Next Generation Signaling: Roadmap to the digital future

What are the key factors relating to automated driving in long-distance transport? What benefits do Building Information Modeling (BIM) and the “digital twin” provide in project implementation? How does connectivity enable efficient performance monitoring for components on vehicles and tracks? And what do passengers get out of digitalized tracks? At the Co-Creation BarCamp “Next Generation Signaling – from ATO to Connectivity,” Siemens Mobility joined top industry representatives for a look into the digital future of rail transportation.

“Our annual BarCamp is a collaborative format so we can talk directly with our customers about innovations in signaling systems,” says Gerhard Greiter, head of the Mainline Rail Automation Segment at Siemens Mobility. In line with the motto, “Co-creating new solutions,” a selected group of decision-makers from the transportation sector discussed a range of future-oriented topics relating to signaling systems and rail infrastructure with Siemens Mobility. The focus was on automated driving systems for long-distance public transport, connectivity for infrastructure and vehicles, technologies for digitally surveying rail infrastructure, and working with the help of a digital twin. Participants contributed to the various topic sessions and actively helped structure the session content. Greiter explains the motivation behind the event: “We want to work with our customers to develop a shared roadmap, rather than bypass them in the development process. Our customers already have visions for their digital future, and we perceive ourselves as important partners to achieve this with them, step by step.” A “digital marketplace” gave participants the opportunity to experience and explore some of these new technologies firsthand using digital exhibits and simulated scenarios.

Flexible capacity optimization with ATO

Working with Deutsche Bahn and the municipal authorities in Hamburg, Siemens Mobility is already putting a pilot project into place for “Digital Rail for Germany.” Starting in 2021, four trains equipped with ATO (Automatic Train Operation) will operate on one section of the Hamburg S-Bahn. The control system Trainguard ATO uses data from infrastructure, the line, and train schedule information to calculate the ideal speed profile for the current conditions at any time. The driver is kept informed of all processes via an on-screen system, and only needs to intervene if a fault occurs. The result is a saving in power consumption and significant improvements in both traffic flow and capacity, and the passengers are happy to have a stable and more accurate timetable. Hamburg is thus on the way to becoming a model city for state-of-the-art mobility. With automated driving, Siemens is making rail-based transport more reliable, more environmentally friendly, and safer.

Connectivity: The basis for intelligent infrastructure

“We need scalable solutions for end-to-end connectivity, in addition to higher levels of automation, in order to improve safety and efficiency, and to optimize the traffic flow,” says Greiter, explaining a further focus of the event. All elements making up today’s rail infrastructure produce massive volumes of data, which have to be gathered, stored, and processed. Infrastructure operators therefore have countless opportunities to benefit from all this data; from optimizing entire fleet operations to preventive maintenance and needs-based servicing at the right time. Siemens Mobility is working on new analytical tools that enable in-depth and yet tailored analyses of customer-specific key performance indicators (KPIs). The “System Performance Dashboard” provides full transparency regarding punctuality, network utilization, status, capacity, etc., with just a few clicks. In short, increasing connectivity can improve network performance overall, creating a comfortable travel experience for passengers.

Efficient asset lifecycle management with Building Information Modeling (BIM)

Another interactive session at BarCamp 2019 introduced participants to “digital twin” technology, which makes it possible to digitally record an entire rail network and the associated equipment rooms. “Building Information Modeling” is a method that uses digital models of a structure or setting to record and manage relevant information and data, and share it among all the parties involved. It was on this basis that Siemens developed its “Digital Track Services,” a special digital process for rail infrastructure. This involves a scanner mounted on the train that records georeferenced data points in 360-degree rotation while the train is in motion. The result is a digital twin of the scanned line image; using precise measurements and digital design and adaptation tests, it is now possible to discuss the level of progress on a project with the customer interactively at any time, regardless of actual location.

At the end of a fascinating day and many visions of the future at BarCamp 2019, Greiter sums up: “The new digital technologies open up far-reaching opportunities for rail traffic, and benefit both operators and passengers: The existing infrastructure is improved and rail-based mobility is made more efficient, comfortable, and simply better. The transformation is moving at full speed – and we are there to help, as the technology partner our customers can trust!”


Picture credits: Siemens Mobility

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