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Minimizing Cable

Theft in Railways
Leveraging IoT to build a comprehensive non-
invasive copper cable theft detection system
Transportation | Whitepaper


Abstract 1

Executive Summary 1

Global Issue and Law Enforcement 2


Using IoT to Address the Problem 3

Proof of Concept 4

The Cyient Thought Board 6

References 7

About the Author 7

Transportation | Whitepaper


With high global copper prices, cable theft incidents continue to plague the railways
and result in losses amounting to millions of dollars per year. These thefts are
particularly high in sparsely populated areas that cannot be easily monitored. IoT
technology enables real-time monitoring of assets and can also be used to address
the issue of copper theft. By partnering with an experienced service provider who has
industry expertise and a deep understanding of emerging technologies, rail companies
can deploy a modular solution that non-invasively detects the location of cable cuts
instantaneously to alert authorities and prevent further damage or downtime.

Executive Summary

While there is a wide variety of Experts suggest that cable At Cyient, we envisaged a
cables available today, single to theft is one of the biggest solution using the Internet of
multi-core copper conductors challenges faced by the railway Things (IoT) and translated our
are used for railway signaling industry after terrorism. Cable thinking to create a functional
and telecommunications theft costs Britain’s economy prototype that could non-
purposes. This is because an estimated £770 million invasively detect the location
they are robust enough to a year. A rough estimate by and time of a cable cut,
withstand extreme physical Indian Railways reveals that, promptly alert the authorities,
conditions and are rated fairly every month in the last three provide an approximate length
to carry the required voltages, years, train timings have been of the cable cut, and show
current, and frequencies. affected at least 16 times the live status of junction
However, the theft of metal for owing to theft of cables along boxes on a Web application.
its resale value increases when the tracks1. Hence, there is a A non-invasive solution is
worldwide prices for scrap dire need to detect, alert, and also expected to eliminate all
metal rise and the railways, reduce theft-related delays certification-related issues.
world over, are a favorite and costs.
target for the copper in their

Cyient envisages an IoT-based solution to

non-invasively detect location, length, and
time of a cable cut, alert authorities and
show the live status of junction boxes on a
Web application.
Transportation | Whitepaper

Copper conductors, being robust enough to aluminum, brass, and bronze. However, even
withstand physical conditions, are extensively cast iron and steel are seeing higher rates of
used for railway signaling purposes. The theft theft due to increased scrap metal prices.
of copper cables installed along the railway
tracks has become a major cause of concern for Copper cables alongside the railway tracks are
the railways all over the world, as this leads to an easy target as they are generally far from
track circuit failure—a situation in which train homes and people, and there are thousands of
services are disrupted for hours. The adversely miles of tracks to choose from, which makes
affected train timings cause a huge revenue loss them virtually impossible to protect.
to railways.
Copper may be stolen from electric poles,
Copper cable theft is a growing crime that power lines, substations, and company storage
increases when worldwide prices for scrap metal yards. Before resale, the plastic sheathing and
rise (as seen below in Figure 1). This is driven outer skin are usually removed from the cable,
dramatically due to the rapid industrialization because raw copper is more valuable, and sold
in India and China. The metals most commonly to scrap dealers.
stolen are non-ferrous metals such as copper,

Global Issue and Law Enforcement Efforts

We carried out a study on the types of railway Considering the significant increase in copper
equipment stolen and categorized them into cable theft, law enforcement efforts have been
buckets that included loss of life, accident, initiated by several countries such as Australia,
crash, and loss due to theft. Along with copper Austria, Canada, France, Germany, India, Russia,
cables, other equipment stolen in large South Africa, the UK, and the US. In India, cases
quantities are fish plates, pandrol clips, clamps, of cable thefts are lodged under Section 174-C
rail bars, and batteries. But cable theft is a of the Indian Railways Act, 1989.
bigger and recurring problem for global railway
systems and is also a growing menace across Law enforcement agencies in some of these
other industries such as telecom and utilities. countries have tied up with scrap dealers
Cable theft causes power outages that result and local citizens to prevent copper theft by
in inconvenience to customers and entails high increasing their awareness. And yet, despite
cost of repair and replacement for businesses. these efforts, cable theft continues to be an
issue and a pain point to be addressed.
Transportation | Whitepaper

