What Are IoT-Enabled Railways?
Railways have been an essential mode of transportation to people all over the world for centuries. They were critical to the industrial revolution and played a major role in creating thriving, innovative societies.
Today, railways are more important than ever as country and city governments are being asked to find innovative ways to safely get back to business post-COVID, meet the changing needs of their citizens, address urban population increases, and reduce their environmental impact.
To meet these challenges and position themselves for future success, many forward-thinking governments and railway operators are looking for smart, intelligent IoT technologies to modernize their railways.
Technologies for Connected Railways
There are many types of smart devices that enable IoT in railways, such as vibration and temperature sensors, vehicle and station cameras, digital signage, machine learning libraries, security systems, and more. When these intelligent devices work together in one end-to-end solution, railway operators can:
- Turn data into actionable insights. With edge computing, railway operators can process and analyze data closer to where it is collected to allow for near-real-time decision-making and responsiveness. This low latency computing power helps enable solutions such as railway obstacle detection recognition, dynamic digital signage and interactive kiosk content, and passenger flow monitoring.
- Maximize the value of existing systems. Bridging the IT/OT divide and achieving convergence, which is the integration of information technology (IT) with operational technology (OT), helps operators to leverage, aggregate, and analyze data across the whole railway system. This new information can help streamline business processes, generate insights that can drive new innovative solutions and services, and reduce downtime.
- Position themselves for future success. Technology differentiators, such as deep learning and AI, can help operators prepare for the future and gain a competitive edge over other modes of transportation. AI can be used to predict rail delays to increase capacity without building new infrastructure, and deep learning can more accurately monitor passenger traffic flow for enhanced analytics in station planning and operational decision-making.
Benefits of IoT Applications in Railways
By leveraging IoT technologies, railway operators can aim to provide a more intelligent, connected, efficient, safe, and convenient railway experience for everyone while also realizing these benefits:
- Increased efficiency: Congestion and overcrowding create operational inefficiencies. Using deep learning and AI through computer vision, operators can monitor passenger flow and gather data for advanced analytics to help enable more-informed decision-making around staffing and security.
- Reduced downtime: Sensors, cameras, and in-vehicle computers empower rail operators to monitor their fleet’s diagnostic data to minimize breakdowns, predict maintenance repairs, and optimize servicing schedules to keep trains in working order and moving.
- Enhanced safety: Computer vision and AI-enabled smart cameras help automate safety alerts when there are potential water spills, fire and smoke, or accidents. They can also be used to help locate missing children in crowds or detect if someone climbs onto conveyor belts, falls on escalators or onto trackways, or enters restricted areas.
- Increased passenger satisfaction: IoT technologies provide operators myriad possibilities for creating new solutions and services to meet passenger expectations. Operators can personalize travel for individual passengers with near-real-time data collection and analysis or provide strong and reliable onboard Wi-Fi so passengers can stay connected throughout their journey.
Use Cases for IoT-Enabled Railways
Railway operators around the globe are implementing IoT-enabled solutions to create intelligent, connected railways today. From advanced analytics applications to digital signage and predictive maintenance, IoT technologies are being used in innovative ways in both existing and newly constructed railways. Here are some of the most common IoT use cases today:
Predictive maintenance is a cost-effective, important safety and efficiency tool for railway operators. Transitioning away from reactive maintenance to predictive maintenance helps allow operators to intervene before downtime occurs and create a foundation for continuous improvement. It automates real-time monitoring of equipment by using smart sensors and machine vision cameras and controls to gather data from tracks, locomotives, trains, and equipment. With edge computing, data is analyzed close to where it is collected in near-real time, and alerts can be triggered if issues are detected. Machine learning can be used at the edge or in the cloud to analyze collected data to better understand past equipment failures and help predict the likelihood of future downtime and maintenance requirements. These models can be continuously trained to help improve the accuracy of maintenance predictions. The use of predictive maintenance ultimately aims at empowering operators to:
- Plan and schedule maintenance cycles.
- Optimize servicing schedules.
- Minimize breakdowns and failures.
With more predictable servicing and maintenance schedules and fewer resulting breakdowns, railway operators benefit from lower maintenance costs and extended life cycles of tracks, trains, and equipment. Passengers benefit from improved reliability of railway operations and a better overall experience.
Keeping passengers and railway staff safe is the top priority for operators. Implementing safety sensors across all parts of a railway is one way operators can provide a safer rail experience for everyone during their transportation journey.
Safety sensors can be added to critical components of the train, such as breaks and wheels, to help alert operators of any issues. Computer vision solutions can help enable automated and safe platform and train screen door systems or help detect when passengers slip and fall.
Railways deal with an almost unmanageable number of assets on a daily basis, including tracks, equipment, stations, and passenger assets, such as luggage. Knowing where all assets are at all times is imperative to helping keep everyone safe and operations efficient. Using computer vision to track assets in near-real time can help reduce dwell time of stationary locomotives and increase operational efficiency.
