t’s not all that hard to imagine what tomorrow’s trains will be like from the passenger-experience angle. But it’s tougher to make out the consequences and challenges that they will entail for the industry.
At the same time, equipment manufacturers are developing increasingly complex and autonomous functions to improve safety, lower costs and enhance comfort.
Eric Markarian, Global Key Account Manager Sensors & Motors at Crouzet, tells us more.
What trends are you seeing in the railway market today?
I can see three drivers that are clearly reshaping demand from railway operators. The first one is safety, in the broad sense of the term. Then cost control. That means more than just reducing costs: it also means keeping a tight rein on costs (especially maintenance costs) over time. Then, lastly, and more generally, operators are asking for smarter equipment, for vehicles as much as infrastructure. I’d rather talk about system and subsystem “management”, “communication” and “autonomy”.
What do these shifts mean for technology and industry?
It starts with design: operators are thinking more and more about “functions”, and not so much about components anymore. They want products to be more and more customized, and to accommodate specific technical, operational and even financial constraints. So equipment manufacturers need to come up with functional, modular, autonomous and communicating systems. Central management is on its way out and distributed management is on its way in: each module shares information with other functions strictly on a need-to-know basis.
Is that a constraint or an opportunity for equipment manufacturers?
I can’t talk for all of our peers. But, at Crouzet, we clearly see several upsides there. First, it’s good news for average purchases because we sell sets comprising several components. And these self-contained units are designed to be perfectly compatible with each other: so we can sidestep the qualification and testing with outside components. Then, it makes customization much easier. We can even design an exclusive subsystem for a customer, who will owns the intellectual property. Lastly, modularization is leading everyone in the industry to standardize communication protocols, which we think is necessary.
Equipment manufacturers need to come up with functional, modular, autonomous and communicating systems.
How can this functional modularization benefit operations?
From a safety standpoint, the advantages basically have to do with the fact that distributed management and technical simplification make systems more reliable. In a nutshell, that means fewer bugs! It also improves the user experience because there are fewer failures, of course. And operators stand to gain a lot from tapping into the data generated by the modules to reduce their TCO1. It’s almost easy to switch from conventional preventive maintenance to targeted predictive maintenance by analyzing the system’s behavior (abnormal temperature, unusually high current levels, incompatibility between several measurements or sensor status, etc.). We can also think about using artificial intelligence algorithms to detect data patterns that have led to failures in the past. And then we’ll be able to seriously start talking about “intelligent railways”!
Crouzet modules in railway systems
|Communicating motors for train doors||Communicating motors for gates between platforms and trains (e.g. on Paris metro line 14)|
|Managed circuit breakers connected to the train’s central supply||Communicating motors for platform access doors|
|Alarm trip detection||Communicating motors for railway-crossing barriers|
|WC door lock detection||Communicating motors for switches|
1 Total Cost of Ownership