Trains Are Important, But They Come with Issues
Many people rely on trains as their main form of transportation, especially in larger cities around the world. Trains are generally inexpensive to ride, provide certain conveniences like quicker travel in congested areas, and are more environmentally friendly compared to other modes of transportation (i.e. cars, trucks, buses).
Although trains have a host of different benefits, they aren’t a foolproof solution to society’s transportation needs. Trains often fall behind schedule and fail to make it to their destination on time. Not only is this inconvenient to millions around the world who rely on trains to get them to work, appointments, and home, but operators can face substantial fines and penalties for not keeping their schedules. Since late trains can cause such large issues for many people, making train systems and railways more efficient is a priority.
Fortunately, IoT (Internet of Things) is beginning to infiltrate our train systems, making trains more efficient, more reliable, and even better for the environment.
Powerhouse company, Siemens, is taking rein of improving the world’s train systems by using Big Data and IoT. They first introduced the Internet of Trains and IoT technology in Russia’s train system from Moscow to St. Petersburg. Throughout the course of a year, they have only seen 9 delayed trains (based on 16 total trains running multiple trips on a daily basis).
Train use has become so popular in Russia it is almost impossible to score a train ticket since tickets always sell out very quickly. This shows a substantial positive effect on the ability for the Internet of Trains to drastically improve the efficiency and reliability of train transportation. It suggests people are willing to use trains over cars, buses, and even walking/biking because they can count on their train being on time.
Essentially, many sensors are placed all over a train. These sensors monitor the train’s engine temperature, whether doors are closed or open, rail vibrations, and more. Cameras are also placed on the outside of the train where image data is sent back to the system for interpretation. Furthermore, these sensors also keep track of how the trains systems are operating and meteorological information.
The information collected from these sensors is used for a few different functions. Firstly, the data collected is analyzed and used to tell when the proper time to perform general and specific maintenance on the train is necessary. For instance, data is used to tell us when its time to replace a certain component of the train before it breaks or fails. Not only will this improve passenger safety, but it will also save heaps of money. It is generally more expensive to fix a completely broken part or system than it is to repair damage before it fully fails.
Secondly, data will help increase the train’s energy efficiency. Information can be gathered and used to track each individual components performance in the train. If any of the train’s parts are performing at an inefficient level, that information is sent back for analysis and can then be corrected. Furthermore, these systems can also be used to monitor the whole rail system, not just one component of the train. This allows trains to run at optimal speeds because it can sense when tracks are clear and nothing is in front of them. Therefore, trains can travel as quickly as possible, don’t have to worry about making stop and slowing down, and can keep to their scheduled times.
And lastly, the Internet of Trains can help make sure our railroads and trains are transporting as many people and as much cargo as possible. All of these benefits make for even more environmentally friendly transportation and have huge financial advantages.