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Swedish trains to use Big Data to predict and prevent future delays.

Posted by SmartRail World Staff on Sep 15, 2015

Stockholm_Rail_PicA new algorithm that can predict delays up to two hours in the future in the commuter train network has been unveiled in Stockholm, Sweden. The predictive model, called ‘the commuter prognosis’ uses Big Data to visualize the entire commuter train up to two hours into the future. This enable a forecast of disruptions in the service, with the traffic control centre able to prevent the ripple effects that cause most delays. Described by Stockholmstag, the commuter train operator in Stockholm as a “next generation forecasting tool” it works like a seismograph. When a train is not on time the algorithm forecasts the risks of delay effects in the entire network by using historic data.

The effects of one delayed train can quickly multiply within the entire train network. Today the traffic control centre analyses the delays manually in order to prevent future delays. By automating the forecasting Stockholmstag can raise their service level significantly. ‘The commuter prognosis’ will be the first automated forecasting model of its kind says Mikael Lindskog communications director at Stockholmstag.

In a long time perspective it's possible that big data and rail it will change how traffic control centres all over the world work, “Imagine that ‘the commuter prognosis’ forecasts that a train will be 10 minutes late to station C in two hours. To deal with this the traffic control centre issues a new train from station A that will arrive on time at station C. As soon as the new train has been put in motion the algorithm re-calculates and gives the traffic control centre a new forecast for the entire train network within minutes, says Wilhelm Landerholm the mathematician who has developed the algorithm.

Since “The forecasting prognosis” can see delays up to two hours in the future, train operators will be now be able to inform passengers of risks of delays before they delays actually happen. Also, departure information will be more accurate so passengers can plan their trips better.

“The most important benefit of ‘The commuter prognosis’ will be the operators ability to provide a more punctual public transportation. But I also know that our passengers value proactive information about delays. If a parent who takes the train to pick up kids at kindergarten receives information about delays two hours before they happen he or she can rearrange his time schedule to make it work” added Mikael Lindskog.

“The commuter prognosis” will be available in a smart phone app for the commuters in Stockholm this Autumn. In the future the algorithm will be potentially adaptable for more types of public transportations and cities.

Read Building the Digital Transport Network of the Future

How does it actually work?

  • A mathematical model interprets big data to forecasts for each train in the train network.
  • The commuter prognosis can warn about delays two hours before the departure or arrival actually takes place.
  • Simultaneously “the commuter prognosis” calculates how the delay affects other trains in the system and gives information about it automatically.
  • The purpose of “the commuter prognosis” is to make life easier for traffic control centres and to give passengers more information.
  • Stockholmstag invented the algorithm that is used for “the commuter prognosis” together with the mathematician Wilhelm Landerholm. The algorithm can be adapted to be used for other sorts of public transportations in other cities in the future.

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