Innovation in the Rail Industry

11th May 2015

Some say we are living in an age of innovation, whereby almost every aspect of our life is being rethought, reworked and (attempted to be) improved upon. This innovation covers everyday activities, but also extends into the workplace, as businesses constantly look to streamline their work processes and make their service or end product better. It doesn’t pay to stand still any more; businesses must innovate to advance and to stay ahead.

Innovation in Rail

As 3Squared continue to work closely with companies in the rail industry we are noticing more and more the effort being poured into thinking ahead and improving. The Government has also recognised this need for innovation in the rail industry. Claire Perry, the UK Rail Minister recently launched an industry-wide competition in order to encourage innovation in order to raise the standards of rail travel. Perry said, “Innovation is vital to the rail industry as passenger numbers and customer expectations continue to rise. Harnessing the latest technology and being creative in customer service hold the key to staying competitive”.

Examples of innovation in rail include practical solutions to passenger and employee problems. On the consumer side, it is predicted that paper tickets will be completely gone by 2020, with rail passes being issued as smartcards or as mobile phone tickets.



Clearing the Track

This supersonic air cleaner, which removes moisture and debris from train tracks, is an example of innovation in a different area of the rail industry. This automated device, fitted to the front of trains blasts away anything clearing the track, meaning train delays can be reduced and journeys can be safer. When you take into account that rail freight accounts for £1.6 billion of the British economy, it becomes apparent how important it is for safety and punctuality of these types of trains.

Strengths and Weaknesses

With change, however, comes vulnerability. As there are planned upgrades to railway signalling (from ageing signal lights, to new computers) this would leave the system open to hacking. This is not a problem with the technology though, instead this is a human danger. This isn’t to say that innovation is bad, quite the opposite in fact! However there are certain weaknesses that need to be addressed before innovation can be completely successful.

3Squared and the Rail Industry

3Squared have been involved with rail innovation for a number of years now, with our station mapping app reaching completion back in 2013. Station Master aims to help passengers navigate unfamiliar railway stations in order to reach the correct platform (and other amenities such as lavatories and shops) without getting lost. Station Master won the Discretionary Rail Passenger Challenge at the EIT Rail Customer Competition, a competition which promotes innovative solutions for passenger and freight customer experience in rail.

A Vested Interest

3Squared also recently entered our SmartVest into the Innovate UK Wearable Tech competition. This “smart” hi-vis vest is designed specifically for construction and rail workers. The ‘SmartVest’ expands on the current safety benefits of the high visibility vest by incorporating low energy, affordable Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) that respond to potential dangers. The platform also integrates with live data feeds to provide automated visual alerts for workers in the event of an approaching train and other hazards. Our SmartSafe web-based software allows engineers to upload site plans and draw out virtual safe, exclusion and hazardous working zones


On site, the platform utilises the latest iBeacon technology to establish and monitor these virtual zones. iBeacons have revolutionised the field of micro positioning enabling devices accurately obtain exact locations within built or open environments.

Benefits of Innovation

The benefits of innovating (especially in the rail industry) are countless. “Improving” is the ultimate goal, but this is a catch-all term which includes safety, efficiency, and productivity, running right the way through to cost effectiveness. If you would like to find out more about innovation in the rail industry, get in touch!