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Bringing Connected Transportation to India

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) as a concept, has revolutionized the way different industries have been operating, tremendously improving the operational efficiency and hence the productivity. The integration of sensors into the existing industrial environments helps in the remote monitoring of the systems, thereby reducing human intervention and facilitating real-time, non-real-time and near real time interventions. By introducing sensors into conventional systems and using the Cloud platform to gather all this voluminous data and analyzing it, the age old industrial assets can be turned into building blocks of a connected Smart Community.

One such area is the railroads network. This blog post by Vinod (http://www.infosysblogs.com/engineering-services/2018/01/all_aboard_the_smart_train.html#more ) gives an overview of the potential of such as platform. Among the different modes public transport, railways would be the best bet to implement an IIoT solution, since we already have a dependable and exclusive infrastructure in place and only a specific type of traffic to tackle, unlike the road transport.

Consider the Indian Railways, one of the largest in the world, yet one of the least safe. The official report for 2015-16 reveals some shocking statistics (http://164.100.47.193/lsscommittee/Railways/16_Railways_12.pdf ). Let's try and fit an IoT solution in the context of Indian Railways and try to analyze what it takes to turn our Indian Railways into a smarter system, prioritizing passenger safety over anything else.

There are two aspects of passenger safety - one is about the train itself (with all the passengers and their baggage) reaching the final destination safely and the other is about each passenger having a safe and comfortable journey inside a coach. Let us consider the different factors leading to both these aspects of passenger safety -

1)      A safe journey

Every year hundreds of lives are lost in train accidents, and the sad fact is that most of them are due to recurrent mistakes and human error. A majority of these accidents are due to -

a)      Manual signaling errors
b)      Unmanned level crossings
c)       Lack of timely track maintenance
d)      Sabotage

All of the above can be effectively tackled by using an integrated Cloud platform solution (E.g. EdgeLINC from GET https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20171024005536/en/GE-Transportation-Unveils-EdgeLINC%E2%84%A2-Software-Advances-Industrial). The locomotives would have sensors that continuously gather information about different parameters like speed, position, temperature of different parts etc. and send it over to the Cloud where rule based analytics is run on this data, resulting in signaling information. This information would be more accurate and can be used to automate the signaling process, with zero human intervention. It can also be used to control the unmanned level crossings. The locomotives can also have a crash hardened system (something like a black box in an aircraft) that can be used to save all the event logs for further analysis. These will give meaningful insights into the actual cause of the accidents in cases where the root cause is difficult to ascertain using the existing means.

The record of the health of tracks can be used for preventive maintenance of tracks, minimizing the chances of derailment.

2)      A comfortable journey

The safety of the passenger and baggage within a coach is another important aspect because most of the trains operated by Indian Railways run for more than 24 hours through different vulnerable areas. Major security concerns are -

a)      Theft
b)      Air quality within the coach
c)       Medical/Police assistance with minimal delay etc.

One solution could be to have cameras in the coaches that would inhibit thefts. Given the number of coaches and that there are numerous compartments within a coach that have to be monitored, the choice of cameras and their numbers should be decided considering the trade-offs. This would generate huge volumes of data, and so the duration of syncing them with the Cloud etc. has to be considered.  Cameras can also be used to discourage unsafe passenger movement in and out of moving trains.

Air quality sensors that would help check the levels of harmful gases should be installed within the coaches. The data from these sensors could be used by simple rule based analytic engines onboard the locomotive, to warn about the likely presence of smoke or poisonous gases and other potentially dangerous pollutants.

All this information about the safety features within a coach and SOS services of doctors or Police can also be made available to every passenger via a mobile app.

Safe modes of public transport is the need of the hour especially in a growing economy like ours. We already have advanced technology packaged into a solution that can be applied to railways. GE Transportation (GET), one of the world leaders in railroad transportation, is working on the idea of Transportation Intelligence which is suite of a number of IoT solutions aimed at making railroad transportation more efficient and safe. Infosys is collaborating with GET on many of these cutting edge solutions. It includes equipping the locomotives with hardware capable of storing different events, cameras to continuously monitor the surroundings and the loco pilot's cabin, high performance computing platform to connect with the Cloud, event and rule based analysis of real-time data etc. More details can be found at https://www.ge.com/digital/industries/transportation .

With proper planning and political will, we definitely can turn Indian Railways into one of the safest in the world. 

Comments

Good one ! More to come.

Nice article , Hope this Knowledge/Technology is leveraged by Indian Railways.

Very Good Article. IoT in Indian Transportation is very much required for Safety and can save lot of Life

Great article and an eyeopener! Lack of rail and road safety is a concern in our country. This article provides direction to leverage GET suite to save life! Hope Indian Railways moves forward with such solutions...

Well thought and articulated, the Indian railways example is apt for the technology and scenario. All the discussed points holds good when the Govt makes a bold move to adapt to new age smart coaches and Engines, be it electric or levitation. Hope AI based predictive analysis and learning techniques can also be applied to the Big data derived as part of such technological implementations. Nice read ..All the best !

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