Siemens Mobility: we don’t sell anything anymore that isn’t future-proof
Every piece of hardware that leaves the factory floor at Siemens Mobility should be future-proof and ready to collect data, ceo Michael Peter said at a press briefing last week. On the company side too, everything is in place to gather and process that data for further improvements.
“At its core, Siemens is a technology company. That also means that findings in one business unit, be it Siemens Digital Industries Software or otherwise, will be available to others. As such, Siemens Mobility is not so much a traditional engineering company”, Peter noted.
Siemens Mobility has identified four so-called technology levers that it says will allow the company to make a difference: optimised rail infrastructure and rolling stock in terms of lifecycle costs, 100-percent availability of equipment, maximised network capacity and – finally – optimised customer experience and processes.
One project where a lot of these aspects come together, is the digitalisation of the railway network in Norway, where Siemens Mobility is upgrading the signalling equipment to the European Train Control System (ETCS), and where digital interlocking, with IP controlled field components and ERTMS will form the backbone of greatly improving operations and maintenance. The technologies are already being tested using a digital twin of the rail infrastructure.
“Our work on the Norlandsbanen, the first digital signalling railway to open – will result in a 30-percent reduction in energy consumption. That is not an incremental change but a giant leap forward akin to a revolution”, Peter said.
Centralised interlocking system
When it comes to the maintenance and availability of rolling stock, Peter said that we are now at a point where – thanks to the data points collected – the train itself can prepare a slot for maintenance at a time when it is not in use, and also make sure that the required components are ready.
On the infrastructure side, Siemens is keen on moving away from the old interlocking system and accompanying interlocking buildings at regular intervals. “In Norway, because every component is intelligent, we will have only a centralised interlocking system and a single interlocking room. And even that one we could theoretically move into a proprietary cloud”, said Peter.
The first hardware-independent, cloud-enabled interlocking became operational in Austria in 2020.
Next big bang
But great trains, infrastructure and software only get you so far, the Siemens chief admits, because railway systems are still very fragmented.
Therefore, two things need to happen for “the next big bang”. Peter says that Siemens Mobility will open up its interfaces on a horizontal level for the operators and do the same on a vertical level mainly for the passenger, and change things for the better for both.
Peter on the topic of horizontal connectivity: “If all trains transmit the same data, then customers could do with one management system. So we propose to open up our interfaces and them available for everyone so that we arrive at an interoperable and connected ecosystem. We understand that this opens up the field for competition, for example in the area of new algorithms for predictive maintenance, but we are confident about our position.”
Secondly, Siemens Mobility is targeting a vertical connection as well, moving the needle for the passenger as well and not just for the operator. This means that in addition to an interface for systems data there will also be an interface for information about occupancy rates of train cars.
“If such information is readily available, it should be possible for people to actually change their booking whilst on the train. If the 2nd Class is overcrowded and yet there happens to be availability in 1st, a traveller could actually rebook and upgrade on the spot. The same applies to wanting to take the next train, for example”, Peter highlighted.
These efforts – both horizontally and vertically – come together in the Siemens Xcelerator programme, which the company is using to create an open ecosystem for everyone. “By creating open interfaces, we enable continuous data exchange between the different sub-systems of the railway network”, Peter summarised.
In more practical terms, this also means that Siemens is making its software more modular, that it will create more application programming interfaces to connect hardware and software, and that it will develop the software modules into the cloud.