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Sounds of safety: Japan rail operator 'listens' for accidents

JR West develops microphones to pick up undercarriage cracks

Microphones installed along rail tracks pick up noise made by bullet-train undercarriages. (Photo courtesy of JR West)

OSAKA -- Along the tracks of the Sanyo shinkansen bullet train connecting Osaka and the southern island of Kyushu, high-quality sound microphones are curiously affixed to the fencing.

The mics are a part of a monitoring system, developed by NTT Data and JR West, a train operator serving the Osaka area, designed to quickly identify potential problems with trains.

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