McLaren Applied brings 5G connectivity to Network Rail

5G connectivity is a talking point for upcoming electric vehicles (EVs) across the globe, but how will McLaren Applied use it to optimise Network Rail?

Based in Woking, UK, McLaren Applied is the innovation and research arm of the McLaren business that brings pioneering technologies and components to its racing and consumer cars. 

Earlier this year, the company announced the latest test of the company’s innovation capabilities, Formula E entry, but now McLaren Applied is working on something a little different from its usual automotive escapades. 

The McLaren Applied team has been tasked by Network Rail, a leading rail operator in the UK, to implement 5G connectivity and future-proof rail infrastructure and fleets across the nation. 

Previously used by Formula 1, McLaren Applied will supply its patented Fleet Connect software, which is already leveraged by multiple fleet operations across the globe, enabling high-speed passenger Wi-Fi connectivity and operator uplinks. 

“The innovative solution proposed by McLaren Applied to secure this contract is the perfect illustration of how our work at the cutting-edge of motorsport can directly translate into game-changing solutions for transport,” says Samir Maha, Chief Operating Officer at McLaren Applied.

5G connectivity links train to track 

The first port of call for the company is to install its Active Antenna technology that simplest the on-train infrastructure for connected services. 

Maha says: “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. We look forward to working with Network Rail to deliver fast, reliable connectivity for its hard-working fleet across Great Britain.”

The company will use components from the industry-leading company, Huber+Suhner, with an edge compute module, modem, and electronic SIM embedded into the antenna, which will be connected via a single ethernet connection. This solution, according to Jason Saxon, Director Asset Information at Network Rail, will allow the organisation to gather more data and use it to its advantage. 

“Gathering accurate data, in a timely manner across the whole network, is extremely important for the safe and smooth operation of the railway. 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,” says Saxon. 

The antenna will be connected to a network of 30,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts, as well as 20,000 miles of signals and level crossings will create a more compatible solution through live streams of data. The aim of the solution is to assess track conditions and manage downtime based on the journey ahead.

"It's appropriate to see electrification and the move towards low carbon transportation as a means of technological advancement," says Pablo Garcia, Director, Connected Intelligence at McLaren Applied.

"As a driver or passenger in any form of electrified vehicle, you feel like you're experiencing the cutting-edge of engineering and technology. As such, you'd also expect the best available levels of connectivity. We would love to see our 5G edge connectivity platform rolled out across other modes of clean transportation, and are actively working on making this happen. Our 5G Edge Active Antennas eliminate the need of extra hardware and weight in the trains, consequently saving energy consumption and helping rail decarbonisation.