India is investing heavily to scale up the current legacy systems to the new generation technologies, whether it is digitalisation initiatives, TCAS or ETCS or the CBTC-based technologies. The country is leveraging indigenous innovation and knowledge but also the strong global partnerships and best practices that it has for many years in the rail industry for the transfer of technology.
The rail industry worth of USD 190 billion is poised to grow at a steady pace of 3 per cent till 2021, equitably across its key segments such as rolling stock, rail control, services, infrastructure and across geographies such as Europe, the UK, Asia Pacific, Africa and North America. The 200-year-old industry is adopting the emerging digital technologies such as IoT, AR, additive manufacturing, cyber security, 5G, etc. on incremental basis driving operational efficiencies, connected mobility and a smart network of train operations while simultaneously assuring safety and security.
With this incremental adoption of technologies comes the challenge of integrating the legacy practices with the newer versions and of ensuring the holistic integrity of data across all formats and systems within the ecosystem. All of this and more, without compromising the safety and security principles on which the rail industry is hinged on. These challenges present a whole new set of opportunities for the industry to bridge the digital divide seamlessly to unlock the huge operational benefits. The UNIFE estimates that the cost of rail operations can be reduced by 20 per cent if digitalisation is adopted. It is, therefore, becoming increasingly imperative for the industry to partner globally with various stakeholders, including rail solutions providers specialised on and equipped with strong rail domain expertise, global reach and a digital know-how to unlock the huge potential the digitalisation opportunities present.
India is investing heavily to scale up the current legacy systems to new generation technologies, whether it is digitalisation initiatives, TCAS or ETCS or the CBTC-based technologies. The country is leveraging indigenous innovation and knowledge but also strong global partnerships and best practices that it has for many years in the rail industry for the transfer of technology.
The budget announcement, a few months ago, is a good example of India's focus on digitalisation, especially on safety and the increased use of new technologies. Rail industry's raison d'Otre are safety, reliability and efficiency, with digitalisation being the key technology driver to it. Also, the ongoing metro revolution is a much-required and a much-deserved reform for the metropolitan cities and for the young and aspirational population of the country. As the data shows, a majority of the economic development in India is centered around the urban areas and Tier 1 cities and the population migrating to these areas is growing by the day. This is not only stretching the existing transportation infrastructure but also causing an adverse impact on the environment, evident in the unprecedented pollution levels in major cities of India. The metro system has the ability to alleviate both these problems, besides opening up huge economic development opportunities along its network.
At the same time, India also faces special complexities which have to be considered for the implementation of new technologies such as diversity of requirements, vastness of the network and uncertainties in project implementation.
Digitalisation will play a key role in accelerating the transformation of the rail industry in India in the medium term. However, one must bear in mind that the safety criticality of applications in rail will have a significant influence on the pace and evolution of digitisation in this industry and it requires an industry-specific version of IoT, the Internet of Trains.
Internet of Trains (IoT for rail) is the concept of adopting the prevalent IoT technologies to suit the requirements across the life cycle of rail assets. Numerous IoT applications and investments are already underway in the rail sector and are showing optimistic signs of benefit by addressing a few key areas:
Intelligent asset management
This segment of the rail industry is largely services driven and labour intensive. Asset maintenance is a favourite area within this segment for the adoption of IoT to yield the benefits through the concept of predictive maintenance as against the traditional practice of scheduled or preventive maintenance. IoT-led condition monitoring systems are being adopted and piloted across the asset classes such as trains, tracks, signal systems, station rooms, other infrastructure, etc. to harness their dynamic health and performance.
Train operators can further extend the benefit of an integrated and reliable asset management with aspects such as train movement across networks, passenger flow at stations, weather conditions, etc. It enables them to take timely decisions that enable a streamlined operational flow, reduced down time risk and more reliable information for passengers to plan for their journeys. This reliable experience can further be enhanced with personalised and real time connect with passengers via their timetable and ticketing applications on their smartphones.
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Authored by Beatrice Lippus, Associate Vice President, Rail Transportation Business Unit, Cyient.