trends in rail
POSTED : February 20, 2020
BY : Kristen Crawford

Opportunities and risks for tech in the rail industry

In today’s increasingly digital culture, adoption of tech trends is critical for the rail industry to reach customers faster, gather data more accurately while still protecting it, reach new safety milestones, and make smarter decisions. The world rail market is evolving, and key players are rapidly disrupting the industry to achieve these goals with automation, more engaging digital experiences, AI and IoT. However, this technology brings a new challenge: threats to cybersecurity present an issue that rail companies must address. Consider these tech trends that rail companies should embrace in order to emerge as market leaders and better serve customer needs.

Automated train trips

In August of 2019, a heavy-haul freight train in Pueblo, Colorado, made a test trip solely operating by computer. Combining capabilities such as Big Data, IoT, analytics, and AI, “smart railroad” technology will not only offer convenience but will also save money and fuel. Automated rail also promises to improve railroad operations due to enhanced precision, increase average train speed by reducing acceleration and braking variations caused by manual operation, and remove the need for crew changes en route.

Giving control to rail customers

In the age where almost everyone owns at least one smart device, passenger rail customers want more control and data on their interactions with a rail company. They can provide this control by shifting to automation and better digital experiences. Many railway companies continue to offer this convenience to their customers. In the past few months, both the Connecticut Department of Transportation and the New Jersey Transit have moved to mobile ticketing apps. In addition, Uber has recently launched a “Make My Train” feature to its app, which allows customers in New York and San Francisco to schedule a trip to a commuter rail station in coordination with train arrival times. Uber automatically books a trip to the station to accommodate a selected train time and how much time in advance the customer prefers to arrive. This feature arrives on the heels of last year’s addition of real-time public transit data, allowing customers in Denver and Las Vegas to purchase train tickets from within the app.

Growing threat to cybersecurity

In the aftermath of a major ransomware attack on San Francisco’s subway system in 2016, the railway industry has increased its focus on cybersecurity. Railways are particularly vulnerable to cyberattacks because they operate with both modern technology and legacy physical components, which were not originally designed for IoT compatibility. According to Amir Levintal, CEO of cybersecurity firm Cylus, hackers “might change the controls on the train or could even access commands in order to derail the train. These kinds of attacks are probable, and once a system is breached it’s just a matter of deciding what commands a malicious actor wants to send.” He urges railroad companies to take extra steps to protect their physical components. He also believes that the number of cybersecurity tools tailored to the unique needs of the railway industry will grow in the near future as the industry continues to digitize.

Technology has opened a number of doors for rail companies to modernize and meet customer needs in new ways. Though cybersecurity presents a challenge, rail companies that adopt these trends best will come out on top. Learn more about how PK helps rail companies leverage emerging technology to solve the industry’s toughest challenges.

 


About the Author

“KristenKristen Crawford serves as Executive Vice President at PK, where she specializes in identifying solutions that help clients deliver extraordinary experiences, launch new business models and drive operations efficiency. Kristen is passionate about consumer experience and how guidance and using the latest strategies create innovative solutions that accelerate growth and make the customer the center of the business.

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