Harnessing the power of data to execute the connected passenger journey

Posted: 11 November 2021 | | No comments yet

Data has the ability to revolutionise how operations and maintenance affect the rail industry – but only if it is utilised effectively. Nomad Digital sat down with Pedro Conceicao to discuss this further and to consider how collecting the correct data can impact the passenger experience.

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In an industry where large amounts of data are collected from multiple sources, it is important that it is being utilised effectively. Nomad Digital works with rail operators to ensure that they have the key tools to enhance data efficiently and execute the connected journey.

For this article, Nomad Digital sat down with Pedro Conceicao (CBM Technical Sales Consultant) to understand how collecting the correct data can impact the rail operator and the passenger experience.  

How is data evolving and influencing the rail industry?

Data is used to improve the efficiency of the railway system. It is all about balancing the investment and the benefits in operations, maintenance and asset monitoring. For example, over-maintaining trains could effectively be replacing or fixing a piece of equipment or system which doesn’t require attention for another few months or thousands of miles. This will help to reduce the cost of maintenance. It is also allowing operators to better understand the real status of the assets, delivering information that enables better planning and, with it, improves the performance, availability and reliability of rail assets – further reducing cost and generating more revenue. Data is influencing the rail operator’s decision making, as it provides an insight into how they can improve and increase passenger satisfaction.

What data do rail operators need?

It varies depending on what the rail operator’s core business is, as there are multiple factors which need to be considered – i.e., future business goals, priorities and performance requirements, in addition to operational, environmental and legal constraints.

For a passenger service operator, high priority data sources will, for example, be the functionality of the doors, air conditioning and toilets etc, and if any of these systems were to fail, it would have a greater impact on the passenger experience.

To give an example, let’s say that the same train type is deployed in Portugal and Finland. The heating system performance is almost irrelevant on the train that runs in Portugal; however, for the same train, the heating is extremely important in Finland, where temperatures reach below -40 degrees. The national and environmental constraints in Finland require that heating is a high priority for the safety of the passengers. There is not a ‘one size fits all solution’.

Data is just as important to freight. Ensuring the availability of assets is critical, and understanding the user’s needs and problems help operators to understand which systems might have a higher impact and likelihood on the train operation and maintenance and/ or cancellation of the service. Having the correct tailored data and analysing it effectively can be crucial.

How is Remote Online Condition Monitoring (ROCM) revolutionising rail maintenance and operations?

There are many ways that the data made available by ROCM can be used as relevant information to leverage maintenance and operations performance, and these two key areas of activity work hand in hand with each other. Operations and maintenance’s performance are central to the business. For that reason, asset usage optimisation is key: do better and do more with the assets that you have. Proper use of asset data can help to identify inefficiencies and improvement opportunities and drive the performance delivered. 

How do Nomad Digital provide ROCM?

Nomad Digital can deploy data acquisition onboard trains, as well as onto existing data sources.

There are two types of ROCM that Nomad can provide:

  • Standalone ROCM hardware and software for the solution – e.g., for freight, it doesn’t make sense to use high end more expensive connectivity components if all you need to do is to collect data
  • Alternatively, in situations where a connectivity and IT infrastructure already exist or is expected to be installed on the train and the wayside (projects that may include Wi-Fi, connectivity or Passenger Information Systems (PIS), etc.), ROCM can be easily included on top of existing services, making use of the installed capabilities.

As previously mentioned, if maintenance is more efficient, it will allow higher levels of availability and reliability, directly impacting passengers. If the reliability of a train is affected, this could potentially result in the passenger choosing an alternative mode of transport. The same applies to freight – e.g., if merchandise doesn’t get expedited on time and is delivered to a customer later than expected, that may drive the customer to look for alternatives.

What do rail operators need to be aware of regarding data in the future?

There are a few trending topics which are relevant; for example, since 2019, we have heard a lot about the digital twin, which is a ‘digital clone’ of a real-life asset, be it train or any other rail asset. It can show a digital representation of an asset and help to simulate potential scenarios in real life. 

Secondly, on a case-by-case matter, taking large data sources (Big Data) and feeding it to an Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning system that have the capabilities to produce predictive analytics allows the operator to generate forecasts and, for example, predict what will fail and when it will fail.

The key is to be realistic and extract the most value out of data. There may be challenges, such as scattered data, but having the right programmes and vision in place is beneficial to help navigate this. Thinking of the tangible added value you want to achieve from data and identifying small steps will help the operator to reach their data goals in the future. 

Data can revolutionise how operations and maintenance affect the rail industry; the key is knowing how to utilise it effectively.

If you would like more information about the contents of this article, please contact [email protected].