The Smartest Train in the World

Blog The Smartest Train in the World

To understand a “smart train,” one must first understand “smart technology.” One source describes smart technology as some that takes “input from somewhere, applies some brainpower, and takes some actions.” Smart sunglasses, for example, ultimately work to process sunlight, rather than just “dimming it down.” They also use micro-cameras to create 3D models of whatever the cameras are recording or seeing.


Smart phones, on the other hand, are less like standard phones and more like “pocket computers,” giving one access to the Internet, email, iTunes, and other applications that at one point, could only be accessed through our desktops, and the list goes on from there.


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So, back to our original question – what is a smart train? Arguably, it’s one that serves a broader function than simply getting passengers from point A to point B. Between traveling at faster speeds, saving energy and reducing harmful emissions, a smart train is one that can do “just a bit more” than your standard tank engine.



With growing fuel costs and the ongoing threats of climate change and environmental hazards, rail travel is considered much more energy efficient than road vehicles or airplanes. Software and transportation companies are tuning in to this fact, and are working to improve the world’s growing rail systems.



While the title of “smartest train” is open to debate, an example is the (we’ll use the words one of – we don’t want to hurt any feelings) is relayr's Smart Transportation solution, currently in use with one of North Americas largest railway providers. relayr is assisting in the company’s growth by managing all its IT and physical assets) through its middleware platform, performing tasks such as monitoring cargo and the container state, gathering important data from the carriages and the train such as temperature, vibration and humidity, and enabling real-time data visualizatio for the railway provider.


The software remotely monitors the railway system including train speeds, track system conditions, and the statuses of rail cars. Alarm messages and maintenance data can be sent automatically to managers, ensuring problems are realized and fixed before breakdowns can occur. It also helps with scheduling and updates, as well as maintenance. Safety, parts and labor have all been improved in the process.



But as cool as that rail system is, it’s not alone in the field of “smart trains.” Taiwan’s High-Speed Rail Corporation has also been using the software for the better part of eight years, and it’s this technology that allows company trains to move at over 180 miles per hour. The system boasts a punctuality rate of over 99 percent, operates over 70,000 trains, and services four-and-a-half million people. As with Guangzhou, the software also manages the company’s ongoing maintenance requirements.


Now, if one were to travel 4,000 miles west into European territory (the Netherlands, to be specific), they might find themselves hitching a ride through Netherlands Railways, another “smart train” system that proudly utilizes similar software. NR stands as one of Europe’s busiest railways, and the technology allows it to schedule and assemble over 5,000 trains daily. The company experiences annual savings of over 20 million euros, and has witnessed regular increases in operating efficiency.



Here’s a question worth considering – could these trains become any smarter? As our global population increases, we’re likely to witness more people requiring safer and more stable means of travel. Inflation and environmental disasters are bound to take higher tolls on gas and fuel prices, which may ultimately place “smarter trains” directly on a path towards necessity. It’s not a matter of if we get smarter trains in the future… It’s a question of when.


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