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Five Smart Ways How IoT is Transforming the Railways

As the Internet of Things (IoT) gets more pervasive, industrial engineers are looking at new possibilities on how the technology can be leveraged for greater business impact. The rail industry is in a position where it can exploit the potential of industrial IoT and evolve without substantially increasing its investments in infrastructure.

We look at five ways in which IoT can and has started redefining the railways bringing in increased efficiency and enhanced passenger experience:

1. Greater Reliability and Safety
A train that suddenly breaks down on the track can ruin the day of its passengers, lead to delays across the network, and essentially throw the entire system off-gear. However, recent developments in preventive maintenance practices prompted by IoT have helped to revive the reliability of even the oldest assets. By integrating IoT sensors crucial components like brakes, wheelsets, and engines, trains become more sensitive to their operations for more efficiency.

Maintenance of rail tracks also benefits from IoT. By deploying sensors across track systems, operators can be on top of track stress and conditions, temperatures, and other variables that have predictive values for maintenance teams. If problems with wagons and tracks can be identified proactively, the operators can take pre-emptive actions for safer operations.

2. Fewer Maintenance Delays
Undesirable downtime due to sudden repairs can soon be a thing of the past for the railways. Predictive and preventive maintenance is feasible and more effective in the IoT era. Smart sensors and analytics across the train engine, coaches, and tracks allow rail systems to be remotely checked and repaired before a small issue magnifies into huge trouble. Asset health monitoring through IoT insights implies less of maintenance delays and helps in extending the life of rail infrastructure.

3. Advanced Analytics for Streamlined Operations
The operators can control their trains more efficiently by tracking them across networks and processing the data using analytics. Some companies also employ IoT to check the flow of passengers—those waiting at the stations, traveling in each train coach, and the times when the passenger flow is the highest. Analytics on such data can guide operators on optimization of travel schedules as per commuters’ needs and demands.

Weather also affects rail system in a region. It can impact the condition of rolling stock and its regular operations. The IoT savvy operators have started to incorporate predictive weather modeling in their operations to be ready for and avoid service interruptions caused by adverse weather conditions.

4. Restructured and Optimized Passenger Experience
Consumers have fast adapted to digitalization in the retail and banking space. The transport industry, including rail companies, is also transforming to meet passenger expectations with superior services. They offer e-tickets, scheduling information, and other solutions to travelers via smartphones and emails.

IoT can help take this experience a step ahead. It can help operators personalize the travel experience for individual passengers. For instance, services can be priced differently for different travelers as per the frequency of their traveling. Rail operators can enjoy greater passenger loyalty using IoT systems to understand customer experience history and make improvements for a more comfortable and convenient journey.

5. Better Product Development in the Industry
Rail OEMs and operators can leverage IoT not only for better operations with the given infrastructure but also in the manufacturing processes of locomotives, wagons and train coaches. Conventional engineering solutions were not devised to support systems of systems. There can be delays and constraints in production when the process entails developing a requirements definition and then following it up with design, build, and tests. The actual feedback on product quality comes only later through sales and buyers’ complaints.

Feedback on manufacturing processes is an inherent part of product development with the Internet of Things concept. Engineers can use analytics with operations and performance data to derive valuable, actionable insights. This helps them understand the manufacturing procedures more dynamically and enhance final product’s quality sooner than in traditional methods. Continuous engineering and IoT can help to quicken the delivery of more sophisticated and connected products in the rail industry.

In a nutshell, IoT is bringing together two families of technology:
– Enterprise IT for improved resource planning, customer relationship management, and decision support systems
– Operations technology to monitor and manage field equipment, production, and manufacturing processes

To be viable stakeholders and innovative contributors in the digital future, rail companies will need to make essential changes in their strategies. And the time to push further with the IoT is now.

Learn how IoT can be implemented to boost rail passenger safety and experience.


By Murali Ayyagari | February 9th, 2018

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