One of the biggest challenges operators face is getting passengers from one place to another. Congestion, overcrowding, and the potential for crime result in inefficient operations, lost revenue, and, ultimately, passenger dissatisfaction. Using cameras in the station and onboard the train and deep learning and AI through computer vision, operators can measure and analyze passenger flow to help improve operations decision-making and station planning.
Enhancing the Passenger Experience
With so many travel options available to consumers, railways must also focus on delivering an enhanced, frictionless, and convenient experience that keeps passengers coming back for future travel. Digital signage, connected kiosks, 5G, and other IoT-enabled technologies can be leveraged to keep passengers well informed and entertained before and during transit.
Digital Signage and Connected Kiosks
Digital signage and connected kiosks are intelligent, convenient, and responsive and transform the passenger travel experience. They can display near-real-time information with train and departure track updates; deliver personalized offers and digital advertising; offer boarding pass scanners for quick access to any departure times, track finders, or walking speeds; or optimize people flow and wayfinding. When equipped with smart sensors, cameras, and accelerators, kiosks gain even more capabilities, including responding to touchless gestures or automatically triggering safety or emergency alerts based on what’s happening in the railway station, such as a fire. Oftentimes, kiosks and digital signage can pay for themselves when operators allow advertisers and retailers to monetize visual communications, engage passengers, and boost revenue.
To keep its riders abreast of arrival times and any schedule changes, the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) teamed up with Cisco and Davra Networks to implement an Intel® architecture-based solution that uses edge intelligence to process location data from on-train devices. Scheduling information on digital signage in stations and on trains is then dynamically updated in near-real time based on changing variables.
With 5G technology now a reality across the globe, operators can offer a better Wi-Fi experience for everyone. Railway stations outfitted with 5G infrastructure can offer 5G Wi-Fi to passengers through public kiosks located throughout the station. For passengers, that means faster download speeds, lower latency, and data sharing are available. When operators want to offer more robust Wi-Fi onboard, wireless connectivity servers can help provide passengers with the same level of speed and reliability they get at home.
To provide passengers with uninterrupted onboard Wi-Fi infotainment, the Glacier Express and Bernina Express in Switzerland, run by the Rhaetian Railway (RhB), turned to the Advantech Passengera platform. The platform is hosted on railway-compliant Advantech onboard servers powered by Intel® technologies and includes an advanced antenna system. Passengera allows passengers seeking a scenic ride to use their smartphones and/or tablets to view specially produced video and audio content that describes scenery and points of interest based on the train’s location. It also provides railway operators with prime passenger demographic data for developing targeted promotions and increasing viewership with high-quality content.
Smart Ticketing Automated Fare Collection
By implementing sensor beacons, edge computing, AI, and cloud-based technologies, operators can eliminate queue lines at ticket machines. Using sensors on station platforms or trains, the system is designed to detect a specific smartphone app as passengers enter the station or train and automatically charge the correct fair. This not only streamlines the process for both passengers and operators but can also simplify back-end billing and revenue management and collect usage behavior for long-term planning.
Intel® Technologies for Railways
Intel’s portfolio of technologies, years of expertise, expert resources, and our dynamic partner ecosystem are key to successfully developing railway solutions for the future. Our experts are here to provide guidance and support along your journey to a connected, IoT-enabled railway of the future.
Our software tools including the Intel® Distribution of OpenVINO™ toolkit, Intel® Media SDK, and Intel® oneAPI help accelerate time to market for railway applications and allow developers to maximize performance across a common framework.
Our comprehensive video product portfolio includes the critical hardware technologies, such as Intel® processors, Intel® Optane™ technology, and Intel® Vision Accelerators, needed for intelligent, connected railways. Plus, all our hardware offerings also include valuable embedded technology such as functional safety standards, Time-Sensitive Networking, and Intel vPro® platform technology.
Complementing our technologies, products, and architectures is our broad set of ecosystem partners. We work with partners around the globe to help accelerate development and create solutions with maximum performance and value.
Connected Railway Solutions
Intel ecosystem partners offer market-ready solutions to help make your intelligent, connected railway a reality. Explore solutions that are available today to solve your most pressing railway challenges:
- Cisco Connected Rail brings together data center, wired and wireless networking, security, and software technologies to form one converged network solution that enables modernization of transit agencies.
- Klas TRX R6 Connected Transportation Solution provides an open architecture model that simplifies how trains, stations, and larger transportation systems are connected. The TRX platform combines hardware and software solutions running KlasOS Keel, which allows for a wide range of applications to be supported on a single managed and bandwidth-optimized platform.
- Zotera Radius Gateway is a more secure platform deployed at the edge that integrates operations technology (OT) and information technology (IT) into one single system. The Zotera gateway allows for data to be collected, processed, analyzed, and stored at the rail edge for real-time decision-making.
Enabling Next-Generation Railways
Intel’s continued commitment to innovation is creating exciting new solutions and opportunities for governments and operators to transform their railways to enhance the passenger experience, help improve safety, enable predictive maintenance, and, ultimately, create a successful future. With a robust portfolio of technologies, years of expertise, and a dynamic partner ecosystem, Intel is ready to power the railway industry forward.