If ever evidence was needed that we are entering the age of a ‘digital railway’ then one has to look no further than this year’s InnoTrans, a leading European international transport trade fair that covers everything from technology through to infrastructure.
Although it tries to be broad in its appeal to the different rail segments, there was no doubt that this year’s event focused more than ever on technology and digital innovation with a massive 19 halls out of 26 dedicated to this area. Just look at all that dark green on the map below.
Our co-founders Tim and James spent three days at the event meeting some of our European customers, including Hector Rail AB, VTG and Wabtec, and spending time with suppliers, collaborators and new customers.
The halls were filled with companies offering IoT sensors to monitor practically every component on a passenger or freight train, sophisticated passenger counting systems that use video and machine learning and many more data capture solutions that could provide operators with access to data.
There were lots of fledgling software companies offering to help operators make sense of all this data with reporting and dashboard tools. We certainly came away with ideas on how we too could leverage the data RailSmart collects for its customers, providing insight and supporting the decision-making process.
Notably absent this year were the Driver Advisory Systems (DAS) such as the RailSmart MTISA application which provide valuable information to both the operators and drivers who then can decide how best to regulate the trains and manage train running performance.
At this year’s event ERTMS/ETCS had a big presence, specifically the training and development side with lots of companies offering simulators, VR and AR training simulators including some complementary training aids that would sit alongside the 3Squared/LNER developed ERTMS familiarisation tool.
Finally, plenty of companies offering software and services similar to 3Squared’s proving that there is a thriving European competitive landscape of companies who all believe in a digital railway.
Overall the whole event certainly was inspirational, with some great technological innovations and advancements on display. The event provided lots of ideas to bring back to Sheffield and at the same time provided validation that the UK is on the right track with its approach to digital transformation within the sector.
We’re certainly optimistic and look forward to playing our part in the digital railway as it evolves and expands over the coming years within the UK and mainland Europe.
James Fox also shared some thoughts during the event with the Rail Innovation group that you can see below.