Tech quiz – which the participants passed with flying colours
IRS 2023

IRS Day 2: optimising asset management and new sensor technologies

Tech quiz – which the participants passed with flying colours Promedia

With the rail industry grappling with the challenges of ageing infrastructure, the imperative for innovation has never been more pronounced. On Tuesday, 6 November, just under 100 attendees gathered at the Intelligent Rail Summit (IRS) 2023 to learn about intelligent and automated rail asset management, optimising the use of data for decision-making and maintenance, as well as new sensor technologies.

In the ever-evolving realm of rail transportation, effective asset management stands as the linchpin for achieving success. Björn Schöning, manager of engineering at ProgressRail, kicked off the day’s talks by detailing the evolution of Wayside Train Management Systems (WTMS). In contemporary WTMS, a continuous responsive framework exists, not only due to the heightened level of detail in system status but also because of its self-maintenance capabilities and the ability to predict failures.

WTMS has evolved into a unified platform where all functional features seamlessly integrate, share a common interface, operate within a real-time process, and no longer necessitate specific expert knowledge. Automated maintenance and user-guided repair processes are supported, and components are digitally aligned within a comprehensive software and hardware management system. According to Schöning, these are some of the ways in which WTMS supports automated management of assets today.

Björn Schöning, manager of engineering at ProgressRail, kicked off the day’s talks by detailing the evolution of Wayside Train Management Systems (WTMS).

Beyond technological innovation, rail companies can promote efficient use of resources, and human resources in particular, by fine-tuning their internal information sharing. Gerrit Nieuwenhuis, sales manager at Strukton Power, emphasised several best practices for condition-based maintenance (CBM). He stressed the importance of defining KPIs clearly, and highlighted the need for the business case to “encompass all involved parties”. Stuktron Power has noticed the importance of running a pilot project to initiate the learning process, involving all parties and ensuring the pilot is time- and location-limited. He also emphasised that “measuring is knowing,” recommending integrating monitoring into daily work orders, and the use of fault catalogues and smart software algorithms to manage data overload. Lastly, small teams and regular communication promote efficient data sharing.

“Data is the new oil”: Data-driven decision making and maintenance optimisation

Following an introduction to forensic analysis applied to rail by Nigel Bish, technical director of Forensic Technical Services at the consultancy group HKA, and a tech quiz – which the participants passed with flying colours – the audience took a deep dive into the topic of data, and the many challenges and opportunities it brings to rail organisations. Igor Dakic, senior consultant at Afry, delved into algorithmic rules and processes for comprehensive data quality control and enhancement, stating “Maintaining high data quality is not a one-off exercise, but a continuous task, commitment, and culture”.

Key take-aways from Igor Dakic’s presentation (Photo: Afry)

Richard Lenthall, New Business Manager at voestalpine Signaling Siershahn then explored the opportunities that data, which he referred to as “the new oil”, presents regarding fleet management optimisation. “Oil from the well is not the product we consume. It must be refined before it becomes of value to its market. The specific refining process defines how the product is consumed. Common standards applied to the end product assure consumers can obtain and rely on its value,” said Lenthall.

The morning session was then concluded with a panel discussion titled “The challenges that come with more data” featuring Ulla Juntti, CEO of Omicold and adjunct professor at Luleå University of Technology, Sebastian Kałuża, Product Development Director at Nevomo, and special guest Jihan Karaki, lead developer and engineer at Azienda Trasporti Milanesi. The discussion delves into the impact of data generation on predictive maintenance and the resulting challenges. Panellists explored the hurdles in implementing new digital solutions in railway infrastructure, the management of data openness and security, and the broader aspects encompassing policy, regulations, business models, procurement, infrastructure, and company culture.

Satellites, drones, and the internet of things: Innovations in sensor technology

British railway manager Network Rail is Europe’s largest drone adopter, with more than 300 pilots conducting routine asset monitoring and surveys. For over three years, DroneCloud has partnered with Network Rail to create a software platform managing their drone operations. Jan Domaradzki, CEO of DroneCloud explained how the collaboration introduces models for implementation and growth, highlighting the importance of data capture and intelligence. A significant project set for next year aims to deploy drone surveillance within air corridors to detect trespassers on railways. Furthermore, the establishment of a drone operation hub in Birmingham, West Midlands, paves the way for expansion to other network hubs, both intra and intercity. Network Rail is now looking to scale up its operations and seeks partnerships in various regions, exploring the potential of visual and non-visual sensing equipment on drones to optimise various applications.

Eugene Yakovlev, Chief Business Officer of Dragonfly Aerospace, then discusses the revolutionary impact of satellite data on railway infrastructure monitoring. Satellite solutions enable daily or more frequent monitoring of railway infrastructure from space, including remote or hard-to-reach areas, even under the surface. The Pulsar solution offers a comprehensive array of essential metrics, encompassing ground displacement, soil moisture conditions beneath the rails, assessments of snow and ice accumulation, evaluations of the risk associated with tree falls, and predictions of seasonal impacts on the infrastructure. Spaceborne data represents a modern approach to improving the efficiency of traditional infrastructure monitoring methods and plays a crucial role in risk reduction.

Eugene Yakovlev, Chief Business Officer of Dragonfly Aerospace, then discusses the revolutionary impact of satellite data on railway infrastructure monitoring.

Hessel Tijseling, Sales Engineer at Althen Sensors & Controls, concluded the day’s presentations, by sharing how advances in sensor technology now allow the integration of complete measurement solutions into frequently used rail tracks. Althen specialises in providing the hardware that generates the data, offering OEM solutions, test and measurement solutions, and IoT solutions, including affordable, scalable, wireless, and battery-powered sensors. These solutions automatically transmit data to predictive maintenance databases, a shift that enhances efficiency and reduces costs. The presentation also explored the challenges and complexities of integrating new data-providing hardware into existing infrastructure.

The Intelligent Rail Summit (IRS) 2023 has come to a close today, with the completion of a site visit to Nevomo’s Polish offices, which took place this morning.

Further reading:

Author: Emma Dailey

Emma Dailey is an editor at and

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