Why should the rail industry move towards the cloud for big data analytics?
Rail transportation is one of the industries that persistently look for master strategies to mitigate operating and maintenance costs. Like many others, railroads are tippy-toeing into the era of digitization, data analytics, and predictive maintenance. Over the past few years, railroads have been aggressively adopting emerging and innovative technologies (from software to SaaS applications to modern data solutions) to earn returns from an unconventional asset called ‘data’.
The scale of big data in rail
Railroads generate mountains of data daily from sensors on rail cars, tracks, signaling equipment, communications systems, enterprise applications, accounting software, invoicing and many more. Modern trains are equipped with up to 200 sensors with data of up to 150 Mbps being transferred every day. There are hundreds of trains in various fleets with thousands of spare parts generating gigabytes of diagnostic messages and terabytes of sensor data per year.
Challenge of harnessing big data in rail
The management and security of this big chunk of data is the biggest challenge for the industry. A cloud-based analytics system can help businesses in reducing unannounced downtime, improving productivity by enhancing velocity, hence driving outcomes. The technology can also help in driving efficiency in billing matters.
However, railroads face many hurdles in implementing big data and cloud analytics. Apart from financial challenges and heavy operating costs, railroads businesses face many difficulties in training their workforce on how to implement the latest technologies and tools. Emerging tools such as streaming analytics can provide the ability to make use of streaming of event data records in real-time, which becomes useful for regulations such as Positive Train Control (PTC).
Rail transportation companies are still learning how to leverage the latest technological trends for keeping a tab on their growing number of rail tracks, equipment, and locomotive data. This data can be a real asset for these railroad companies as it is used not only for drawing insights but also to boost productivity, safety, and operational efficiency. Railroads can drive efficiencies by predicting the failure of any major component/equipment by combining the theory of big data with advanced analytics.
Railroads spend an enormous amount annually in the maintenance and management of yards, assets, tracks, crew, infrastructure, etc. Inefficiencies and disorganization in the railroads trigger high operating costs to the system. Class 1 and Short Line railroads can save millions by adopting a modern cloud-based BI architecture to manage its assets, infrastructure, and crew efficiently.
Putting big data to use in rail transportation
A Class I U.S. railroad operator is just doing that and reaping the benefits of introducing modern technology to classical rail operations.
With our help, they defined a high-level digital transformation plan and an implementation roadmap for the business intelligence platforms in the Microsoft cloud. The Azure cloud-based data analytics system utilizing billions of rows of data and complimented it by visually-appealing Power BI dashboards enabled the customer to gain operational insights into rail crew management and train scheduling.