What value can the Internet of Things in railroads unlock for you?

As technology gets smarter and the rail industry continues to integrate new technologies into their systems, more and more devices, objects, and trains can communicate with each other in real-time, collect and send data, increase safety, and work more efficiently.

What’s created in this climate is a more centralized system and an intelligent railway. And it’s made possible through a network known as the Internet of Things (IoT).

By integrating the Internet of Things into your railway, you optimize and utilize data to help you work more efficiently – unlocking the power of big data analytics through a cloud-based solution.  Your operations and systems can communicate with each other in real-time and enable in-the-moment decision-making.

Let’s explore how the Internet of Things will impact your railway, how you can harness rail technology to work smarter and more efficiently, and where data analytics can drive new insights and understandings into changes in the railroad – and how you can respond to them.

What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a phrase that’s been floating around for several years and is entering more and more conversations in various industries – the railroad included. This term describes a system where operations can be integrated, and information conveyed and acted on in real time: all occurring through computing devices embedded in everyday objects. It’s called the Internet of Things and it allows these devices to send and receive data.

Beyond the simple definition, the Internet of Things is growing exponentially and globally. In fact, it will be a predicted $20 billion industry by 2020, now just one year away. As more and more devices become internet-connected, different aspects of our everyday lives become more interconnected.

What’s the big deal about the IoT for the railroad anyway?

According to Cisco, an estimated $30 billion is going to be spent on the Internet of Things in railways in the next 15 years. If “intelligently disrupt or become disrupted” should be our motto for our next generation analytics strategy (as John Haddad of Informatica said in his post), then railroads are no exception.

One of the challenges faced by railroaders is how to integrate all their devices or trains so that they can communicate with each other in real-time, or to enable railway operators to communicate with the station.

The Internet of Things has addressed this need, but while more connectivity is great, how do you manage and analyze the sheer amount of produced by railroad companies? Then, how do you gather insights and actionable steps from this data and use them to run your railroad company more efficiently, save costs, and adhere to safety regulations?

This is where you take the next step in your data transformation and integrate cloud analytics into your search for the best solution for your railroad.

How can the Internet of Things transform your railway?

There are three major systems where automation and the Internet of Things in railways can bring significant benefits: signaling, interlocking, and level crossing control.

With the Internet of Things, you can use big data to visualize commuter traffic up to two hours in the future. The beauty of this is that it allows you to forecast any disruptions in the service. The traffic control center can prevent the ripple effects that cause many delays and warn passengers ahead of time about delays, allowing them to change their travel plans.

Have you heard of Auto Engine Stop (AESS)? It’s a technology that’s used to lower the amount of fuel and reduce emissions from locomotives. Used in a software and hardware package, it saves fuel by automatically shutting down an engine when the vehicle has been idling at a stop for an extended period. When power is needed for the locomotive to move again, the engine will then automatically restart, 

So, how does this relate to the Internet of Things? The locomotive can lower fuel usage and reduce emissions by controlling the amount of excess idle. And the technology needed to accomplish this is generated by large amounts of data around vehicle, speed, mileage, and location. You can harness this data by using modern data architecture like the Azure Data Lake.

And if you couple this with   and Power BI dashboards, the data lake can give you important insights into how locomotives are performing – insights that you can use to make sure that they are running efficiently and optimally.

Another example of the Internet of Things at work in the railway can be traced to a new generation of sensors, onboard computers and sophisticated dispatch stations that work together as a train management system. They address the complications that arise when a train operates at a high speed, in extreme weather conditions, and through long tunnels.

This train management bridges the communication gap between train and dispatch station through communication hubs, which transmit data between themselves and the network control centers. This also allows them to receive instructions from the control centers.

The IoT helps you work safer

Safety is obviously a major concern within the railroad industry, and with the railway making ongoing adjustments to implement Positive Train Control (PTC), railroad companies must ensure that their locomotive systems comply to FRA rail safety guidelines and GCOR (General Code of Operating Rules).

Regulating train speed, making drivers aware of the position of other trains, responding to track conditions, or bringing train to a stop remotely in an emergency are just some of the situations railways face where they must make in-the-moment decisions to guarantee that everything is running safely – and that everyone is safe.

By implementing an on-board train location system, you can improve safety and security in your railway and enable of these in-the-moment responses, plus communicate them to others in real-time.

Data analytics in the Internet of Things

It’s one thing to understand what the internet of things is and how it transforms your company but given the sheer amount of big data your company must manage, levering the complete value of the Internet of Things in your company can be intimidating.

Because of this, CloudMoyo has designed systems using Azure Stream Analytics to gather data in real time and deliver actionable insights so as to help your organization optimize your business processes.  Microsoft Azure Streaming Analytics seamlessly integrates with Azure IoT Hub and Azure IoT Suite to enable near real-time analytics on data from your IoT sensors and applications. To create this system, we’ve connected with some of the most forward-thinking rail operators in the world and used analytics to drive new insights and understand the changing landscape of railroad business.  

Another way that we’ve worked with railways to help them leverage the Internet of Things and data analytics is in DDCT for Class 1 railroads. The Damaged and Defective Tracking (DDCT) system identifies, tracks, and replaces defective cars. The IoT sensors have automated what was once a manual process into an easy-to-use, centralized, and web-based application.

Are you ready to revolutionize your data through the Internet of Things? Let’s start with our 5-day Data Modernization assessment of your data landscape and explore what AI, Machine Learning & Analytics solutions will work best for you using Microsoft Azure platform. The rail industry is modernizing rapidly and we’re here to help you be agile and respond to these changes.