Railroads and an Interconnected Monitoring System

From : IBM: http://www.ibm.com/smarterplanet/uk/en/rail_transportation/ideas/ (via Eldeen Carpenter)

Railroads have always been part of a wider ecosystem—in the early 20th century, railroads even helped pave the roadways that connected farmers, commodity merchants and travelers to the rail lines. In the 21st century, rail companies will continue to collaborate with and extend their networks across an even wider array of the transportation infrastructure, including travel partners, suppliers, logistics service providers, intermodal carriers, regulatory agencies and customers.

Rail networks are one of industry’s earliest examples of an interconnected system, but vast opportunities exist for improvement today. Block train scheduling can create greater utilization of assets and capacity for both passengers and freight. Broader networks of high-speed passenger rail—with integrated systems of schedules, ticketing and services—are in development across Europe and in China, even as European and Canadian rail system manufacturers are looking beyond their more mature markets to ambitious rail projects in Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Putting all this data and process to work will require a transportation infrastructure that is measurably more intelligent. The benefits, however, make rail the transportation option of the future. Mobile condition-based monitoring systems will provide railroads with more intelligence through continuous real-time capture and analysis of critical data, such as the health of rolling stock, as well as operational data, from manifest verifications to freight condition and intrusion detection. Sensors on cars will trigger messages based on decision modeling and analytics. Autonomic routines will then distribute the information appropriately, dispatching service, ordering parts, scheduling maintenance and performing remote diagnostics. Eventually, such mobile technologies could reduce the need for fixed infrastructure along the wayside and give railroads the flexibility and responsiveness they need to make decisions to optimize crew schedules, add or remove cars, and integrate passenger and freight transport more seamlessly, with far fewer delays.

It won’t happen without investment and clear priorities. But smarter railroads can create competitive advantages in the ecosystem of transportation infrastructure for rail companies. Smarter railroads can reduce the costs of adding new lines and rolling stock even as they increase customer service in a capacity constrained environment. And by taking on more freight and passenger traffic, smarter railroads can reduce congestion and improve safety on highways—which will also reduce carbon emissions.

In the 19th century, railroads provided transportation for the industrial revolution. Now, poised to become instrumented, interconnected and intelligent, they’re an important part of building asmarter planet.


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