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BlueRail Trains - Bluetooth Locomotive Control

Bluetooth dcc iPhone iPad




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#526 Robin2

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Posted 22 December 2017 - 09:00

 Being honest a well thought out and programmed App makes the operation of these bits of kit wirelessly via an iPad pretty seamless, with no lack on the App's part to convey critical information or allow direct control (and believe me when you're responsible for the live sound of a broadcast going out to three or four million you don't trust to a piece of kit on a whim!!!!!). In fact I have friends who are pilots who rely on the mapping information presented to them and my better half works with surgeons who use smart devices to access medical imaging.

Sorry. I obviously was not sufficiently clear in my Reply #524.

 

I did not mean to imply that the computing power in a phone or a tablet is incapable of supporting sophisticated programs.

 

I was just wondering, if people are perfectly happy using a phone or a tablet for a computing task, why are they more reluctant to use a PC or laptop for an equivalent task (assuming, of course that portability is not essential). It seems to me that many people don't realize that phones and tablets are powerful computers.

 

...R



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#527 Nile_Griffith

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Posted 22 December 2017 - 13:23

 

I was just wondering, if people are perfectly happy using a phone or a tablet for a computing task, why are they more reluctant to use a PC or laptop for an equivalent task (assuming, of course that portability is not essential). It seems to me that many people don't realize that phones and tablets are powerful computers.

 

...R

 

 

 

Am with you on that one. I guess that part of the issue is that for the bulk of smart device users, 95% of their device use is tied up in texting, emails and taking photo's (possibly more than 95%). I guess unless you work in a profession or vocation where more specific and higher functioning Apps are of daily use (I have a really nifty Audio RTA on my iPhone). There isn't the cue to investigate just how capable smart devices are.



#528 Robin2

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Posted 22 December 2017 - 14:00

 There isn't the cue to investigate just how capable smart devices are.

We still seem to be missing each other :)

 

I am of the opinion that people who use phones and tablets should be just as happy to use a PC or laptop as part of their railway modelling. Yet, for some reason, it is quite common to hear people say "I am not using a PC with my model railway"

 

While phones and tablets are powerful they are not as easy to write programs for and they generally don't have USB Host capabilities.

 

 

...R



#529 autocoach

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Posted 22 December 2017 - 17:08

Most model railway enthusiasts are not going to be writing any form of code.  They are going to be using fit for purpose applications written and designed by people who understand application design (coding is no longer so important) on a device/platform that is practical and readily available. If the physical platform is small, has no attached cables or wires and can be carried in one hand so much the better.  Even a small PC would be a pain to lug around and at the same time enjoy operating a layout bigger than a small diorama. I have a laptop table on wheels but it would be useless if my layout were any bigger than the current 11 X 2 plank.

 

I am not too sure about the ergonomics of a common phone as hand held control device and yet I do not see the economics of a specialized blue tooth throttle. However that I do like the look of the new TCS hand held WiFi connected throttle design but it just connects to their new proprietary  DCC command station which then has to have all the bus wiring or current DCC practice. (No more radio NCE, Digitrax) I had hoped TCS was the new secret partner for Blue Rail but it appears that is not the case.

 

All in all I want freedom from wiring and any form electrical connections without any effort at parts of model railroading not directly related to building track, scenery and equipment and operating that equipment as close to a prototype Railroad/Railway operation as I wish. This is model railroading as it will become, not as it was.


Edited by autocoach, 22 December 2017 - 17:09 .

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#530 Robin2

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Posted 22 December 2017 - 23:03

Most model railway enthusiasts are not going to be writing any form of code.

What a shame. It's great fun.

 

 

Even a small PC would be a pain to lug around and at the same time enjoy operating a layout bigger than a small diorama.

Why on earth would you need to lug it around. Couldn't it sit quietly on a shelf out of the way?

 

 

...R


Edited by Robin2, 22 December 2017 - 23:05 .

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#531 Nile_Griffith

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Posted 25 December 2017 - 15:05

This is model railroading as it will become, not as it was.


Possibly the one line that sums up the potential of Bluetooth wireless control, regardless of which company brings it to market fruition.
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#532 Junctionmad

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Posted 08 January 2018 - 19:18

 

 

This is model railroading as it will become, not as it was.

maybe, in reality , bluetooth is just a communications medium, it could just as easily be NBFM, Wifi , etc .  What you are really talking about is battery powered Locos , thats what generates the independence from track wiring 

 

Bluetooth in reality is not actually the best medium for loco control , even BLE

 

None of these mediums will  go anywhere, without a standards body getting involved 


Edited by Junctionmad, 08 January 2018 - 19:19 .


#533 Ron Ron Ron

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Posted 08 January 2018 - 21:11

maybe, in reality , bluetooth is just a communications medium, it could just as easily be NBFM, Wifi , etc .

 

Indeed Bluetooth is only just one type of communication medium.

Another brave player has now entered the market with a very similar product (no hardware control system, just an app), but using WiFi instead of Bluetooth.

