Garden Railways and the Internet of Things (IOT)

M

Michael

Registered
26 Jan 2010
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5
I was wondering when manufacturers were going to wake up and start using IOT type technology for controlling Garden Railway trains. The concept is simple, each device (loco, station, points controller etc.) has a microcomputer module (like ESP8266/ESP32) that connects to a network. It then uses a standard protocol for receiving and sending commands.

Something like this that is designed for indoor scale layouts:

LocoFi | The Future of Model Railroading

Just requires adapting for large scale railways, add battery support, a handheld controller (with potentiometer) rather than using a smartphone and develop a new open-source protocol. Simple :)

What are your thoughts and ideas?
 
idlemarvel

idlemarvel

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13 Jul 2015
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You can already connect locos and points over a network if you wanted to, the issue is providing the necessary power to where it is needed. IoT does not fix that AFAIK.
 
David1226

David1226

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24 Oct 2009
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Keep it simple is my motto

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David
 
Madman

Madman

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25 Oct 2009
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Lionel "O" gauge has Lionchief and LionchiefPlus. It's been around for maybe five or six years. Basically it's all of those higher tech systems made simple. Each locomotive comes with it's own dedicated transmitter. However, the same type and road name loco all have the same transmitter. In other words, a series of Reading GP-7s, for instance, are manufactured with a transmitter that has the exact same frequency.

Let Lionel explain it.

 
PhilP

PhilP

G Scale, 7/8th's, Electronics
5 Jun 2013
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Grrr!
It's The Internet.. We connect things to it. - Have done for years! Doesn't need anything we have not already got.

If only the NMRA had adopted a proper, robust communications protocol in the first place.. :nerd::think:

You can use Wifi, ethernet, IP, the whole seven-layer model.. It just needs the upper levels to talk to your application.
But as has been said.. Whatever you use, it needs power.
 
Rhinochugger

Rhinochugger

Retired Oik
27 Oct 2009
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213
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Grrr!
It's The Internet.. We connect things to it. - Have done for years! Doesn't need anything we have not already got.

If only the NMRA had adopted a proper, robust communications protocol in the first place.. :nerd::think:

You can use Wifi, ethernet, IP, the whole seven-layer model.. It just needs the upper levels to talk to your application.
But as has been said.. Whatever you use, it needs power.
This sounds promising, it means that I can control your garden railway from my garden >:)>:)>:)>:)>:)
 
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Paul M

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25 Oct 2016
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This sounds promising, it means that I can control your garden railway from my garden >:)>:)>:)>:)>:)
True, but it also means Google can see what you're up to
 
Rhinochugger

Rhinochugger

Retired Oik
27 Oct 2009
24,275
213
North West Norfolk
True, but it also means Google can see what you're up to
Google might think it wants to see what I'm up to, but is anybody else really interested

118479_ee94c8784c62d346e5712702d37cb2a6.png
 
Greg Elmassian

Greg Elmassian

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Remember that most IOT things are low speed data, and not a lot of it. Now you want real-time control of your trains with minimum delay, and nice long range (meaning more expensive electronics)....

So, as usual more money... so that is why all our trains are not IOT...

Greg
 
M

Michael

Registered
26 Jan 2010
71
5
Perhaps a confusing thread title. By the Internet Of Things I mean:

"The Internet of things is the network of devices such as vehicles, and home appliances that contain electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and connectivity which allows these things to connect, interact and exchange data. Wikipedia"

The data exchange would be confined to your local network or even a separate Garden Railway network.

Remember that most IOT things are low speed data, and not a lot of it. Now you want real-time control of your trains with minimum delay, and nice long range (meaning more expensive electronics)....

So, as usual more money... so that is why all our trains are not IOT...

Greg
Not from my experience. I'm using an £18 router which gives me more than adequate wi-fi coverage throughout my largish garden (by UK standards) and control is virtually instantaneous. The control board in each loco has a component cost of less than £20.
 
Gavin Sowry

Gavin Sowry

Garden Railroader and Raconteur
27 Oct 2009
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Greg Elmassian

Greg Elmassian

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Yes, I know the "control board" is less than 20 pounds... and that is just basic motor control, no sound of any quality etc.

Sure I could add a 20 pound board to each of my 40-60 locos (lost count), but they each have a $200 board in them already, and I can control my locos with very sophisticated commands and they have 12 lighting outputs with many features, that can be modulated, programmed to direction, etc. Oh, they have 32 channel stereo sound too.

Once you duplicate a $200 Zimo/ESU/Massoth decoder fully for 20 pounds, let me know, I'll be sending you a plane ticket to upgrade all my locos. :)

Simple to throw the IOT phrase around, just like cellular's "5G"...

bottom line in life: you can do things cheaply, or you can do them very well, but rarely at the same time.

