IBM opened a new Global Rail Innovation Center that will bring together the world’s foremost industry leaders, researchers and universities to advance next-generation rail systems.
The Center will address the rail industry’s most pressing challenges, including: passenger reservations and service; asset utilization and productivity; surveillance of tracks and infrastructure; scheduling; integrated fare management; and environmentally efficient operations.
Based in Beijing, the Rail Innovation Center will be staffed by a global network of IBM rail consultants, software specialists, mathematicians and business partners. China is at the epicenter of revolutionizing rail infrastructure and operations for the 21st century, introducing new high speed trains and a hugely expanded rail network at an unprecedented pace.
In addition to collaboration with the Advisory Board, the Center will draw upon assets and expertise from across IBM and around the world including its Research labs, software development labs, systems centers and global service delivery capabilities. The center will also link with business consultants at IBM’s recently announced Analytics Solutions Centers to create a global virtual rail community that can collectively address rail industry challenges.
New railroad networks will contain millions of sensors that track everything from train speeds to when brakes need to be replaced. Building these intelligent rail networks requires a high-powered, integrated system that can collect, manage and analyze the enormous amount of data flowing in from the tracks, through the trains and stations, and across the maintenance process.
Netherlands Railways, one of Europe’s busiest, uses advanced optimization software from IBM to weigh 56,000 variables, including the railroad’s infrastructure and passenger demand, to assemble and schedule more than 5,000 trains per day, improving operating efficiency by 6 percent with an estimated annual savings of €20 million. This scheduling model can also be applied to future projects being led out of the new rail center.
The new rail Center will bring together IBM and its industry partners – both physically and virtually – to jointly develop these skills and put the products and services into action. For example, teams in China or California might be able to learn from the development of an Italian high speed rail system, and a U.S. inter-modal freight project could be applied in Russia.
According to a recent IBM report “The Smarter Railroad,” railroad executives around the world are focused on capacity and congestion, operational efficiency and reliability, and safety and security.
One major area of focus will be safety and preventive maintenance. Smarter capabilities and insight can help to prevent accidents before they happen. Sensor-based early detection of potential equipment failures provides a more optimal predictive maintenance scheme, and various monitoring capabilities for rail infrastructure such as tracks and bridges can reduce disruptions to passenger and freight service.
Reliable on-time performance is another key factor when passengers select a mode of travel. The Taiwan High Speed Rail Corporation is using IBM software to manage maintenance and logistics for the revolutionary high-speed rail network that runs along the west coast of Taiwan. IBM is providing vital support to the management and maintenance systems that make sure hundreds of trains carrying passengers between the south and the north are safe and on time.
The rail center will also address customer service issues. Using intelligent aggregations of data, a smarter rail system can make the travel experience much more pleasant for passengers. New perks include the ability to buy a ticket and receive alerts on delayed trains using a mobile device, guaranteeing a seat, and achieving nearly perfect on-time arrival rates.