While we can’t predict the future, we thought that with the new year we could try and forecast what we can expect to see happen in rail from a technology perspective. We asked Agonics Client Solutions Engineer, Jamie Ibrahim, for his insights.
Agonics: Jamie you work will some of Australia’s leading rail networks and see their challenges up front. What do you think will be the five key technology trends that will accelerate in rail this year?
To be honest I feel a bit pressured to give you five things, but I will try my best!
First and foremost I think we will see AI play a bigger role in rail. I’m talking here about railway networks using AI to access and build upon asset and defect information they already have, but which perhaps isn’t indexed in way that is useful for a business process or workflow. What I expect to see is more specialist AI tools that work for rail data as opposed to generalist tools like ChatGPT.
Secondly, I think we’ll see LiDAR data start to become really embedded in routine maintenance and inspection. For too long LiDAR has been on the periphery of what is arguably the most critical activity any rail maintainer does. The potential safety and productivity benefits are just really hard to ignore.
Thirdly, I think that this year we’ll be hearing the term ‘sweating the asset’ more as large capital projects start to wind down. In this high inflationary environment, we are going to have to do more with less. For a railway network the best way to sweat the asset is to know as much about the asset as possible, what constitutes the asset and its defect history, and so up to date asset information will be key.
My next prediction is around Level Crossing Safety. Australia has a large number of level crossings, and some are in quite remote locations. Assessing them is arduous and labour intensive and so we can expect to see some real progress in using remote sensing technologies and desktop-based work methods to do some of the heavy lifting here.
Finally, I think we’ll see a renewed focus on the rail customer, whether passenger or freight. It is after all the reason why we have railway networks and railway suppliers to support them. Any technology that can enhance the customer experience should make inroads in 2024. That could be anything that improves passenger accessibility at a railway station or that supports rapid approval of a freight operator’s over-dimensional load.
Agonics: Given the key technology trends and challenges you’ve outlined for the rail industry in 2024, how is Agonics positioning itself to address these needs?
The growing pace of technological change will be one of the main drivers of change for the rail industry in 2024 and beyond. It is likely that progress will be exponential and not linear, based on the recent technical innovations and improvements.
Agonics is positioning itself to provide client solutions that embrace digitalisation of manual processes in safety and compliance such as our Line of Sight (LOS) and Signal Sighting innovations through the adoption of cloud computing and data analytics. This is aimed at moving away from traditional approaches of spreadsheets and physical visits to the network and allow efficient management of vast amounts of information, leading to improved resource allocation and cost-effectiveness.
Collaborating with technology partners such as Agonics and fostering innovation through the development of initiatives that improve current business practices will reward the operators, maintainers and constructors that have the courage to position themselves at the forefront of the dynamic technological changes sweeping the rail industry in 2024.