When you can make a mercedes S class for the price of a fiat 500, you will probably have a IOT device in every car and locomotive.

These train people (manufacturers) cannot make money from the commodity market, they are making money from added value. They surely will not make money selling you arduino boards that are selling to the public in million piece quantity prices.

The added value is in the software and some of the specialized hardware developed for this market, and it's not in the millions by any stretch of the imagination.


Greg (the plane ticket offer is real)
 
dunnyrail

dunnyrail

DOGS, Garden Railways, Steam Trains, Jive Dancing,
25 Oct 2009
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Not sure that I would want to turn my Trains on to start running when on the Train coming home, might scare the dog!
 
M

Michael

Registered
26 Jan 2010
71
5
Yes, I know the "control board" is less than 20 pounds... and that is just basic motor control, no sound of any quality etc.

Sure I could add a 20 pound board to each of my 40-60 locos (lost count), but they each have a $200 board in them already, and I can control my locos with very sophisticated commands and they have 12 lighting outputs with many features, that can be modulated, programmed to direction, etc. Oh, they have 32 channel stereo sound too.

Once you duplicate a $200 Zimo/ESU/Massoth decoder fully for 20 pounds, let me know, I'll be sending you a plane ticket to upgrade all my locos. :)

Simple to throw the IOT phrase around, just like cellular's "5G"...

bottom line in life: you can do things cheaply, or you can do them very well, but rarely at the same time.

When you can make a mercedes S class for the price of a fiat 500, you will probably have a IOT device in every car and locomotive.

These train people (manufacturers) cannot make money from the commodity market, they are making money from added value. They surely will not make money selling you arduino boards that are selling to the public in million piece quantity prices.

The added value is in the software and some of the specialized hardware developed for this market, and it's not in the millions by any stretch of the imagination.


Greg (the plane ticket offer is real)
Pointless replying, it would just become a slanging match. Thanks for ruining the thread for everyone.
 
idlemarvel

idlemarvel

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13 Jul 2015
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You've started an interesting debate M Michael if that was your intention. As Greg implies, we've all invested in existing solutions that meet our needs to varying degrees, so we are not really the audience for "strip it all out and try this" technology. If and when such technology (preferably not proprietary but that seems unlikely) comes along which does all that a Massoth / Zimo / ESU sound decoder can do for $20 with "no setup required" (quote from LocoFi) then it will sell well to all newcomers to the hobby whether we adopt it or not. Don't get me wrong I am not a luddite and I would not want to discourage any company from investing in new solutions for this hobby, but for most of us the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" maxim applies.
 
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dennishodge

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21 Feb 2018
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I agree that the current communications standards are quite inelegant. On the other hand I’m glad my locos aren’t internet connected at the moment. (I know you didn’t mean they need to connect outside the home network). Imagine trying to get LGB/USA Trains/etc. to provide critical security updates (which would have to be applied!) to prevent my locos from becoming a remote-controlled spam/troll farm! :D

You have a good point though; effort should be made toward a more elegant standard that has better device discovery/enumeration/addressing. You could run it in isolation or attach the equivalent of a gateway/router and connect to computers. These pieces are already available for various extant protocols.
 
Martino

Martino

Kit bashing, The UK narrow gauge, The GWR, Aviatio
It’s an interesting concept. Back in the old days (about three years ago!) if you wanted to control stuff in your home, you needed special gear at great expense. Now, there are lots of relatively cheap (sorry, inexpensive - although everything is relative) stuff that can do the connection. So, originally you needed to install say, Hue lightbulbs everywhere and have a hub etc., etc. Now, you can replace a light switch with an internet enabled device, and that will do the job. ...or a cheap Wi-Fi plug-in switch, that will control all sorts of devices.

I’m in the process of converting my previously track powered DCC and sound locos, but instead of ripping out the old decoders and sound systems, I can drop in an AirWire unit that converts the previous set up to r/c battery. I’m sure there a bunch of similar systems to Airwire.

So, possibly some bright nerd could develop a drop-in WiFi enabled thingy that would connect said Airwire/DCC battery loco to a Wi-Fi controlled wotsit.

Bring on 5G cellular and Robert is your Father’s brother!
 
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Paradise

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28 Jan 2010
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I'm straying a bit here but I remember reading an old hobby book on making a remote control for model planes. It had a basic radio receiver that drove a speaker of sorts to vibrate steel reeds of different lengths at different audible frequencies to control electromagnets for the various control surfaces. Look how far have we come now! They could do it then with not much more than a cat's whisker, bits of tin and some wire. Of course it could be done now with far more sophistication and reliability at a relativity low cost but the devil is in the details of addressing the potential marketplace for profit and compatibility.