 

What you are really talking about is battery powered Locos , thats what generates the independence from track wiring....

 

Anyone who's pinning their hopes on battery power as a mainstream solution, is whistling in the wind.

Direct two-way radio transmission of the control and other signals, combined with full voltage track power, removes almost all the misgivings about the reliability of sending control signals through the rails.

Stay-alive covers momentary interruptions in the power supply and with the right sort of stay alive, it covers the issues around live/dead frogs.

Building in the on-board battery option, for those who really need it, or those who just like it that way, is a bonus.

 

 

None of these mediums will  go anywhere, without a standards body getting involved

 

This is very true, however a recent piece in one of the American mags (online IIRC) has pointed out that there is a difference between the plethora of incompatible, pre-DCC era, digital and non-digital command control systems and the new technology based alternatives to DCC, that have started to emerge.

By making them compatible with DCC, it also minimises the risk for anyone wishing to try them out. Especially when hardware costs are minimised.

 

Even if there was enough inertia, based on sales and take-up, for a particular new standard; the general consensus in the USA appears to be that the NMRA is far too slow to keep up with the vastly increased pace of change.

By the time they had got their heads around the subject, most likely in the face of a rapidly changing technical environment, it would be 10 years or more too late.

As such, for now it will be good old DCC, until some Big Bang occurs and a new system takes off commercially, on it's own. I think it's inevitable and just a case of when and what it'll be.

 

 

.

 

 

.



#534 Junctionmad

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Posted 08 January 2018 - 23:45

 

Anyone who's pinning their hopes on battery power as a mainstream solution, is whistling in the wind.

Direct two-way radio transmission of the control and other signals, combined with full voltage track power, removes almost all the misgivings about the reliability of sending control signals through the rails.

Stay-alive covers momentary interruptions in the power supply and with the right sort of stay alive, it covers the issues around live/dead frogs.

Building in the on-board battery option, for those who really need it, or those who just like it that way, is a bonus.

actually I dont agree, I think BPRC will be an increasing " niche" especially as Li tech improves. I suspect its a long way from mainstream 

 

"combined with full voltage track power,"

 

err = DCC

 

"misgivings about the reliability of sending control signals through the rails."

 

​There are no " misgivings" The integrity of DCC signal transmission is not the issue and never was,  good old   power pickup , good track work and an ability to wire properly are the main issues causing problems , no more for DC then DCC 

 

"Stay-alive covers momentary interruptions in the power supply and with the right sort of stay alive, it covers the issues around live/dead frogs"

 

​sure , to a point , there is no reason why any new layout today is using dead frogs 



#535 autocoach

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Posted 09 January 2018 - 00:10

"Indeed Bluetooth is only just one type of communication medium.

Another brave player has now entered the market with a very similar product (no hardware control system, just an app), but using WiFi instead of Bluetooth."

 

There has to be a WiFi hardware receiver in the loop whether on a command station communicating over the track to the locomotive.or on the locomotive to relay command signals to a DCC chip or directly to the motor.

 

The new TCS WiFi throttle only uses WiFi to communicate to their own new DCC command station and thus standard communication with the locomotive through track signals.  It does use the new NMRA communications standard for the signal between the throttle and command station. 

 

WiFi can have issues with frequencies in the band allotted to WiFi device communications and the fact that these are allocated at a nation state level in North America. I have not heard of a similar issue with Blue Tooth communication channels.


Edited by autocoach, 09 January 2018 - 00:13 .


#536 Ron Ron Ron

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Posted 09 January 2018 - 01:28

 

Anyone who's pinning their hopes on battery power as a mainstream solution, is whistling in the wind.


actually I dont agree, I think BPRC will be an increasing " niche" especially as Li tech improves. I suspect its a long way from mainstream

 

 
As you say, an increasing niche, not mainstream by any imagination.

 

 

...combined with full voltage track power


err = DCC

 

 
The context was full track voltage as opposed to battery power, combined with direct radio transmission of control signals.
With the control signals handled by direct radio comms. it doesn't matter whether the full track voltage comes from either DCC, DC or even on-board batteries. 

Batteries come with a list of problems and issues.
In the context of direct radio control (using Bluetooth, wifi or whatever), using a DCC power source for traction power only, is useful purely for legacy reasons (already have that power source in use or available), or for dual running of DCC and "other" (Bluetooth, wifi, etc,) locos on the same track.
 
 

 

misgivings about the reliability of sending control signals through the rails.


​There are no " misgivings" The integrity of DCC signal transmission is not the issue and never was,  good old   power pickup , good track work and an ability to wire properly are the main issues causing problems , no more for DC then DCC

 


I think you are reading something I haven't written.
​The misgivings are usually on the part of people who advocate dead rail.
However, as you say, the integrity of the DCC signals depends largely on the quality of the rail/wheel interface. The track power element is usually more resilient at full voltage.
Taking away the control signals from the rail/wheel interface increases reliability and removes one (key) potential point of failure.
 
