Mintec / Simoco history

Mintec began working with Philips Mobile Communications in 1990. This work involved interfacing to the RCDC card and managing data messages through the card to a vehicle fleet for location and short message information. The largest system developed for PMCS was the Comcar despatching system.

Since then Mintec has undertaken many system integrations for Simoco and the organisations that preceded it. This is a brief description of some of the highlights of our relationship.

1      AWARE

In 1996 Simoco asked Mintec to develop the AWARE system. AWARE was an embedded PC based system which resided on a locomotive to control all communications with the drivers. At that time each state had different communication protocols. The primary function of the system was to ensure that the driver or co-driver could always contact the train controller and other railway control systems regardless of where they were. In the middle of Melbourne the protocol and method is vastly different to the middle of the Nullarbor. The system needed to interface to:

-          4 touch screens

-          4 x 8 function keys

-          Satellite phone

-          GSM phone

-          5 radios

-          Audio interface

-          Many other devices and systems

The schematic used is as shown.

Another key function was management of data to and from the system.

The system was built on a Real-time Kernel over DOS using C/C++.

The AWARE system was completed within two years. It was deployed to about 150 locos, is still in production and is still supported by Mintec.

2      PACE and PACE-R

These two systems derived from the AWARE system. In 2004, a derivation of AWARE was built onto a LINUX environment called PACE. This system was further modified into PACE-R.

PACE-R can be paired with other applications to provide remote networking of locomotives and their applications. This is delivered through a Windows embedded environment, built up by Mintec.

2.1        QTRS

PACE-R was paired with QTRS which was developed by Mintec. QTRS runs on the MAB daughter board inside the Simoco radio. It allows location based channel steering and other features. QTRS was built on a C/C++ Greenhills environment.

3    SAMS

SAMS is a vehicle tracking system developed by Mintec. It was originally developed for the PMR analog radios for a single channel. The design allows GPS messages to be recorded, sent and received and jobs despatched from various vehicles. It is a modular design so that components can be used independently.

As a result, the SAMS System has been extended multiple times including to TMR, P-25, Tetra and X-FIN.

The main SAMS service was also used as the backbone for the RAVNET data network system.

4      RAVNET

The RAVNET data network was developed to share information between five regional control stations of Rural Ambulance Victoria (RAV) including Ballarat, Bendigo and Warrnambool.

There were several important features implemented into this system. One of the more important features was the display of critical messages on all despatcher workstations across the network. If these messages were not acknowledged by the responsible control centres within a set period, they would begin flashing at all centres.


Mintec has developed many embedded systems for Simoco. Most of these systems were written to the MAB board which can be installed in the later control heads.

5.1        ICAPS

This is a control protocol allowing locomotives to switch points gaining access to passing loops across the Nullarbor without having to stop the locomotive. ICAPS was an enhancement installed into the AWARE system but it was also made into a standalone package for handheld radios. The protocol requires the locomotive to action the switch within very tight constraints. The messages are selcal tones from the radio and are also encrypted.

5.2        QTRS

This is a feature already mentioned as part of the PACE-R system. QTRS is an embedded system running on the MAB daughter board inside the Simoco radio allowing automated switching of channels under certain conditions.

5.3        Contract development

Mintec did supply contract development to Simoco to work on the initial stages of the DMR development.

5.4        HOT radio

This is a Head of Train radio to ensure that the consist of a train is present by communicating with the End of Train radio. This enhancement was done for Pacific National using the MAB software on the Simoco radio.

6      Associated development

6.1        Loconet and other PN systems

The Loconet platform is a network of windows embedded PCs on a locomotive, that communicate with the Pacific National enterprise via a VPN supplied by the PACE_R system.

Loconet manages the PCs and the applications that run on those PCs. This includes maintaining network connections, restarting applications and scheduling events. Applications include fuel optimisation and geo-fencing.

One of the systems on the network developed by Mintec logs GPS information and sends the data back to PN for analysis. The system uses Microsoft Message Queue to guarantee delivery and can take input from either a dedicated GPS receiver or a NextG modem.

Mintec also assists in updating the embedded images, managing over the air updates of image/applications and general ongoing maintenance of the systems.

6.2        Ambulance Victoria

The rural division of Ambulance Victoria (RAV as it was then) approached Mintec to take over the implementation and maintenance of a dispatch system. The system had been developed by Western Australia’s St John Ambulance Service. They were happy to provide the source code but unable to assist with implementation. The system was a .Net application to a SQL server database.

There were several significant changes necessary to fit the system into the RAV environment. These included changes to the underlying database from SQL Server to Oracle. There were also changes related to the functionality,including changes to:

-          Interfacing to paging system

-          Additional reports

-          Ambulance allocation

-          GPS integration

-          Other local business rules.

Mintec’s implementation and support was very successful for several years until their systems were taken over by Intergraph.

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