Help Building an IoT Train Detector

Hello wonderful members of the RAK community! :wave: I live in the US near a railroad and I’m interested in building (or buying an existing solution) an IoT device to detect when a train is approaching. Please note that I have no IoT/sensor experience, so please go easy on me! :grimacing:

I intend to place the device near the train tracks roughly 3 miles from my home (outside) and would like the device to last 3+ years either via battery or battery + solar combination. As I’ll be unable to provide adequate LoRa coverage, I’ll probably need a cellular based solution (perhaps LTE-M or NB-IoT).

The WisBlock Lego-style IoT offering appeals to me as I know absolutely nothing about electronics (however, I can code).

Here is the RAX WisBlock parts list I’m considering so far (sorry for the junk links :cry: - new users can only have 2 links in a post):

  • Waterproof case w/ built-in solar panel
  • Base board: store.rakwireless [dot] com/products/rak19007-wisblock-base-board-2nd-gen
    • The waterproof case is specifically designed to accommodate this board.
  • ESP32 compute module: store.rakwireless [dot] com/products/wiscore-esp32-module-rak11200
  • NB-IoT + LTE-M cellular module: store.rakwireless [dot] com/products/rak5860-lte-nb-iot-extension-board

Here are some questions I have:

  1. I’m interested to know what sensor (RAX WisBlock Sensors) I should use to detect a passing train (a vibration detector? an accelerometer? a microphone [RAK18032]? an earthquake sensor [RAK12027]?). I’m leaning towards the microphone as the train is pretty loud (hopefully easy to detect) and that will avoid the need to mount anything to the train tracks themselves. However, I don’t know how much battery that approach will use. I’m not sure how sensitive the vibration/accelerometer sensors are - it is unclear to me if they would be able to detect a passing train if not mounted to the tracks.
  2. Is it realistic to expect that I could deploy something that would last 3+ years for this application?

Feel free to share any of your own ideas/considerations for how you’d address this use case. Thanks for any insights you can provide! :smiley:

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Welcome to RAK forum @poltj18 ,

I have no experience on creating anything related to train detection so what I will suggest or say is not a train detection professional advise.

Possible sensors:

  1. Ultrasonic (the train is huge and will surely be able to detect)
  2. Microphone (it is noisy as you mentioned)
  3. Accelerometer (there will be vibrations as it passes thru)

All these can possibly work but few things to consider:

  1. Mechanical stability due to vibrations.
  2. Power consumption (accelerometer based solution might be the best for this)
  3. Maybe consider fusing more than one sensor.

Btw, we will launch a new Cellular product that will be focused on US Cellular market. It might be a good option for you if you will decide to use Cellular instead of LoRaWAN.

Hi @poltj18 , the vibrations sensor is a good solution. It is useful and saves energy. Rak node can go to deep sleep and the vibrations sensor wakes up if have train.
I have a device available, RAK3172 inside. Case IP65, one cell 18650 supports the solar charge.
You can contact me [email protected]
Whatsapp: +84969809444

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Not sure the Railroad Police or the rail company would approve you placing unauthorized devices on or near their tracks. You would need to stay off the railroads right-of-way or you could possibly face charges.