Using IoT to Address the Problem

IoT is one of the top disruptive technologies the requisite hardware and communication
transforming life, business, and the global technologies for detecting the cut, alerting,
economy. Often referred to as the “Internet and providing an approximate length of the
of Everything,” IoT is the network of physical cut. Considering the distance between the
objects or “things” embedded with electronics, junction boxes, LoRaWAN would be the best fit,
software, sensors, and connectivity to enable but as a proof of concept and to showcase the
objects to exchange data over the Internet. workability of the solution, our engineers used a
different technology for building the functional
At Cyient, we leverage our domain experience, prototype.
knowledge of hardware, firmware and software,
and the right vendor partnerships to create a Overall Architecture
full-fledged IoT solution.
With the junction boxes placed at a distance
Non-Invasiveness of 2.5 kilometers on either side of the station
and separated from other junction boxes by
For the solution to be effective, it needs to 500 meters, we planned to place sensors for
be competely “non-invasive” to avoid any every 250 meters both below and above the
certification issues and ensure a quicker ground. The overall architecture of our solution
time-to-market. Our solution is based on the is depicted in Figure 1.
principle of non-invasive detection, and uses
Central Server

Predict potential theft areas / time / location


Analytics Central
Processing AWS
Unit station cloud
Alert pre and post
failure stations
for scheduling trains

Railway Station 1 Railway Station 2 Railway Station 3

XBee Coordinator + XBee Coordinator + XBee Coordinator +
Raspberry Pi 3 Raspberry Pi 3 Raspberry Pi 3

Cable Junction Cable Junction Cable Junction

Unit 1 Unit 2 Unit 3
XBee Node 1 XBee Node 2 XBee Node 3

Cable XBee XBee

theft area Node 1.1 Node 2.1

Staff alerted for quick action

If staff is close by, can catch suspect on first cut alert

Fig. 1 | Overall architecture

Transportation | Whitepaper

Proof of Concept

Based on our discussions with Cyient developed a test bed sensitivity and ruggedness,
SMEs from Indian Railways, setup of the IoT solution and testing it in real
we have considered the Indian for non-invasive cable theft conditions.
scenario for building our proof detection as shown in Figure 3.
of concept as shown in Figure Currently, Cyient is extending
2 below. The developed Web its offering by developing
application can be accessed a generic and modular IoT
With sensors placed around through the Internet with solution that can be applied
the junction boxes, we were the right credentials. All the for legacy rolling stock and
able to monitor the live status incidents of cable theft are railway infrastructure. This
of the cables. The moment captured instantly and pushed solution will consist of a set
there was a cut at any point onto the cloud, thereby giving of intelligent devices with
of the cable, two levels of a snapshot of the cable thefts multiple sensor inputs as well
verification were carried at country/state/district/zonal as communication units that
out and an alert in the form levels at any point of time. transmit collected data to the
of an SMS and/or email was cloud, where it will be used for
triggered. The notification Tests on our concept have dashboards presenting real-
alert would mention the yielded positive results and time status of assets and for
location and the time of cut efforts are currently on to big data analytics.
along with an approximate make the solution more robust
length of the cable cut. by addressing device

Main station

500m 500m

Fig. 2 | Preliminary device hookup

Tests on our concept have yielded

positive results and efforts are
currently on to make the solution
more robust.
Transportation | Whitepaper

Fig. 3 | Test bed setup of proof of concept

The Cyient Thought Board
Transportation | Whitepaper

Minimizing Cable Theft in Railways Networks

How do copper component thefts impact the railway industry?

Instant Unplanned Compromised Reinstallation Additional

monetary losses downtime passenger safety costs labor expenses

What components of railway infrastructure commonly get stolen for copper extracts?

Pipes Alternating Cables Tubes Coils Rooftops

current and wires

What benefits of IoT make it efficient in addressing copper cable theft?

High-speed Endpoint Real-time Command Non- Cloud

messaging management analysis and control invasiveness integration

What are the features of the PoC Cyient developed for Indian Railways to deal with this

Web access to the Incidents captured

monitoring application in real-time

Cloud-access allows anytime, anywhere

access of information

Transportation | Whitepaper

References About the Author

Source: Narendra Kumar Sivalenka, PMP® is a
copper-prices-historical-chart-data senior manager at Cyient and is part of the
Source: Opportunity Management team in corporate
moslive/article-2101462/Copper-cable-theft- strategy. With a strong affinity for new
costing-Britain-fortune.html technologies and having more than 18 years of
cross functional experience in the aerospace
and marine domains, he is responsible
for recognizing and driving new strategic
opportunities by generating and developing
Source: ideas that transform into potential solutions.
theft He is an MBA and holds a bachelor’s degree in
mechanical engineering.

Transportation | Whitepaper

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