When it comes to smart cities, railway stations are becoming an important part of the discussion which aims to embrace technology and data to enhance efficiency, sustainability, and mobility. Smart city criteria are also applied to these stations. After a decade of experimentation, smart cities are entering a new phase as these cities add digital intelligence to existing urban systems. Now, technology is being injected directly in the development of smart cities that includes everything smart, from smart infrastructure and smart transportation to smart governance and smart healthcare.
Political institutions, station managers, and infrastructure managers are cottoning on to the importance of modernizing the rail transport hubs, especially in countries with strong railway industry, such as India. As the Indian Railways is changing drastically, the Ministry of Railways and Ministry of Urban Development have teamed up to construct smart railway stations and platforms which will include smart parking and smart cameras as a part of Smart Cities Mission. Around 400 stations across the country are being redeveloped with improved amenities to provide easier access to passengers. Additionally, the government is planning to install an internet protocol (IP) based video surveillance system (VSS) at stations with facial recognition software. The real-time face recognition software at the waiting halls, reservation counters, main entrance/exit, parking areas, and platforms will alert the RPF command of any known offenders.
Innovations on Upswing in Indian Railways
Across the globe, cities are becoming more connected by using fifth-generation mobile networks, artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, and the Internet of Things (IoT) to improve public safety, avoid traffic congestion, and protect the environment. Moreover, the railway industry is evolving rapidly with the adoption of automotive IoT across its operations. It is a critical transformation as railways compete with another mode of transportation such as air, water, and roadways for 21st-century passengers and freight transfers. IoT sensors are capable of providing many railway information such as monitoring issues related to derailment caused by vertical displacement of the tracks and temperature change. Furthermore, technological development and the decision of Indian Railways to convert rails and stations to smart trains and smart stations have created lucrative opportunities for start-ups and big market players. For instance, Skylo Technologies, a start-up is planning to develop a global narrowband IoT network for assembling machine data collected from transport infrastructure and agricultural equipment from 2020. The company has established various ways to connect NB-IoT LTE networks, using geostationary communication satellites to several Skylo Hubs installed in railway carriages and machinery. In addition, Indian Railways has already tested Skylo technologies’ latest innovation on Shatabdi and Rajdhani coaches with an objective to incorporate smart coaches.
Introduction of RFID Tags to Take Smart Railway Management to New Highs
In January 2020, Indian Railways announced that it will equip around 3, 50,000 engines and coaches with radiofrequency identification tags (RFID) by 2021 for smart monitoring and smart management. The measure is taken under the ‘Make in India’ concept in order to improve the safety and reliability of the stock transported via railways. Also, this technological development will help the Indian Railways to track each coach and wagons wherever and whenever necessary. RFID technology was only used in retail and consumer goods industries, while now, it is found in every facet of life. Moreover, RFID in railways will help in maintaining records and tracking each railcar with a scan. RFID application also allows to protect the cargo, provide safety checks and real-time updates, and track temperatures. With RFID tags, the Indian Railways will thereby shift from time-based maintenance to condition-based maintenance.
Development of Smart Rails and Smart Yards Go Hand-in-Hand
Development of smart rails creates the need for smart yards for servicing and maintenance of rail coaches and engines, using railcar lubricants for the smooth functioning of the engines, monitoring railway tracks, predicting breakage of track fishplates, and fixing the internal combustion components. Likewise, the growing integration of smart yards is helping the railways to maintain the rolling stock and leverage ICT systems, data analytics, and sensors which aid in gathering information on the rolling stock conditions. Smart yards comprise of sensors installed on the wayside to collect data from the passing coaches and wagons. As India is witnessing huge development in the rail transportation, the government is coming up with an innovative smart yards concept that is expected to track records of rolling stocks and track wheel defects, axle temperature, bearing conditions, and wheel profile. It also uses the information for proactive staffing and objective fault assessment. Implementation of smart yards reduces the turn-around time while enhancing productivity and boosting safety. The Indian Railways plans to invest INR 3,000 Cr in the development of smart yards.
Hydrogen-Powered Trains Boom Globally
Zero-emission hydrogen-powered trains are edging onto the tracks in Europe, Asia, and now in North America – California with the focus on improving the eco-friendliness and smart levels of railways. Several countries are focusing on developing hydrogen-based trains, as these trains are set to spark the next generation of low carbon mass transit and railway shipping alternatives. In September 2018, Germany became the first country to launch the world’s first hydrogen-powered train – bright blue Coradia iLint trains, manufactured by French TGV maker Alstom – to support eco-friendly technology. In the same year, the train entered into commercial services. Furthermore, other countries in North America and Asia started investing in the zero-emission trains. For instance, in January 2020, India announced that it is also working on developing hydrogen-powered trains for long-distance routes.
In today’s fast-paced global economy, technology supports the railroads to achieve safety milestones, maintain a competitive edge, and minimize their impact on the environment. In recent times, railroads are making major breakthrough in these concepts. Next-generation automation technology development will continue to reduce labor limitations and the impact of human errors on improving efficiency & safety and railways operations. APAC is witnessing huge growth in the railway industry, especially Indian Railways. For more information to understand on-going trends and innovations of the smart railways market, readers can go through a sample of the report.