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Is digitalization really the game changer in urban mobility?

Posted by Expert View on Aug 30, 2019

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Change is happening in the mobility industry. Digitalization is picking up speed and providing higher availability, greater automation, endless connectivity, and improved sustainability – a change not only needed in the sector, but welcomed.

As cities continue to grow, the demand for efficient mass transit continues to increase. Today, over half the world’s population is already living in cities, with that number expected to grow by another 2.5 billion by 2050 – and the more people living in cities, the more important it is to make the trip from A to B a seamless one.

Thankfully, digitalization of mass transit infrastructure is helping meet this demand and boost the mobility of people with greater availability, optimization of assets, and an enhanced journey experience. In a nutshell, digitalization offers entirely new opportunities for flexibility, effectiveness, and efficiency to both companies and customers.

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Everything is connected

The basis for smarter mobility is big data. Every day, trillions of terabytes of data are generated via countless sensors not only in mobility modes like cars or trains, but also in the streets, tunnels, and buildings – even on people and their smartphones. This arrival of the “information everywhere” world is transforming the rail industry, as connectivity and the Internet of Things (IoT) provides new opportunities and transforms existing rail infrastructure into a far more efficient, intelligent, smarter, and sustainable one.

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Our data diode (or Data Capture Unit - DCU) makes it possible to connect safety-critical infrastructure with the Internet of Things via a unidirectional data flow – a one-way data street. With this solution, we have opened formerly closed doors – secured and controlled – to a true data universe.

The potential here is enormous and offers completely new possibilities of improving connected systems, as we can, among other things, couple operational train data with historical consumption data, weather forecasts, or information about major events in a city to provide a full operational picture. For example, in the winter of 2019 we successfully piloted a proof of concept for capacity forecasting at the München-Fröttmaning, one of the busiest stations in Munich especially during weekends and match days thanks to its nearness to the Allianz Stadium.

Since late 2018, all newly awarded Communication Based Train Control (CBTC) systems projects with Siemens Mobility are being delivered with built-in connectivity – the first step to moving signalling into the cloud. With in-built CBTC connectivity, operators and customers alike can connect their signalling systems instantly (and safely) to the IoT, and benefit from the data treasure-chest it provides.

Data from systems such as CBTC or station assets is also transmitted into the cloud, with software programs analyzing it with complex algorithms to provide valuable and beneficial information to a broad spectrum of users. Thanks to this connectivity and real-time processing of data, mass transit operators can perfect their operations, networks, and offerings to passengers with connectivity via security-critical infrastructures that just a few decades ago would have been unthinkable… but now it is reality.  The outcome is a more seamless operation - predictive maintenance, energy management and resource optimization.

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Knowing faults before they happen with artificial intelligence

Smart and connected systems will let us know when and what type of service is needed, with more and more of our customers starting to utilize our solutions for performance monitoring of trackside equipment. Fixed maintenance cycles and missing tools or materials to fix a failure will be a thing of the past.

Connectivity and data analytics of mass transit systems enables for greater predictive maintenance of systems and products; either the Passenger Information System (PIS) on the train, an axel counter on a rail track or an escalator at a station. In addition, with the continuing development of artificial intelligence and digital twins, we can also predict failures and the desired action needed to fix the issue via virtual copies of a real component. For example, our performance digital twins capture data from products and systems in operation and analyzes it to provide actionable insight for informed decision making, improving the life cycle and efficiency of systems – all via a virtual environment.

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Operational insights at your fingertips

The idea of the “information everywhere” revolution is now reality.  With connected infrastructure in an ever-expanding data universe, a metro operator can benefit from greater transparency thanks to data analytics. Our innovative system performance applications based on MindSphere, Siemens open-sourced and cloud-based IoT platform, allow metro operators to prepare their operations and the behavior of their networks thanks to data extraction and the visualization of data analytics from any mobile device – individually, simply, and at the press of a button.

Performance applications are customizable, focusing on KPIs important to the individual customer including punctuality, utilization, condition, and capacity.  IoT implementation combines data from various sources for analytical purposes (including CBTC, ATS, station assets, train information data) increasing the transparency on operations linked to these predefined KPIs. This transparency helps to maintain a digestible overview in the data jungle, improving decision making and the optimization of assets and the network itself.

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Safety has highest priority

Finally, it’s clear that digitalization is helping shape urban mobility through greater connectivity and data analytics.  But it’s important to mention our stance on safety. With many decades of experience in operating critical infrastructures, Siemens Mobility stands for reliability as well as for technological advances. A trustworthy partner when it comes to developing new solutions and establishing them on the market, Siemens Mobility positions one thing above all: the safety of passengers. All our technologies regardless of age fulfill the highest functional safety requirements (SIL4).

These technology features will ensure future smarter cities and their transportation systems are connected, secure, intelligent and safe, so that residents and visitors will have an efficient and reliable commute.

Marc Ludwig is the Head of Mass Transit Rail Infrastructure at Siemens, who are Platinum Sponsors of SmartMetro Madrid, 2019.

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Topics: Siemens, SRW Featured

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