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Internet of trains – how digitalisation changes rail

31 May 2017

Rail infrastructure globally is growing.  Image: unsplash

Global investment in rail infrastructure is growing. The Australian government committed $20 billion in the 2017/18 federal budget for investment in passenger and freight networks to ease congestion and boost productivity, making the ARA (Australasian Railway Association) Leaders Lunch held in May by FEIT very timely.

This was the first time UTS hosted a lunch with the ARA, the peak body for the rail industry throughout Australia.  Keynote speaker Gerhard Kress of Siemens Mobility Customer Service is responsible for data driven services, talked about how data analysis can extract meaning that informs performance of rail networks, a ‘backbone of modern society’.  

“Rail is on the cusp of fundamental change, with investment in its supporting infrastructure from both state and federal governments. We want to build a world class rail industry harnessing new and emerging technologies which includes smart use of data,” said ARA CEO Bob Herbert.

He acknowledged UTS as a strong advocate for the rail industry, providing a wealth of background information that has assisted in the formation of its strategies. This includes the work of the UTS: Transport Research Centre,  a single point of contact for government, industry and community groups wishing to engage with transport research.

Raising the question of how to convert big data into smart data, he introduced Mr Kress, leader of the Siemens data services team which has a developed a unique, secure platform, Railigent, for smarter asset management.   

The team is focussed on machine learning and analysis of data from between 1 to 4 billion data points annually, with members drawn from diverse backgrounds including experimental and theoretical physics, mechanical/ electrical engineering, computer science/informatics and mathematics.

Kress also outlined how, as rail is adapting to massive change globally, data analytics is being applied to operational decision support from initial access/collation of data to generating automated insights.

“Our challenge is to turn data into information, driving appropriate action for 100% operational availability,” he said.

His presentation included cases studies for failure prediction, examining bearings on high speed trains to identify individual components and types of failure, monitoring over five million doors every fortnight and how identification of maintenance activities - combining high dimensional asset data, advanced data analytics, machine learning and work order history – can reduce time trains are in depots.

UTS and Siemens have a 10+ year relationship focussing on teaching and learning. Siemens offers two internships annual to FEIT and since 2015 has been awarding the Siemen’s Control Systems Prize to an undergraduate Bachelor of Engineering in Electrical, Mechanical and Mechatronics.

Our relationship with the ARA also continues to develop, with its annual Telecommunications and Technology Forum 2017 taking place at UTS 26–27 July considering how the industry can work together more effectively to increase the use and availability of data.