Digitalising rolling stock – it’s a good idea!
Find out more from Teldat about how deploying Wi-Fi, 5G and IoT technologies on rail rolling stock can offer many more benefits than simply in-seat internet access for passengers.
Thanks to high bandwidth 5G and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, the rail industry is undergoing a quiet revolution that will allow operators to deliver a safer, smarter and more pleasant experience for their passengers. At the same time, smart enabling rolling stock offers an opportunity to increase efficiency, reduce costs and improve operations.
On-board Wi-Fi has been possible for some time – but, when combined with 5G cellular technology, the potential array of applications increases exponentially. Obviously, this opens opportunities to provide travellers with mobile internet access – but the rolling stock operator stands to gain much more in the long-run.
There are two key concepts to leverage maximum value from a wireless-enabled fleet: the hardware used to provide network connectivity and the software used to manage the network remotely. Using its H2-Rail platform, Wi-Fi 6 access points and the 5Ge-Rail router, Teldat can build a reliable on-board network. This is then managed with the be.SDWAN platform to optimise operations and ensure the highest levels of service and availability without downtime or hands-on technician involvement.
But, what does improved connectivity really offer rolling stock operators and their clients?
Improved operator efficiency
With a robust network infrastructure technology stack on which to build smarter rolling stock, operators have an opportunity to improve their overall efficiency. At the most basic level, train to ground communications become an always-on possibility. This allows for improved, secure communication between depot, head office and the trains on the move.
Perhaps more interesting is the potential for advanced IoT deployments to create a ‘smart’ rolling stock fleet. With a reliable internet backbone, operators can add smart sensors to their carriages and engines, allowing for near real-time monitoring of a wide range of factors. In-carriage CO2 sensors can monitor air quality, for instance, allowing automated environment controls to improve passenger comfort.
On an engineering level, IoT sensors can be deployed to monitor the overall condition of the rolling stock. Vibration sensors, combined with cloud-based artificial intelligence (AI) and Big Data technologies, can detect unusual activity, providing early warning of potential component failure, for instance. Similar smart sensors can be deployed and managed remotely to monitor virtually every aspect of rolling stock health and performance.
Generating granular insights in near real-time will help operators to better plan preventative maintenance cycles that reduce the risk of component failure and service outages. This, in turn, extends the overall lifespan of each asset and improves the safety of passengers, cargo and other rail users.
The reality is that maintenance costs are a significant concern for all train operators, whether their rolling stock is wet- or dry-leased. Regardless of which party is responsible for carrying out maintenance, increasing miles per technical incident (MTIN) is a priority for helping to reduce cost of operations and failure. Digitalising rolling stock allows operators to leverage technologies like AI to better understand their fleet in real-time; improve overall safety and efficiency of each asset; and to deliver a better service to their customers.
Using the data collected from smart sensors, along with advanced analytical techniques, will help operators to make smarter decisions about the running of the fleet – both for strategic long-term planning and for real-time improvements, because potential problems can be identified and resolved earlier. With train to ground communications in place, data can be collected and applied in real time, rather than having to wait to complete manual downloads periodically.
Indeed, faster wireless connections will permit operators to leverage the power of the cloud to increase the automation of their rolling stock, so that employees on-board can focus more of their attention on safer operations – or the comfort and wellbeing of passengers. Over time, technology will reduce operating costs, improve reliability and help to increase the quality of service offered to passengers or freight customers.
Again, on-board Wi-Fi is relatively commonplace. However, connection speeds tend to be disappointing and contention (the number of other users sharing available network bandwidth) is far too high for excellent performance. Yes, apps work, but nowhere near as well as users have come to expect from other public locations.
5G cellular connectivity offers far faster theoretical download speeds while on the move, immediately offering more available bandwidth to users. By deploying Wi-Fi 6 routers, such as the APR2044ax access point from Teldat, throughout rolling stock, operators can support many more connected devices, ensuring that passengers have a better overall internet experience. By empowering travellers to be more productive or entertained, operators can ensure a more enjoyable travel experience, increasing the perceived value of travel.
At a time when operators are fighting low-cost airlines and self-travel options like cars, every factor that improves the overall experience should be embraced. On-board Wi-Fi may seem relatively trivial, but many customers expect the option, even if it is as a chargeable extra. This is particularly true for longer journeys, where similar connectivity options are available on other forms of transport.
Don’t underestimate the importance of a unified rolling stock communications solution
Perhaps the biggest challenge facing operators as they begin the process of digitalising rolling stock will be ongoing maintenance and security. Operators will need tools that allow them to monitor, configure and manage WLAN assets remotely. They will also need the ability to analyse and shape traffic to ensure a suitable balance between the demands of customers and those of the operator, too.
Using a unified rolling stock communications platform like Teldat’s allows you to centralise all of these functions – including tools to secure and protect network internal and external connections – into a single console. This approach provides your IT engineers with everything that they need to deliver a leading WAN service to rolling stock assets any place, any time without scheduling costly, time-consuming site visits.
Modernising rolling stock is a win-win
Teldat’s rolling stock solutions provide a technology platform from which rail operators can transform operations safely and securely. More than simply providing reliable mobile internet access, it becomes possible to digitalise rolling stock to make it smarter, more efficient and to reduce the risk of costly failures. And, with cutting edge security built-in as standard, rolling stock operators can ensure that WLAN and SD-WAN assets are properly protected against disruption by hackers and cyber-criminals.
You can learn more about rolling stock digitalisation and the full benefits of building smarter assets here.