University develops app to measure train ride quality

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Researchers at the University of Birmingham have created a smartphone app that allows rail passengers to measure the ride comfort of their train.

The data gathered by the app could be used by train operators to detect faults in the track, allowing maintenance work to be better targeted.

The app uses accelerometers in the phone to measure vibrations and movement.

Accelerometers in smartphones detect changes in orientation to ensure the phone’s screen rotates accordingly. They’re also used by pedometer applications that monitor and record activity levels.

In a press release announcing the development of the app, Dr Sakdirat Kaewunruen, senior lecturer in railway and civil engineering, said: “Making passengers feel comfortable aboard their trains is something many railway companies strive to do. With the advent of smartphones, passengers can potentially measure the ride comfort themselves.

“Our research opens the door for many opportunities, allowing passengers to provide instant feedback on the comfort of their journey and equipping railway companies with information they can use to further improve ride comfort for passengers.

“There is also potential for this technology to be used to detect track faults and indicate which sections of track are in need of maintenance, possibly saving on maintenance costs and improving the safety of the railway.”

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