Universidad de Alcalá-OTRI

Method and system to improve the ASFA Digital system incorporating virtual ASFA beacons

Posted by Universidad de Alcalá-OTRIResponsive · Patents for licensing · Spain

Summary of the technology

Geintra Spanish research group from the Department of Electronics of Alcala University has developed a process and system to improve the performance of ASFA Digital system, through the inclusion of virtual ASFA beacons, which replace or supplement the information of the physical ASFA beacons. The virtual beacons allow monitoring temporary speed restrictions even in the absence of physical ASFA beacons. The group is looking for companies in the railway sector to reach licensing agreements or collaboration and commercial agreements for technical assistance.

Universidad de Alcalá-OTRI

New and innovative aspects

It Include virtual ASFA beacons which replace or supplement the information of physical ASFA beacons located in the rail track, and especially those of temporary speed restrictions (LTV).

Main advantages of its use

- The system increases the railway transport safety significantly.

- It gives accurate and updated information, at all times, that enables proper supervision of trains speed, depending on the signs and on particular conditions of each section, etc.

- Clearing potentially dangerous situations that may occur in the train circulation. In fact a large percentage of train accidents occur due to a detection fault of physical ASFA LTV beacons in track.

-  It allows the detection of defective ASFA beacons  and thus better maintenance of rail infrastructure, going from a corrective maintenance (once the fault occurred) to a predictive maintenance (based on the monitoring of certain characteristic parameters, to predict when the beacons will fail).

- The response time from breakdowns is reduced dramatically, it automates various processes related to operating of railway vehicles.

- The solution proposed in this patent is 100% compatible with the current ASFA Digital equipment. This solution allows to insert new functionalities in current ASFA Digital systems.


The ASFA Digital (Automatic Braking and Announcement of Signals) is a train driving assistance system which provides information to the driver about the pathway safety signs (from the detection of an electromagnetic physically ASFA beacons located between the rails pathway). It also oversees the actions of the driver, the maximum train speed and the profile of the braking curve. If the train exceeds the speed limit or the driver does not perform the recognition of certain signals, the ASFA Digital board equipment requests the emergency brake application automatically.

Currently there is a big threat in the train/track interaction regarding to the detection by the onboard equipment of physical ASFA beacons of the rail track, and therefore in the determination of security control to run at every times by the onboard ASFA Digital system. This threat consist of the loss or non-detection of physical ASFA beacons along the way, which can occur for many reasons, such as a coupling fault, the ASFA beacons theft, erroneous frequency detection, etc. The ASFA Digital system is not capable of solving those threats by itself. The system proposed in this patent allows incorporating new features to existing ASFA Digital which can mitigate those threats, exploiting the possibilities offered by global positioning systems (GPS) and new technologies Wimax, 3G, GSMR and Wifi  [Arroyo, Fernandez, 2003] for a wireless data transmission.

The invention described herein consists of four parts: These parts support the performance improvement offered by the ASFA Digital system.

- Firstly, virtual ASFA beacons are generated to replace or supplement the information in the physical ASFA beacons in the tracks, allowing the execution of Restriction Temporary Speed controls (LTV) and speed control on the associated track sections, without the installation of new physical ASFA beacons in the tracks or even with the presence of these for failure detections.

- Secondly, a digital map of maximum speed for every section is provided in the train. In most of the controls, these speeds are constant and they are associated with the established control, but some LTV have variable limits.

- Thirdly, a Geographic Information System (GIS) of physical ASFA beacons in the track indicating its geographical position on the rail track and their operational state is created. The GIS can be located in different facilities of the ground infrastructure (CTCs, CRCs, stations, etc.). Within each GIS two large blocks of information, one concerning the ASFA beacons which indicates Temporary Speed ​​Restriction (LTV) and another for the rest of the ASFA beacons are contemplated. Updating information in the GIS of the ASFA beacons indicating Temporary Speed ​​Restriction (LTV) will be made by the managers of the railway infrastructure, and the updating of the rest of ASFA beacons will be made from the information obtained by the onboard unit. To achieve this specific goal a Downloading and Communications Management System (using Wimax / 3G / GSM / GPRS or Wifi technologies) is used between OBU and GIS. It is also contemplated the Security Control of any of the processes involved in the incorporation of new units in ASFA beacons, beacon appearance, etc, of the rail track.

- Fourthly, the current ASFA Digital systems are improved with the incorporation of all the possibilities offered by the beacons track profile (map) and the availability and the generation of virtual ASFA beacons replacing the physical ASFA beacons when they are not detected or they are erroneously detected. All this without modifying the existing ASFA Digital onboard, ensuring 100% compatibility


  • Railway sector.
  • Monitoring temporary speed restrictions even in the absence of physical ASFA beacons.

Related keywords

  • Applications for Transport and Logistics
  • Railway Transport
  • Railway Vehicles
  • Other transportation
  • Leasing of railcars, buses, cars, etc.
  • asfa virtual beacons
  • geographic information system (gis)
  • digital map
  • train positioning with gps
  • temporary speed restrictions (ltv)

About Universidad de Alcalá-OTRI

Research & Technology Organization from Spain

The Technology Transfer Office at Alcalá University serves as a liaison between the University and its socioeconomic environment in terms of research and innovation. It encorages collaboration between research groups from universities and companies/institutions, with the objective to promote and commercialize research results and scientific capabilities.

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- Promotion of R & D and improvement of the relationships with companies.
- Promote the participation in R & D projects applicants to public calls (regional, national and European).
- Advising, processing and monitoring of patents and other forms of industrial protection.
- Support in the negotiation of contracts and agreements for R&D&i

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