The Internet of Things (IoT) has seen explosive growth across the world, and it is projected to be a $20 billion industry by 2020. This vast network of internet-enabled devices will affect all aspects of modern life in ways that we can already predict and ways that will surprise and delight us. When it come to the arena of transport and logistics, driverless cars are already at a key inflection point and will become the norm in the next decade. But for some reason, the railroad industry has lagged behind when it comes to adopting the internet of things.
But that is changing. Cisco reported that they estimate the industry will spend over $30bn on the IoT of rail in the next 15 years. And with an expanded IoT comes a stream of new data which can be used for effective analytics, something that CloudMoyo has been actively pursuing for some time.
How does IoT in rail work?
For example, big data is being used to visualize the commuter train traffic up to two hours into the future. This enables a forecast of any disruptions in the service, with the traffic control center able to prevent the ripple effects that cause most delays and forewarn passengers about delays early enough for them to be able to adapt their travel plans.
Another very successful innovation is called the Auto Engine Start Stop (AESS), which is a technology used to lower the amount of fuel and reduce emissions from locomotives. This technology is “a software/hardware package that saves fuel by performing an automatic shutdown of an idling engine when oil temperature and zero speed conditions are met. The engine is automatically restarted when conditions are exceeded or power is called for. By controlling the amount of excess idle, the locomotive is optimized for lower fuel usage, eliminating additional smoke and emissions. Such technology generates mountains of data around vehicle, speed, mileage & location which can be harnessed by using modern data architecture such as Azure Data lake coupled with HDInsights & Power BI dashboards to give important insights on how locomotives are performing.
Trains operate at high speeds, often in extreme weather and through long tunnels, which has made the gathering of big data difficult to enable. But a new generation of sensors, onboard computers and sophisticated dispatch stations have begun to make a difference. Legacy infrastructure is gradually being replaced by train management systems in which trains become interconnected communication hubs, transmitting data among themselves and to network control centers, and receiving instructions from control centers. Cloud technology is playing a major part in building such sophisticated systems and players like CloudMoyo have successfully worked with Class 1 railroads to modernize their applications using the Microsoft Azure platform.
There are many potential upsides from these developments. “Unless you’ve actually worked on some projects involving the Internet of Things, it’s typically pretty hard to fully appreciate the value of connecting devices that thus far have been unconnected,” writes Umberto Malesci, CEO of Fluidmesh Networks, before explaining that there are three major systems where automation and the Internet of Things in rail can bring significant benefits : signalling, interlocking, and level crossing control.
The Damaged and Defective Car Tracking (DDCT) system that identifies, tracks and replaces defective cars. For many years, this was done manually, but the IoT has automated the process via an easy-to-use, centralized web-based application.
The Interline Settlement System (ISS) is a “centralized process for the rail industry used to negotiate and agree upon for the sharing of revenue generated for a movement when two or more roads are involved in the shipment route.”
Naturally, the biggest motivator for widespread implementation of the internet of things (IoT) in rail is in the arena of safety. On-board train location systems, in accordance with PTC legislation, are able to regulate train speed, make drivers aware of the position of other trains, take actions based on track conditions and even bring trains to a stop remotely in the event of an emergency. The expectation of safe and secure train travel has never been more real than it is today, thanks to the technology embedded in the new generation of trains.
Role of data analytics in IoT
For data analytics firms, the advent of the internet of things (IoT) in rail is bringing new challenges. In years gone by, they struggled to accumulate data from passengers and from freight vehicles that were essentially just there to be pulled from location to location. Now they are faced with the challenge of handling an overwhelming amount of data.
Analytics firms must be able to design easy-to-use systems that can gather data in real-time, make sense of what the data says about the efficiency of the system, and then deliver actionable insights for the railway operators and the industry as a whole.
At CloudMoyo, we have been intimately connected to some of the most forward-thinking rail operators in the world, and our analytics drive new insights and understanding into the changing nature of the railways, especially in the field of IoT. If you would like a free assessment of your data landscape to explore what emerging solutions can be built using the Microsoft Azure platform, please sign up on our website by following the link.