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Building a Business Case for Transit IoT: Is It Worth It?

In France, the national railway has bucked the conservative, risk-averse industry mold in favor of digitization through the Internet of Things (IoT). The transit provider has installed sensors across the entire railway system, providing a blanket of IoT tech across thousands of miles of track for data collection that allows the operators to better predict when cars will need maintenance. Preemptive maintenance isn’t the only benefit. Harnessing data intelligence allows the railway to prevent mechanical error that would take a train out of service unexpectedly, which has a ripple effect of costly repairs, safety issues, and delayed service and passenger dissatisfaction.

Reportedly, train cars, tracks, and stations will all eventually be equipped with sensors that will send thousands of data points directly to a cloud and IoT platform for the real-time data analysis necessary to deliver such efficiencies and improvements. According to the operating company, the Parisian lines will have 2,000 sensors on 200 trains that will send upwards of 70,000 data points per month to engineers for remote monitoring.

However, the race towards digitization isn’t just a matter of placing sensors and connecting to a monitoring platform. In France they have chosen an operational focus that covers three pillars: cybersecurity by design, platform-as-a-service deployment model, and big data for decision support.

How IoT Can Make Transit Thrive

IoT, often associated with smart homes, encompasses transformative technology for our future business world. According to Gartner, a leading analyst firm, “IoT will have a great impact on the economy by transforming many enterprises into digital businesses and facilitating new business models, improving efficiency, and increasing employee and customer engagement.” It was also noted, that the biggest barriers to adoption and deployment are that most companies do not know what to do with the technology and without specific plans, there could be a lack of leadership for IoT initiatives.

For transit, the path to business value seems more obvious than other industries, with use cases such as:

  • Asset Management & Predictive Maintenance - Sensors have the ability to not only track all transit assets, but also transform maintenance planning from corrective and reactive to plans based on life and health indicators. For example, brake pads are replaced according to standard plans based on distance. With IoT, a sensor can be placed to measure health as well as measurements of energy dissipation capability from friction to optimize brake pad utilization.

  • Worker Safety - From employee biometrics to data reporting a lone worker fixing a rail, IoT provides intelligence to ensure enhanced worksite safety. Given that safety is always a top priority, transit

operators will have the actionable data to ensure federal and state regulations are upheld, including metrics for the maximum amount of time a driver can operate a vehicle.

  • Fare Collection - With a more efficient way to pay and collect fares, enforcement officers can use smartphones as a standard device to validate passengers’ fares or detect fare evaders in real time on trains. By digitizing payment systems, passengers can have a greater range of payment options including Apple Pay or Google Wallet to improve the rider experience, while also providing valuable data back to the transit service on purchasing patterns.

Be Careful: IoT Can be a Solution Looking for a Problem

“Initially, leaders viewed the IoT as a silver bullet, a technology that can solve the myriad IT and business problems that their organizations faced. Very quickly, though, they recognized that without the proper framing of the problems, the IoT was essentially a solution looking for a problem.” - Mark Hung, Gartner Research Vice President

Implementers of connected transportation technologies are coming to the same conclusion that it is impossible to pursue IoT projects alone. Agencies and departments will require consultants, systems integrators, third-party vendors, and more to deploy technologies that are truly a silver bullet.

Given that IoT is a new concept and technology, it will be helpful to map out the implementation journey to deliver on business objectives as seen below:

Leading the IoT, Gartner eBook 2017

To move from exploring IoT, to reality, transit leaders will have to consider all technologies required for the initiative, including but not limited to the following factors:

  • What is already connected to my network and how will those technologies interact with IoT devices and platforms?

  • Which IoT platform is best suited for my environment?

  • Do I need additional solutions like Visibility-as-a-Service (VaaS) to monitor sensors and the health of my network?

  • How can I design a customized solution set that works to achieve my business goals?

  • What is the cost of all the technology needed to support an IoT initiative?

  • Does the initiative require a help desk to support the incoming data?

At Edgeworx we work with clients to answer all of these questions and chart a path to IoT business value. From technology vendor identification to network assessments, we provide a variety of services and solutions to bundle technologies and achieve combinatorial innovation. To learn more, contact our IoT architects at +1.647.793.4731.

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