5 technology trends for railways to focus on
The Railway network has always been the underdog in the transportation sector. Ever since the pandemic hit the globe, the logistics industry and rail operations played a crucial role in overcoming the hurdles in shipping brought about by the pandemic. With innovative foresight, the year 2021 and ahead could be pivotal for the rail industry globally.
Our study into this topic has led us to identify the below five trends and technologies that could drive the rail industry forward.
Innovation is crucial for every industry. Be it the implementation of augmented reality or holographic projection, advanced fuel management systems, 3D laser scanners for shipment visibility solutions and, machine learning, the comeback of the rail industry is all about involving everything high-tech and smart.
For example, the Department of Transportation, U.S. developed the Automated Vehicles Comprehensive Plan to advance rail safety, promote collaboration and transparency, revolutionise the regulatory environment, and prepare the transportation system for various disruptions.
With the expansion of railways, investment in new technologies is crucial to monitor thousands of miles of tracks to avoid human intervention. A major focus will be on using data and artificial intelligence to create insights that can enhance services and reduce costs.
For example, Indian Railway plans to apply AI and data analytics across its operations — from passenger tickets to freight operations — to assist with maintenance challenges.
Artificial Intelligence and Big Data in Rail Planning
AI-based tools and machine learning, combined with large-scale data collection and analysis, are being used to exhibit new insights that could lead to better decision making and strategic business outcomes.
The use of big data in the rail sector lays the foundation for train communication, predictive analytics, asset management, passenger information systems, and data management platforms. By applying smart railway sensors, we can analyse many data points to further improve the security, safety, and reliability of the infrastructure. The ability to predict possible failures further allows rail operators to plan repairs, thereby increasing the availability of rail backup. Startups and scale-up companies are developing IoT sensors to collect data for almost every facet of rail infrastructure, including railcars, tracks, and signalling units.
- Automated Trains
Automated tracking is advancing, and railroads will have to take the same route. Apart from being economic, it would also increase the velocity on their networks, due to the smart control of rolling stock. In the coming days, the railway networks will use new technology for automating marine terminals to rail intermodal yards, improving efficiency and safety. The automation of the railway industry goes beyond autonomous train operations. Startups and scale-ups develop robotic systems for infrastructure cleaning and maintenance and drone technology for remote inspection. Also, traction control automation will prevent delays and can improve the security of the infrastructure. Automation in the rail industry helps railway companies optimise their asset efficiency, monitoring, and maintenance, delivering an improved passenger experience and rail reliability for all their passengers.
- Asset and Crew Planning and Optimization
Using optimization tools for asset analysis and acquisition allows railroads to downsize their acquisitions to fit current and future capital planning. This allows rail management to form informed decisions on the quantity, type, and timing of purchases. In addition to savings in costs, optimised locomotive and waggon acquisition can reduce the continued cost of maintaining, storing, and moving unneeded rolling stock. With train automation, potential one-man crews, and related safety concerns, crew optimization will also become more crucial. Optimized crew plans reduce costs, increase network fluidity, and improve safety.
- Traffic Volatility and Modal Competition
Most global rail markets have seen huge volatility in freight rail traffic during COVID times and otherwise too, and need to re-plan their operations to deal with rapid demand changes. Trucking operations adapt to the changing demands and this might cause a permanent shift in the market share of railways for intermodal and general freight. Railways need to use smarter tools, including analysis and their planning processes, to provide the utmost agility required to meet this challenge.
Forecasting and visibility in the industry
Being able to forecast and somewhat prepare for future supply chain disruptions is the key to the supply chain maze. That’s why today’s rail and intermodal providers are incorporating supply chain visibility.
Transport Analytics is a powerful business intelligence tool that offers increased enterprise analytics across the rail supply chain. The visualisation of transport analytics tools and dashboards can help users analyse large data sets, aggregate key performance indicators, and identify and manage exceptions to improve asset utilization, inventory turns, and productivity.
Despite the pandemic, railways have continued to operate smoothly. Railways are, however, one of the greenest existing means of transport, and operators will continue to capitalise on this in the coming year.
In particular, hydrogen trains are set to continue this progress. Following ambitious net-zero emissions plans, governments are currently looking at further decarbonizing the rail industry. The most common solutions to decarbonization include replacing diesel trains with battery technology, hydrogen fuel cells, or electric trains. To further lower carbon-dioxide emissions, rail operators use electric locomotives that use energy from renewable sources, such as solar or wind energy.
Railroads have already deployed advanced fuel management systems, giving locomotive engineers real-time power and speed recommendations to enhance fuel-efficiency up to 14%, Fernandez-Willey says.
To improve the passenger experience, rail companies use automation in ticketing and video surveillance, set up train delivery services, and create hotel-like experiences in trains. Camera surveillance detects theft and helps optimise passenger load. Also, mobile apps are using automation techniques for booking a ticket or price comparisons for passengers and rail companies. Onboarding systems further improve last-minute booking, identification control, as well as seat assignments, and information cum entertainment systems engage passengers during travel. To further simplify the ticketing process, also as passenger identification, companies employ biometric ticketing solutions.
Rezopia by Sonata Software offers the next generation rail reservation, operations, and distribution management system for rail providers. We have built the world's most advanced and intuitive rail operations system to manage services, schedules, inventory, fares, and fare rules, enabling rail providers to improve customer service.
Through Rezopia, it can support multiple distribution channels. You can scale revenues by selling through your website, call centre and train stations as well as sell through your network of travel agents, corporations, and XML connectivity.
The reservations module provides advanced functionality to search & book, manage customer profiles, discounts and promotions, seat maps, automatic email and SMS notifications and social network integrations. You can also generate ancillary revenue by packaging rail with other travel products such as hotels, cars, attractions, and flights.