Right from its start, the railroad formed the backbone of the economy. It not only moved people and goods over longer distances quickly, it employed nearly 1.8 million people by the early 20th century.¹ Even with other transportation innovations, railroads remain a critical player in the economic, social and cultural growth of nations around the world.
And the railroad industry continues to push technological boundaries to create safer, smarter transportation practices. As early as 1989, trains were outfitted with AEI tags to collect passing and directional information about trains. RFID tags came in the 90s and since then more and more sensors have been used to collect data aboard trains.¹
With the advances of the internet of things (IoT) software, railway companies are bringing this data together to improve asset management, provide proactive and predictive maintenance of track and train, and digitize their operations.
Here are just three ways the IoT is moving railroad software forward:
1. Track Connected Assets
The most bang for your buck, as the analogy goes, comes when both trains and tracks connect. With machine-to-machine communication between tracks, trains and other elements within the rail ecosystem, operators can get a full view of their railway network.
At the micro level, they can monitor individual assets to spot sources of inefficiency or issues that require maintenance. At a higher level, operators can ensure tracks are clear and trains are where they should be so they can travel at optimum speeds safely.
2. Reduce Maintenance Delays
Downtime due to unforeseen repairs can cripple an industry that needs to keep moving. With IoT sensors, operators can remotely monitor the health of components within the train like gearboxes, motors, brake pads as well as those outside of it. Analytics can help operators spot issues early or predict maintenance needs, so they can proactively plan for repairs and extend the life of their infrastructure.
IoT software is even helping analyze and predict major disruption from water events, such as flooding. With water event analytics, railroad software can provide advanced warning of problems to speed up any necessary maintenance or schedule changes.
3. Learn from Contextual Data
It’s not enough to connect physical assets together, especially for an industry that is affected by temperature fluctuations, flooding, elevation, and other external elements.
IoT allows operators to analyze data they collect from their assets against other contextual data points – weather forecasts and historical data. By doing so, they can head off problems before they occur, ensure a safer more efficient ride for trains, cargo, and passengers, prevent downtime. Plus, they can be used to uncover opportunities for the future.
Railroad Software with IoT Technology Provides Benefits in Real-Time
Railroad companies are already capturing these and other benefits. For example, SNCF, France’s national rail company, implemented IoT software to monitor and track temperatures of its tracks. Combining historical track temperatures collected through sensors with temperature forecasts data, the rail company is able to predict track expansion and buckling issues, so they can proactively repair issues to keep their lines running smoothly.
IoT devices send information back in real-time, with advanced algorithms like machine learning analyzing data as soon as its available. The results increase reactivity and reduce delays so railroads see benefits immediately.
Railroads around the world are already using IoT technology to improve their processes. How can IoT software benefit your rail operations?