The rail industry is increasingly turning to mobile and digital technology to overcome challenges and take advantage of emerging opportunities. This has resulted in an ongoing digital transformation in the rail sector.

Digital technology is advancing at an unprecedented rate, having a significant impact on every aspect of our everyday lives.

2014 saw the start of the mobile revolution, as the users of internet via mobile devices outnumbered those going online through desktop computers. Today, mobile devices generate 51.53% of global website traffic, and that figure is continuing to grow.

Since 2015, wearable devices have also been available to individual buyers. The Internet of Things (IoT) is increasingly being utilised in an industrial context, bringing together networks of objects, data, processes and humans using online devices and software that supports continuous connectivity.

More recently, the combination of IT technologies, operational technologies, and IoT have led to the emergence of the concepts Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). These concepts assume that processes based on real-time data exchange with the use of technologies will offer a reduction of overall operational costs and improve performance and capacity, while maintaining the behaviours and preferences of their consumers.

Digital Transformation in the rail sector

But how is this emerging digital technology disrupting the rail sector?

In order to meet the current and future challenges of digitalisation, the rail industry has developed and evolved across all areas of its activity, from manufacturing and infrastructure management, through to transport operations.

The key areas of digitalisation in the rail sector are mobile applications, e-ticketing, digital train control, signalling and traffic management, and digital platforms for predictive maintenance.

Digital services for passengers

Digital and mobile technology are having a significant impact on the ways companies within the rail industry, such as rail providers, engage and interact with commuters. With advancing technology has come informative, user-friendly websites, apps providing real-time information about trains and ticket purchases, on-board infotainment services, and dynamic timetable information at stations.

Maintenance  

Digital data processing is revolutionizing the maintenance of infrastructure and rolling stock. Analytics can be used to ensure that maintenance is only carried out when necessary, but before a defect occurs. Access to accurate data about which parts are likely to fail in the near future, can allow for almost 100% availability and avoid breakdowns, improving the reliability of the system.

Combining maintenance data with business processes and IT systems, rolling stock manufacturers can now offer disruptive digital services including Fault Detection as a Service, Predictive Maintenance as a Service (PMaaS), and Simulation as a service.

Signalling

Utilising broadband, mobile internet and cloud computing technology, as well as the Internet of Things and big data analytics, digital technology is being used to create an Internet of Trains and Connected Trains. This enables the creation of solutions such as the implementation of GSM-R and ERTMS standards, cyber-security standards, Ethernet Train Backbone Network, and Automated Train Operation.

Safety

Safety is a core area for digital transformation in the rail sector. Digital, and particularly mobile, solutions can significantly improve safety on the railways, reducing the risk of accidents and fatalities. Access to real-time data provides an insight into close calls, while paperless forms and processes will ensure that safety standards and regulations are complied with, while saving businesses time, money, and resources.

In summary…

The implementation of digital solutions will offer a range of benefits for various stakeholders. From a manufacturer’s perspective, they will have real-time access to information about train components, helping to prevent defects. The train operator will have a better understanding of the passenger’s needs and access to real-time maintenance data to allow for predictive maintenance. 

Infrastructure managers will have real-time access about the location and movement of trains, helping to reduce safety hazards and effectively plan and implement infrastructure maintenance. Finally, passengers will benefit from fast and flexible journey planning, as well as access to onboard services.

The advancement of digital technology is disrupting the rail sector, challenging traditional approaches and providing the opportunity to connect customers, operators, trains, and infrastructure. To find out more about how Nutshell can help you embrace the increasingly digital nature of the rail industry, get in touch.