/ CALL US + 44 (0) 20 7045 0900
  • 4531_SmartTransit_2019_Banner_728x90
  • 180731_BU_EB_1802_unife-wrms_728x90

The digital railway gathers pace as SNCF enlist IBM's Watson supercomputer.

Posted by Luke Upton on Feb 21, 2017

SNCF TGV Duplex 2N2 4718  Paris Gare de l'Est (Pic courtesy of Nelso Silva  - Flickr)French Railways operator SNCF has announced that it is using IBM Watson Internet of Things (IoT) on IBM Cloud to help improve customer experiences, heighten operational efficiency and enhance rail safety for its 13.5 million daily passengers. SNCF, a global leader in passenger and freight transport services, manages the scheduling, operations and maintenance of a network covering 30,000 kilometers of track, 15,000 trains and 3,000 stations across France. Each of these elements are currently being or will be equipped with thousands of sensors. By using IBM's Cloud-based Watson IoT Platform, SNCF will be connecting its entire rail system - trains, railroad tracks and train stations to gather insights from real-time information on data. These insights will allow SNCF to manage its equipment and thus improve quality, security and availability of its trains in what is a major development for our industry. 

Watson is an IBM supercomputer that combines artificial intelligence (AI) and sophisticated analytical software for optimal performance as a “question answering” machine. Development of it first began in the mid-2000s, with tis first commercial application taking place in February 2013, supporting management decisions in lung cancer treatement at a hostprial in New York City. This tie-up with SNCF is the first partnership in public transportation. 

"Today the IoT is entering a momentous stage in the railway sector's history. SNCF's involvement with the IoT rests on three core principles. It must have a strong operational focus by digitalizing the business lines processes and cover the following three pillars: cybersecurity by design, "platform as a service" deployment model, the leveraging of Big Data for decision support," said Raphaël Viard ( @RaphViard ), CTO e.SNCF. "This is why Watson's platform, a single and scalable platform, is key to industrializing SNCF's IoT strategy."

To effectively collect and analyse this data, SNCF is currently developing specialized industrial sensors which are being installed on tracks and trains. These sensors will securely send tens of thousands of data points to the IBM Watson IoT Platform on IBM Cloud all in real-time.

For example, on the mass transit Parisian lines, new generation trains are equipped with 2,000 sensors, which forward 70,000 data points per month. Now rather than having to bring in each train and manually examine them, SNCF engineers can remotely monitor up to 200 trains at a time for potential issues including door failures or air conditioning, all while they are in transit.

If you are interested in why SNCF are working with IBM then SmartRail Europe is perfect for you! Designed for railway infrastructure managers, train operating companies, system / data integrators and technology suppliers who are working to create the digital railway of the future. We have over 50 confirmed speakers including Christian Schang, Director of Operations at SNCF. Across two days in Amsterdam this industry leading event delivers high level executive discussion, plus three separate tracks covering signalling & telecoms, data & asset management and the passenger experience, enabling delegates to tailor their attendance. Click here for more. 

"We are so excited to see a leading European railway, which every day helps 13.5 million passengers get from point A to point B, team with IBM Watson IoT ( @IBMWatson )," said Harriet Green, General Manager IBM Watson IoT. "This collaboration is a true example of how IoT is touching everyone's lives, in many cases without people even knowing it. In this instance, consumers benefit by experiencing minimal downtime and on time service, all made possible by Watson IoT, data from thousands of sensors and the brilliant engineers and innovators at SNCF."


Across the globe, IBM is working with more than 6,000 clients, across industries, to help them truly realize the benefits of IoT.  By predicting when maintenance is needed, SNCF can successfully prevent trains from being taken out of service, while avoiding more costly repairs. SNCF estimates that this train and track maintenance approach could reduce costs while significantly improving the reliability of its signals and trains. In addition, with this up-the-second insight, maintenance teams will also constantly be updated on the state of the rail infrastructure and when needed, can provide early warning to expert teams in charge, when there is risk of dysfunction.

The IBM blog shares us some further information; “Using predictive analytics, SNCF has been able to successfully prevent trains from being taken out of service while avoiding more costly repairs. One key area of focus is the temperature of rails. Excessive heat can cause long term rail maintenance problems that affect the safety of trains, especially those running at high speed. In addition to reducing maintenance costs for tracks and trains by 10x, SNCF has seen significant improvement in the reliability of its signals and trains — reducing the number of trains taken out of service while increasing efficiency, and reducing track maintenance costs.”

Learn more about SmartRail Europe 2017.

You may also be interested in...

SNCF and Alstom forge 'innovation partnership' for the next generation TGV.

Coming soon: Our 22nd industry guide - Using data to enhance rail and metro operational performance.

An open data compilation from 270 U.S. transit agencies is released by the DOT.

5 minutes with... Federica Santini, CSO for Trenitalia. 

Topics: IT and WiFi

Luke Upton

Written by Luke Upton

Get The Latest Updates From SmartRail World

Please use the form below to leave a comment about this story.