The Two Faces of Digitization in the Rail Industry – Part 1

From level crossings to signal boxes, and even autonomous trains, the potential for digitization in the rail sector is huge and already becoming a reality. This transformation presents new opportunities but also new challenges. How must the rail sector react?

For rail transportation to remain competitive with other methods of travel, such as airplanes and cars, the sector must become more efficient and reduce costs. There are many means to achieve this, including automating processes and even trains themselves. However, while such measures may make rail operation simpler and more effective, they also have implications for rail safety. These changes require new types of safety solution and providers must adapt with the ever-developing technology landscape of the rail sector.

Evolving with Digitization to Gain the Market Share

Despite the rail industry being a somewhat closed market with high barriers to entry, if existing players do not develop solutions suitable for the networked age, they are likely to get left behind. Software companies could potentially take over and gain the market share. This transformation of the market represents challenges for companies as success depends on investing resources in research and development. However, if handled correctly, digitization offers safety solution providers and rail operators an abundance of opportunities. By working closely with rail companies, safety solution providers can help create new business models and access new markets.

“Due to the rise of digitization in the rail sector, solutions based on COTS systems and open safety technology will form the key foundation for digital platforms in the future.”
Reinhold Hundt,
Rail Industry Expert at Astran

Defining a Clear Strategy for Success

If safety providers react to this change, not only can they profit, they can actually contribute to influencing digitization. Companies must embrace drivers of digitization such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and machine learning, and develop a strategy using them. In this way, new solutions and systems will work in harmony with the demands of the digital age.

Secondly, safety providers must look to build on their internal IT knowledge and expertise. This allows them to take control of solution development themselves and not be reliant on IT third parties, which may be costly and relinquish a business’ influence on digitization of the rail sector. Finally, working together with others in the industry is vital. In this way, the rail sector can tackle challenges as a collective to minimize costs and reduce risks in solution development.

Make sure you stayed tuned to the Smart Safety Hub for part 2 of The Two Faces of Digitization. The second instalment will focus on how technology advancements are required in the era of digital rail safety.