IoT Monitoring Sets New Standards in Railway Safety

Emily Newton
IoT Monitoring Sets New Standards in Railway Safety

The Internet of Things (IoT) has given decision-makers unprecedented asset visibility, resulting in safer operations in settings ranging from chemical plants to factory farms. They’ve understandably become interested in applications involving IoT in railway safety. Successful monitoring-related implementations keep passengers and workers safer, protecting reputations and saving lives.

Improving Maintenance

Railway operators must follow country-specific safety regulations when maintaining their trains and preventing accidents. Additionally, these entities create internal procedures to ensure technicians perform maintenance at the correct times. Scheduling it too early could prove costly and inefficient while waiting too long could have catastrophic consequences that risk lives.

Fortunately, IoT sensors support leaders as they create budgets to maintain their trains or decide when to retire specific assets. In one example, Hyderabad Metro Rail executives chose a solution that combines the IoT and artificial intelligence (AI) to offer predictive maintenance suggestions. Then, technicians and other relevant workers receive alerts before failures or outages occur, giving them time to react and keep operations running smoothly.

The company’s managing director cited cost conservation as the primary reason for the decision. However, he also noted how many nations’ survival centers on technological and scientific progress. Such progress aids individual businesses too. The strategic deployment of sensors to enhance maintenance could position Hyderabad Metro Rail executives as innovative and ready to bring their operations into the future.

Data collected by the IoT in railways provides another safety-related benefit by allowing people to track maintenance-related trends. Manufacturers recommend how often to perform specific measures based on average use. However, if decision-makers study internal data and identify patterns, they can use those to determine when to go outside stated suggestions for safety’s sake.

Finally, information from IoT sensors reduces the chances of regulatory scrutiny caused by insufficient safety procedures. Adopting and sticking to a sensor-based maintenance schedule indicates leaders understand they should react to gathered information instead of educated guesses. Some IoT platforms also send maintenance reminders at the correct times, preventing accidental oversights and other mistakes that could cause accidents.

Preventing Soil Instability

Railway safety goes beyond the train cars or tracks and includes the underlying soil. People must monitor the railroad ties and ballasts, recognizing when to replace or maintain them to prevent ground-related instability that could cause landslides or derailments.

A real-life example came from the brand that manages some of the United Kingdom’s largest train stations. Executives installed surface-mounted tilt meters across 26 network sites, with a further seven locations planned. Executives hoped the IoT application would make the railway safer by detecting ground movements below or above the track level. They also recognized the need for timely installation due to the region experiencing increasingly frequent severe weather driven by climate change.

Once the sensors alert engineers to issues, they can slow down and stop before reaching the affected areas. The sensor network features components spaced 2.5 meters apart, coupled with cameras and data loggers that add context to incoming alerts.

Each sensor activates when the ground surrounding the tracks tilts at least 5˚, indicating potential landslides. Train controllers then receive such notifications within two minutes of detection, giving them insights to keep passengers safe.

More recently, Network Rail’s leaders expanded their sensor strategy by installing hardware to monitor ground movement and conditions at flooded sites. This is part of a larger plan to spend billions of pounds over the next five years to improve the railway’s inclement weather preparedness.

The associated initiatives even include sending operations staff to a weather academy. The training will not replace the expert meteorologist advice the organization already uses but equip them for better weather-related decisions to support safety.

Eliminating Manual Processes

Estimates suggest the Internet of Things market worth will be near $2.4 trillion by 2029. Successful applications of the IoT in railways could encourage leaders to explore more ways to improve their business models with the technology.

One way to do that while supporting safety is to reduce dependence on manual processes. Conscientious employees still make mistakes due to distractions or tiredness. Automating some monitoring methods with the IoT could eliminate those blunders, upholding safety and ensuring accuracy.

Those ideals made Indian Railways executives enhance approximately half its locomotives with real-time location sensors, which record 14 million events daily. An estimated 2,700 of the railway’s electric locomotives have two-component sensors, and decision-makers will eventually add these to the entire fleet. Installing them meant putting hardware on the locomotive’s roof and inside its cabin.

The system gets continuous spatial and speed information from a satellite receiver. Then, built-in software determines each train’s arrival, departure, and associated run-through activity, providing two updates per minute as it progresses.

Train workers previously calculated this information manually. However, since the data affects locomotive arrivals, departures, and schedules, even minor errors could significantly decrease overall safety. Relying on automatically gathered IoT data does not remove the need for human oversight, but it gives people more time to spend on tasks technology can’t handle as well as themselves or at all.

Reducing Unforeseen Events 

Although some railway safety events occur after employees receive warnings of abnormalities or risks and ignore them, others seem to come out of nowhere. Preventing future similar issues becomes difficult or impossible. However, the IoT can detect potential problems before humans notice them, which is one of the primary reasons it’s so useful for predictive maintenance applications.

RATPDev operates and maintains transportation networks on four continents. Unsurprisingly, the IoT significantly influences daily operations. One application can predict rail distortion three days before it occurs by anticipating upcoming temperature spikes.

Leaders have also used the IoT to decrease door faults by 50%, showing how such initiatives simultaneously promote better maintenance and immediate safety. If a door-related issue prevents people from escaping in emergencies, it degrades safety. Similarly, faults could prevent integrated technology from recognizing items blocking an open door’s path, causing people’s clothing or handbags to get caught if the door closes too soon.

Beyond these specific examples, the RATPDev team relies on the IoT within a larger digitalization strategy to support operations management. It allows the tracking of incidents, inter-department communications, and more. Monitoring those up-to-the-minute details helps workers spot safety risks and respond proactively.

IoT Supports Safer Railway Operations

Railway professionals have numerous exciting ways to bring the IoT into their daily workflows. These examples can inspire them and encourage purposeful applications that keep passengers and workers safer.

Emily Newton
Emily Newton - Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized | Industrial Content Writer,
I specialize in writing in-depth articles for the industrial and sci/tech sectors. In addition to my work for Revolutionized, my works have been published on, ReadWrite, and Global Trade Magazine. Please connect with me on LinkedIn!
I specialize in writing in-depth articles for the industrial and sci/tech sectors. In addition to my work for Revolutionized, my works have been published on, ReadWrite, and Global Trade Magazine. Please connect with me on LinkedIn!