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SmartRail 2019 advisory board: What are the industry’s most pressing concerns?

Posted by Dave Songer on Feb 7, 2019

SRW - Advisory board reportAs part of SmartRail World’s commitment to hosting events that give a platform to the areas and topics that matter most in the rail industry, we hosted an advisory board meeting with some of the most innovative companies operating in it. In doing so, we helped develop the content that will underpin our upcoming transport technology congress, SmartRail, which will take place in Munich on 17th-19th June. This year SmartRail will look at railways from a global perspective, bringing together delegates from across the world to discuss crossover issues. The rest of the conference will be streamed to give delegates the power to tailor the conference to their individual interests and expertise.

We would like to thanks all the participants that gave up their time for this packed day of discussion and gave such considered and thought-provoking views. The panel comprised representatives from Arriva, HS2, PwC, Rail Anixter., Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, Radwin, Viatec Associates and Wyld Technologies

Big data

Big data, MaaS and state-of-the-art tech. A look back at SmartRail 2018The panel kicked off the discussion session by taking on the increasing influence that the IoT has on the rail industry and they called on the industry as a whole to establish a methodology for collecting the data produced by the range of technologies harnessing IoT functionality. Big Data needs to be managed, they argued, as raw data is difficult to read and so the focus needs to be on quality rather than quantity of data. Instigating a Building Information Modelling (BIM) approach – the process for creating and managing information across a project’s lifecycle – saves money by incorporating the whole programme in one plan, removing issues that arise from having different people working on different stages of a project.

The eight-strong group were strong advocates for the sharing of data, breaking down barriers and maximising efficiency by passing information between infrastructure managers and operating companies. As to how IoT should be used, the panel were clear that there were risks involved using it for mission critical functions, as malfunctions could cause major incidents.

Performance: To temper the cancellations and delays that are “a big problem” across Europe, the panel felt that timetables are often too ambitious when considering the rolling stock and infrastructure that serves passengers – with digitalisation progressing at a faster pace than the infrastructure can keep up with. Data, said the panel, can help operators announce cancellations and delays in advance, potentially early enough that enables passengers to change their wake-up alarm to compensate for delays.

Smart Freight: For freight, the installation of sensors on freight wagons that can register temperature and movement were perhaps predictably seen as a positive move but the panel said that for an industry which operated on low margins and which used often old assets, integrating them to modern standards would be expensive to implement – making the business case difficult. They spoke highly of the efforts to overcome this potential shortcoming with the introduction of an Integrated Rail Freight System that connects freight with logistics companies and customers. Using this data helps customers book slots, reduce bottlenecks, and monitor the progress of travel –  SBB Cargo has implemented an example of this.


In dStephen believes frictionless travel will be helped by harnessing the power of mobileiscussing the service that many of today’s passengers increasingly expect – on board Wi-Fi – the panel suggested that the advent of 5G could usurp it altogether and pointed to the situation in Switzerland where operators are no longer investing in Wi-Fi as the country’s telecoms networks aren’t deemed good enough. South Korea were highlighted as a success story, with the Asian country’s government department, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport, which is trialling a collaborative 5G testbed and trial.

As to who should fund such a project remained was unclear, and raised the questions from the group about whether it should be charged to the customer, operator or an alternative source? Budgets for on-board connectivity, they said, could open up if deployed for a mission-critical function such as CCTV – something that passenger Wi-Fi could then be added to afterwards.

Passenger Experience

Mobility-as-a-Service: for this to truly be a success, rail operators need to use standardised systems that work in tandem with other transport providers. This isn’t so straightforward when some of the new players in the market – such as ride share services – aren’t always so keen to do so as they want sole ownership of ridership data, said the group. Train operators need to link their timetables with the onward journey of passengers, they agreed – how can passengers be coordinated with local bus schedules in order to provide a smooth onward journey, for example?

Ticketing: this should be simplified and passengers should be able to travel and be charged the least amount without having to think about it – as exemplified by Bluetooth ticketing that is being employed in Switzerland. SNCF is also implementing changes, with a trial that aims to create seamless travel through the trial of gate-less stations in Paris.

As outlined at the beginning of the article, the purpose of this discussion was with some of the industry’s leading lights was to help develop the SmartRail 2019 for the Munich show in June. You can read the full agenda here.

Follow this link for the show registration page.


Topics: Telecommunications, Ticketing, smartcities, technology, freight

Dave Songer

Written by Dave Songer

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