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January 1, 2018

All aboard the "smart" train

The Internet Of Things (IOT) is creating a massive impact across industries, and the railroad industry is no exception. The railroad industry plays a significant role in the transportation industry and commerce often referred to as the golden age of railways. Many of us don't realize that the industry itself is 200+ years old. To understand the impact of IOT, a time lens perspective is useful of how the industry has evolved - past, present and future. 

  1. The first 150 years or so was all about expansion of the rail network, building powerful and long range locomotives, improving accessibility - this was about the growth phase. The period coincided with economic growth and expansion
  2. The next wave was about increasing the operational efficiency - such as network performance, improving operational efficiency through technology investments and increasing fuel efficiency. In summary improving operations
  3. The current and future wave is to enhance customer service, maximizing the assets, optimize capacity and increasing safety across the network. The railroad industry is continuously looking at adopting technology to build for the future. 
The rail industry is capital intensive, because you need to build and maintain tracks to increase accessibility. Given the nature of its assets - locomotives, cars, tracks and wayside assets there is a heavy operational expenditure as well. 

The railroad industry has been one of the early adopters of electronic control systems where there are actions based on feedback loops on gathered data. The explosion in connectivity coupled with advances in electronics and compute/analytics capabilities through the cloud creates opportunities for these control systems to be taken into the next orbit. The applications of IOT given the availability of real time, when combined with historical and ambient data - relevant insights that can deliver significant business impact. The applications can be categorized into three categories, while there's overlap they provide a structured way of thinking through the benefits

  • Intelligent asset maintenance to increase availability and reliability
    • Preemptive maintenance based on the actual condition of the equipment rather than scheduled
    • Intelligent and optimal routing based on car schedules thereby reducing idle time
    • Track monitoring through sensors to increase network velocity
  • Improved operations to increase productivity, safety and efficiency
    • Increasing productivity through remote software upgrades, asset tracking
    • Edge analytics to provide actionable feedback based on real time data
    • Improved safety through integration with PTC devices
  • Enhanced customer services to increase loyalty and satisfaction
    • Improved services and increased visibility for freight including intermodal
    • Improved passenger services through better maintenance of amenities
Infosys is partnering with global technology leader and supplier of equipment, services and solutions to the railroad industry in their next generation transport intelligence solutions. Read more here

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