Investing in an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) framework will drastically change your maintenance operations, increase asset efficiency, and improve your investment planning by automatically tracking and notifying you when water tanks are low, wheel diameter thresholds have been exceeded, or track issues are present, and much more. But to understand how this is possible, we need to take a step back and look at where it all began, the Internet of Things (IoT), writes Marcelo Bravo Industry Solutions Manager, Rail at Trapeze in our latest expert view.
The IoT isn’t a new concept – it’s been around for nearly 40 years believe it or not, well before smartphones, tablets, mobile devices, and the reliable, high-speed connectivity we enjoy today. In short, IoT consists of connecting devices (or ‘Things’) to each other to make our daily lives easier. (Think about a wearable wristband that connects to your phone and sends you notifications about your daily health goals.) The amount of things you can do is seemingly endless, but IoT is much more focused on the consumer market. The IIoT leans more towards business practices – how can you increase efficiencies or product consistency in manufacturing? How do you reduce or eliminate downtime? How do you automate and make your operations safer? And how do you optimize the maintenance of your assets?
One of the First Instances of IIoT In-Use
One of the first major examples of a company implementing IIoT is General Electric (GE). General Electric tried to figure out manufacturing consistency of ceramic pieces used in their batteries. To help them, GE used sensors to track the entire manufacturing process. They realized that the optimal product quality was determined by the viscosity of the ceramic solution rather than the quality of the materials used or the length of time of the mixing process.
How IIoT Works with Your Rail Operations
Similar to GE’s manufacturing process, you can make this possible in your operations by having a network of devices embedded with sensors that are all connected through the internet and capable of automatically transferring data. From a rail industry perspective (while there are hundreds of potential applications), these could include emergency alerts with instructions sent to passenger mobile devices, real-time passenger counts to operation teams, or passenger trip recommendations to riders based on real-time data. But, perhaps the biggest opportunity for IIoT in rail operations is enterprise asset management (EAM).
In Denver, Colorado, the Denver Transit Operators (DTO) have integrated core rail systems across train control, vehicle systems, and maintenance functions. Having all these subsystems monitored with sensors, the DTO has their supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system capture faults across all major train control based systems. They can monitor things like interlocking/control points, switches, relay houses, relay cases, grade-crossing houses, start cases, controllers, gate mechanism, warning devices, to name a few. The SCADA system then sends automated asset failure alerts to their EAM system where actions/work orders are generated, and staff is automatically informed.
Your asset, monitored with sensors, is connected and sending data to your network. When your SCADA system (or something similar) detects a fault, it automatically sends the fault to your servers. Then your Enterprise Asset Management System automatically generates alerts to the maintenance team for a corresponding action and saves the data to be analyzed at a later date.
This is IIoT at work in full force; supporting true condition-based maintenance which minimizes service interruptions through real-time detection and resolution of systems and infrastructure problems, prior to equipment failure. The system’s up-to-the-minute information and high degree of automation maximizes uptime and ultimately provides more reliable service and better passenger experiences.
Virtually any asset within a railroad enterprise – from rolling stock, linear, infrastructure, to facilities – can be connected and share data to respective maintenance teams. You can use this data to improve your analysis, conditions, and lifecycles of your assets, and proactively plan rehab and replacements, including investment needs and timing. While railroads have made progress successfully implementing value-added technologies, most have not yet adopted IIoT based solutions.
The Shift to the IIoT is Upon Us
The conservative estimate is that the Industrial Internet of Things industry will be worth $500 billion by 2020 (and the optimistic forecast predicts the IIoT to be worth $15 trillion by 2030). The consumer market is still looking at the best way to take advantage of these ideas. But as a rail agency, you have this ability now. And with EAM and keeping your assets in a state of good repair becoming more relevant every day, it will be an eventual necessity to transition into the Industrial Internet of Things. It is imminent and will certainly become the norm.
Guest posts do not necessarily reflect the views of SmartRail World's Editorial team and management.