan Rakshit.


The safety of rail transport has always been the top priority for the Federal
Railroad Administration (FRA). Legacy technology, like wayside monitoring, is still
in place and is largely relied upon for detection of faults. Modern technology like
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) has been introduced recently. However, this
is largely used to detect a particular railcar rather than to monitor it for problems.
Wireless Sensor Network (WSN) technology is being evaluated by the railroads for real-time or near real-time monitoring of the status of railcars for timely response to problems and also for trend analysis.

ZigBee has been the networking protocol of choice for the railroads for its low
power consumption and cost of implementation. The railroad scenario presents a long linear-chain like network topology which ZigBee was not designed to handle. It has been found that a ZigBee-only network in the railroad environment suffers from drawbacks like long synchronization delays, severe problems with route discovery and maintenance, aggregation of data errors leading to unacceptable packet loss rates, lack of a mechanism to decide traffic priority for critical packets, like alarm, so that they can reliably traverse the network to the collecting node in the locomotive etc.

Hybrid Technology Networking (HTN) protocol has been suggested which
addresses the shortcomings of ZigBee in the railroad scenario. It proposes a
standards-based multi-protocol approach that is well-suited for the railroad scenario. The current crop of sensor platforms does not provide an integrated environment for the implementation of HTN.

In this research work an integrated hardware platform for the implementation
of the HTN protocol is designed and implemented. The guiding principle has been the adherence to standards. The test results using the hardware show that it provides inter-operability with available sensor platforms, can interface with other sensing hardware using standard protocols and provides communication capabilities exceeding that needed by HTN.

Advisor: Hamid R. Sharif-Kashani