Digital railway systems need big data platforms

The shift from analog to digital railway systems is fueling the demand for big data technologies and platforms, research firm Frost & Sullivan said in a new report.

The firm’s global annual rail investment forecast is for spending on big data to reach over $2.14 billion by 2021, with investments growing at a minimum of 60.3 percent.

The global rail market offers huge opportunities for big data technology providers. As some of the signalling equipment on rail networks is nearly 80 years old, industry participants have begun to invest in the current generation of rail systems including computer-based point machines and interlocking. 

“The main aim of the rail industry’s implementation of big data technologies has been predictive analytics,” said Frost & Sullivan Automotive & Transportation Research Analyst Shyam Raman. “Integrating media analytics to improve the security of rail infrastructure and payload are also key applications.”

The report noted that applications of big data technologies in the rail industry can extend further to include fare management, geospatial analysis, transit scheduling and revenue management. 

It, however, also noted the slow implementation of big data solutions, saying that widespread ignorance on how to identify relevant data structures/types has made rail companies wary of investing in big data platforms. 

It added that automatically gathered data could also be problematic, arising from systematic issues from sensors or incorrect metadata about the sensor.

“Globally, over 50 billion devices will be connected to the Internet by 2020, a four-fold increase from 2010,” explained Raman. “To remain competitive, the rail environment must adapt to these external conditions through the use of big data technologies.”