The Indian Railways have come a long way since the chugging of the first train on Indian soil in April of 1853. India has always looked at the Railways as a vital infrastructure enabling it to deliver goods and services for the growing economy. However, meeting the requirements of fast growing economy is a challenge.
The main issue is creation of the needed logistics and transport capacity in an affordable and achievable manner. The fact is that the traditional way of building additional infrastructure is too slow, too cumbersome. It is likely to fall short of the growing requirements and expectations. The challenge is to find a solution with adequate level of investments. It shall leverage and optimize both the available and future resources.
We need a smarter way to connect people with jobs and goods with market. Digital Technology offers the solution. By going digital, we can unlock far more than currently utilized capacity of the available infrastructure. Number of trains could be increased where it is needed more. Going digital shall help the Indian Railways build and run better, provide more trains and better services with greater reliability.
Indian Railways aims to deliver services to meet the demands of the citizens of Digital India. Digital Railway Platform: IR-OneICT or Indian Railways One Information and Communication Technology Platform is Government’s new programme. IR-OneICT is a vision to create a data-driven Indian Railways.
The Indian Railways convened the first-ever roundtable with information technology experts from India and abroad in March this year as part of its ambitious “big data” convergence plan called “One-ICT” to enhance and modernise services and operations.
Running 18,000 trains and carrying 23 million passengers each day across a network spreading 64,500 kilometres, the railways generates a huge amount of data every day but lacks an open source platform for collecting and analysing the information.
Experiments in the use of digital technologies are transforming rail operations in most of the developed world.
“Besides bringing about vast improvements in operational efficiency, a one-stop-solution IT platform can unlock the business potentials of the Indian Railways by optimising freight and passenger operations,” Mangal Dev of the Hitachi Rail System Company said in a recent presentation before the Railway Board.
Dev is the director of Hitachi India and head of Hitachi Rail System Company, India and South Asia Region.
Associated with two projects on the complete life-cycle train management in the United Kingdom, the Hitachi systems capture data from thousands of sensors and signals on the functioning of various systems including voltage, temperature and brake pressures, and AC systems.
These are analysed into actionable intelligence, Dev told Hindustan Times.
“Self-aware” trains – or the “super-brain” concept for locomotive management – are among the new rail technologies being experimented. Last year, the German DB and the General Electric of the United States launched a digital pilot project to assess the performance management system and monitor the condition of its locomotives.
The GE is also collaborating with the US Amsted Rail on the “Car Integrity Monitor”, which provides real-time notifications on the condition of freight wagon components.
IR-OneICT is a strategic initiative for meeting the Business Objectives of: Improved Customer Satisfaction; Safe, Effective and Efficient Operations and Improved Revenues.
The following shall do this the principles of:
- Data collection at source with minimum human handling
- Single source of validated information
- Timely availability of actionable information to authorised person at place of use
- Improved data analysis and usage
Use of best in class technology for data analytics, simulation software, and network optimization and decision support systems shall enable and ensure real time availability and usage of information leading to agile and efficient working. Thus, managers can spend more time on execution.
IR-OneICT aims for service delivery on an easily accessible Digital Platform for an enhanced customer experience. End to End Journey Management, Real-time consignment tracking, Door-to-Door value added deliveries, Co-branded services such as on-board dining and entertainment would be available to customers on easy to use mobile apps.
IR-OneICT shall also enable the Indian Railways to improve utilization of assets. The impact of these interventions is described briefly in the following paragraphs.
Indian Railways could deliver similar results as of Britain’s Network Rail or Canadian National.
Real time asset management systems would enable managers to not only plan efficient operations & maintenance but also optimize asset acquisition for enhanced capacity. Financial data would assist the managers to dynamically plan and optimize cash flows.
Every year Indian Railway uses about 3 million litres of diesel and 16 billion units of electricity. Smart sensors and networks coupled with real-time analytics can predict and optimize energy consumption. It provides substantial savings and significantly reduce our carbon footprint.
Employee management dashboards would help managers stay in sync with their teams anywhere, anytime. IR-OneICT would enable a 24 by 7 workforce.
Digital enablement of Indian Railway hospitals would assist in optimal use of resources through appointment scheduling and other linked activities. Tele-medicine services shall help connect experts and patients located in different parts of the country with ease.
Server Clouds, Managed Networks and optimized Systems Architecture ensures Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability providing seamless delivery of services powered by a robust ICT infrastructure.
IR-OneICT shall engender a paradigm shift in Indian Railways to create a Digital Railways for Digital India. This initiative shall truly revolutionize Indian Railways.