Railway works, image: SNCF Reseau / Jean-Jacques d'Angelo

Common data models are the next step in digitalisation, but is the rail sector ready for it?

Rail infrastructure projects can benefit greatly by using Common Data Environments in combination with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. In a webinar with Oracle Construction and Engineering, it was discussed how a CDE can be used and what role AI can play to anticipate risks in a project.

In extensive rail infrastructure projects, various companies and consultants have to cooperate and align their objectives, often from different parts of the world, so the coordination is not always that easy, says Werner Maritz, Director-Industry Strategy at Oracle Construction and Engineering. “Traditionally, various systems for information management, document management, scheduling and contract management are used by the different parties. Historically, there hasn’t been much project delivery system standardisation when it comes to rail projects. It is a challenge to integrate information sources, which is one of the hurdles of realising digital transformation”.

Sharing data

A Common Data Environment (CDE) is really an effective way to promote collaboration across project stakeholders, says Maritz. Every organisation has their own private workspace where they can control their own data and what they share with other parties. This is also in line with the workflow requirements of building information modeling (BIM) and other information management standards. The CDE also serves as a project baseline for a digital handover and an information archive after the project is completed. With BIM, it is possible to create a digital twin which is a digital representation of an existing or future asset and which helps project teams and asset owners to better manage information and the physical asset across its full lifecycle.

One of the questions is, who should take the initiative of establishing a CDE? “We recommend that the project owner puts it in place, but it is also valid for the main contractor to do this. It is not easy to establish the project CDE bottom-up from the subcontractors”, explains Maritz. A main area that needs to be improved is information security. “There have recently been many data breaches and systems being hacked in other industries, so it is important to know that project data is in a secure environment.”

Artificial Intelligence

How can data-driven decision making be accelerated to transform rail project delivery? That is what Karthik Venkatasubramanian – VP, Data Science & Analytics at Oracle Construction and Engineering is engaged in and shared his insights on. “There is more and more data being gathered on projects today than ever before. A lot of this data can be used to generated predictive insights that can aid decision making. With feedback from customers across the globe we have developed Oracle’s Construction Intelligence Cloud Advisor. CIC Advisor leverages AI and machine learning to deliver true predictive intelligence using your historical project data”.

“The number one question people ask us is whether all this artificial intelligence is really a thing and will it work? AI is already used in so many everyday applications, for example in shopping or movie recommendations, in GPS and in predictive text typing. We are extending the same kind of ideas into new domains as we think that use of these technologies will greatly accelerate capital project delivery.”

Risk radar

The Construction Intelligence Cloud Advisor in fact serves as a risk radar. The project environment is continually monitored to see where any risks lie. For example, the possibility of a project delay or a dispute that is brewing are brought to the surface as soon as there are any first signals. Behind the scenes, technologies such as natural language processing are used to detect this, explains Venkatasubramanian. “With the delay predictions, pre-emptive action can be taken to keep the schedule on track.”

Construction is deeply connected; if one activity does not happen, it will affect several downstream activities on the project. Therefore, it is important to integrate different companies and activities together to anticipate possible risks and realise a construction project with as few hurdles and delays as possible.

A replay of the webinar is available via this link.

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Author: Esther Geerts

Editor of RailTech.com

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