 
 

 

Stay-alive covers momentary interruptions in the power supply and with the right sort of stay alive, it covers the issues around live/dead frogs


...sure , to a point , there is no reason why any new layout today is using dead frogs

 


I agree there is no reason not to use live frogs and wire correctly.

But again, this relates to the dead rail proponent's argument.

Stay alive can just as easily deal with breaks in momentary power supply, dead frogs etc, as batteries; without all the drawbacks of using battery power.

 

 

p.s.

In case there's any misunderstanding, I'm an avid fan and user of DCC.

I own 3 different DCC systems.

However, I also recognise that more advanced, easier to use and potentially cheaper technology is readily available to do the same job.

 

 

.


Edited by Ron Ron Ron, 09 January 2018 - 01:32 .


#537 davetheroad

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Posted 09 January 2018 - 08:24

OK Ron, can you list all your concerns about problems and issues with battery power, or maybe start a topic on the subject in say electrics (non DCC). It would be interesting to get a range of views on the subject. Radio Control, or even Infra Red control is assumed?



#538 WIMorrison

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Posted 09 January 2018 - 08:40

How about capacity and size for a start?

 

Batteries may work in larger scales such as 00/H0 and bigger, though there are challenges at any scale with the life of LI-Ion batteries as they have a fixed number of charging cycles before replacement and they degrade rather quickly (look at iPhone scandal :)).

 

in smaller scales, such as n gauge, or HOe (where I model) you are often pushed to get the decoder in let alone space for a battery.


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#539 Robin2

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Posted 09 January 2018 - 11:05


in smaller scales, such as n gauge, or HOe (where I model) you are often pushed to get the decoder in let alone space for a battery.

On the other hand, it is those small scales that would most benefit from a battery because they are most susceptible to power-pick-up problems. So it seems to be worth the push.

 

...R



#540 Junctionmad

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Posted 10 January 2018 - 22:53

 

The context was full track voltage as opposed to battery power, combined with direct radio transmission of control signals.

With the control signals handled by direct radio comms. it doesn't matter whether the full track voltage comes from either DCC, DC or even on-board batteries. 

Batteries come with a list of problems and issues.
In the context of direct radio control (using Bluetooth, wifi or whatever), using a DCC power source for traction power only, is useful purely for legacy reasons (already have that power source in use or available), or for dual running of DCC and "other" (Bluetooth, wifi, etc,) locos on the same track.

The point is if you retain a track powered loco, then you might as well retain track based signalling , since it basically arrives for free, DCC does not make a loco more susceptible to bad running  , this is simply a myth. the nature of DCC is the loco is likely to stall on the lack of track power , rather then DCC signal starvation 

 

Therefore  direct radio control , without local power , is really  extraneous and in my view , while BPRC offers a genuine advantage and needs RC control to be effective.  The whole RC system allowing multi loco control ( running into 1-99 locos etc ) needs to be standardised, Bluetooth is not really a good solution ( nor are phone  based throttles ) , Bluetooth is being used because its cheap as it relies on the user supplying the " throttle", but thats its only real advantage 


Edited by Junctionmad, 10 January 2018 - 22:55 .


#541 Nile_Griffith

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Posted 13 January 2018 - 11:11

, Bluetooth is being used because its cheap as it relies on the user supplying the " throttle", but thats its only real advantage

Not sure I would agree. Bluetooth has a number of advantages over DCC. Firstly as a control protocol it is fully bi-directional, data can be sent to and from the device. "Bluetooth" is not the preserve of smartphones only, but is widely supported by a number of devices and importantly the hardware components and firmware required to be incorporated into new devices is commercially very competitive.

Operationally a Bluetooth fitted Loco that is run on another Bluetooth layout as a visiting Loco, doesn't require management of board addresses as maybe the case with DCC to prevent clashes with another loco, as each Bluetooth board has its own unique device address.

To the best of my knowledge, unlike DCC there is no limitation to the number of controlling devices allowed to operate loco's on a layout, by that I mean that each loco on a layout potentially can have it's own controlling device (should your pockets stretch that far). So potentially a large exhibition layout could have as many operators as required per situation. All that would be needed is for any additional operator to have access to a suitable smart device (from whichever manufacturer he chooses) and have a suitable application downloaded to it. All that is then needed is for the new operator to spend a few minutes pairing the various Bluetooth fitted loco's requiring the operators control to their own smart device. I've watched some DCC layout operators spend an hour just to get one extra throttle to work.

I think that you make a genuine mistake in misjudging the capacity of Bluetooth by what is currently on offer from BlueRail/Bachmann. When DCC first appeared most just wrote it of as yet another expensive option that provided little more than a conventional DCC layout.

One particular benefit of Bluetooth control I enjoy is when servicing/adjusting any of my Bluetooth fitted loco's. Unlike my DCC fitted stock. I don't have to connect my rolling road to the DCC layout or the command station. All I need is 12v DC power to my rolling road and I'm away.

Edited by Nile_Griffith, 13 January 2018 - 11:18 .

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