Published August 06, 2020 in Article
The business of transit is incredibly infrastructure intensive. Look down the street in any major city and you see buses and trains, stations and stops, all operating along a vast network of streets and rail corridors.
For a transit system to be running on-time, countless mechanical systems need to all be functioning smoothly together. With so many interrelated pieces of equipment, the margin for error is very small.
All it takes is one major component failure on a commuter train to trigger a cascading series of events from which it’s difficult to recover: rider delays, leading ultimately to lower satisfaction and potentially lower ridership. So, as we look to the future, one industry challenge is: can agencies deliver more consistently-reliable service, by significantly reducing (even eliminating) service delays due to mechanical failure?
In what is being called the latest Industrial Revolution, the (Industrial) Internet of Things (IIoT) offers the promise of dramatic increases in transit service reliability. So exactly what is IIoT?
What started out years ago as simply telematics (sensors communicating data/faults to another system), is becoming a massive network of asset health monitoring devices embedded throughout bus and rail networks.
As more and more of this smart infrastructure comes online, it is providing real-time actionable intelligence so that agencies know which assets are healthy and which may be on the verge of failing. In short, IIoT is the equivalent of today’s smartwatches: it puts the agency’s finger directly on the pulse of its transit infrastructure’s health.
Today, a convergence of political and technological trends are driving the IIoT revolution in transit. The conditions are ripe for change due to the international ISO 55000 standards and the increasing requirements to meet legislative requirements and government regulations.
The most significant trend, however, is technological. We are in the midst of a “smart infrastructure” revolution, with more and more sensors embedded into new transit infrastructure coming online. New fleets of vehicles (railcars, buses) have become rolling supercomputers, capable of monitoring their own health in real-time.
Installed on those vehicles are a multitude of telematic sensors embedded in electrical and mechanical systems. Common bus components capable of self-monitoring include: engine, transmission, brakes, retarder, and body controllers, to name a few.
For railcars, a multitude of systems include propulsion, HVAC, door, and braking systems. But it’s not just rolling stock. For rail wayside, SCADA alerts are commonly generated by power substations, interlockings, and elevators.
A key benefit of tracking fault data in real-time is the ability to detect equipment failure and alert maintenance before it occurs (e.g. conditions have reached a user-defined min/max threshold). This notification gives operations staff time to proactively swap-out the component before failure, thereby avoiding disruption to service.
Agencies at the forefront of this technology are embracing this trend to the point of creating the role of Data Scientist (in function, if not in name) to turn the growing mountains of IIoT data into “actionable intelligence”. This information can then be used to optimise maintenance intervals which are often based on very conservative manufacturer-recommended intervals.
So, how can you fully benefit from these advancements?
To take the next step in your asset maintenance, contact us.