The emergence of hidden IT processes in Railways faces many challenges

In the automotive industrie, general manufacturing and the robotics and automation companies, we always talk about the 4th industrial revoultion. As I am sitting currently again in a train running between the capital and the largest city, it came to my mind to philosophize a bit about the potential of the 4th industrial revolution where it directly benefits the passenger but is not instantly seen.


One of the major advantages we certainly have more with the 4th industrial revolution is interconnectivity and machine to machine communication. That means for instance that the minibar, yes – this train still has a functioning and well equipped minibar that is brought around, informs the restaurant car instantly about its need for restocking, fresh products such as sandwiches can be prepared and be picked up by the cart when passing through. Another potential information would be that the passenger counters at each door inform about the capacity, respectively utilization, of the carriage, thus informing passengers to go to the next carriage to have more space.


If a railway, or in the future more a transport network, will become more a net than a star-network, it will be necessary to manage a lot of information locally, constancly exchange aggregated data and enable passengers to make informed decisions. For istance will it be less costly and more efficient to decide on a longer path to a destination if it offers other advantages, such as a view or less occupancy. To make such a decision, it will become necessary to exchange a lot of information and presend them in a aggregated way. The machine will make a pre-selection of suitable paths and presenting them to the passengers before she can make the informed decision.


What is most interesting to me with all these developments is that the question about ownership, management, exchange and publication of data is not very well settled. Just this week, SBB in Switzerland stopped to collect data on their Swiss Pass RFID Ticket system due to pricacy concerns. Countries need to make clear boundries in which the EVU/RU can undertake their activities, collect and exchange data without having the risk that a project need to be stopped due to arrising concerns.




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