How the transportation industry rolls on embedded data storage technology

Transportation technology isn’t what it used to be; it draws on the latest advances in processing, networking and data storage. This is especially true when it comes to embedded systems deployed in rail and roadway transportation applications, which rely increasingly on advanced technologies to collect, process and store crucial data – and do so securely .

Those transportation-focused, data-intensive embedded systems – a sector within the “smart transportation” category — span a broad range of applications such as in-vehicle computing, fleet tracking, telematics, control units, motion sensing and detection, equipment monitoring, and video surveillance, along with management systems for traffic, parking and ticketing. They’re typically deployed remotely – often in harsh environments where shock, vibration and extreme temperatures are the norm — thus creating a demand for high-endurance, industrial-grade solid-state drives (SSDs) that provide the systems with essential protection of the SSDs themselves and the data they store. Moreover, because they’re tasked with the constant collection, storage and update of data, they must have life cycles well beyond those of off-the-shelf, consumer-grade SSDs.

On the opposite end of the storage-capacity spectrum are solutions designed for operating system boot and/or small footprint applications used for system monitoring and logging. In this case, small-capacity SSDs – for example 4GB to 16GB — leveraging highly compatible USB, SATA, and even PATA interfaces offer the system designer an attractive lowest-cost-per-usable-GB solution versus many other consumer and enterprise SSDs that typically offer only SATA and NVMe and in capacities 240GB and higher.

Today’s industrial SSDs need to be designed and manufactured for just such challenges. Ideally, they’ll feature interfaces and form factors suitable for industrial applications, made to withstand vibration of up to 20Gs and shock as high as 3,000Gs, and include power-fail protection and other durability options like ruggedized conformal coating. And for SSDs claiming true industrial-temperature (I-Temp) support, the drives also need to be tested for sustained operability in temperatures ranging from -40°C and 85°C. And their design, manufacturing and test processes need to yield long lifecycles.

Those are the type of industrial SSDs that bolster drive integrity in transportation applications that often are deployed in harsh environments.

While SSD durability and longevity are essential attributes for embedded systems in general and in the transportation space specifically, they only tell part of the story. The data the drives store are useful only if they’re protected and accessible when needed. Security options such as the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) – the de facto security standard for the U.S. government – helps ensure data protection and ready accessibility. The 256-bit key size of AES256, for example, delivers a remarkable 1.1 x 1077 number of possible combinations. Additionally, advanced authentication and other access-protection mechanisms such as write protection and secure erase help to support a multi-layered security strategy for critical data and systems. So, SSDs with crucial transportation data somehow falling into the wrong hands, therefore, would be of little use.

A couple of examples help illustrate the transportation applications of embedded systems designed with highly durable industrial SSDs.

Companies increasing require industrial-grade, USB-based solid-state storage solutions capable of storing transportation data for the equivalent of up to 40 years and surviving power failure. Advanced drives such as Virtium's USB SSD line can meet these these types of demanding lifespan and technical requirements. Power-fail protection mechanisms such as Virtium's vtGuard built into high-durability Virtium StorFly SSDs are available to address growing demand for more robust SSD solutions able to deal with power loss.

It’s not just the technology of industrial-grade solid-state storage that drives transportation-focused embedded systems. Market figures signal a promising future: The global smart transportation market is estimated by Grand View Research to reach $285 billion by 2024, supported by a compounded annual growth rate of 22.5 percent. Not surprising is that fastest-growing region for smart transportation is Asia-Pacific.

Smart transportation goes hand-in-hand with the steady rise of smart cities , in which sensors, cameras, processors and durable, secure data storage combine to help municipalities improve existing infrastructures. These systems’ objectives are clear: to maximize resources, improve efficiencies and ensure the safety of pedestrians, drivers and passengers. Data-centric transportation systems may not be what they used to be – in other words, not your father’s technology — but with highly durable and secure solid-state storage, they’re absolutely what they should be.


Scott Phillips is vice president of marketing at Virtium Solid State Storage and Memory, headquartered in Rancho Santa Margarita, California. He has more than 20 years of experience working with many of the industry’s largest, multinational technology embedded-system manufacturers supporting a variety of storage, communications and system-level technologies. Scott was previously with solid-state drive maker sTec (acquired by HGST), managing embedded and industrial solid-state storage solutions. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business and marketing and a master’s in business administration.

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