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Revolutionizing the railway industry with artificial intelligence

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By Abhijit Shanbhag, President and CEO of Graymatics

For more than 150 years now, railway operations have been integral to nation building efforts. In a large country like India, the economic, social and geographical diversity is bridged through the thousands of trains that traverse through the length and the breadth of the country. Despite the evolution of air travel and construction of expressways, there is no doubt that the railways will continue to play a primary role in the transportation of people and goods in the times to come. However, with the rise in passenger and cargo volumes, there is a need to optimize operations and enhance safety as well as security of railway services. That’s where advanced technologies and AI will play the role of an enabler.

The Indian Railways is focusing on a massive modernization programme including 100% electrification, laying of high-speed tracks, and building of tunnels, bridges and other facilities. The diversity of terrain, especially in the extensive Himalayan and North-Eastern parts of the country, necessitates not only the construction of long tunnels and high-altitude bridges, but also constantly monitor the associated infrastructure such as station yards, approach roads and station buildings etc. There is a humongous need to protect all the existing and upcoming infrastructure from various operational and security hazards. With tens of thousands of kms of railway tracks, and daily train movements, doing all this with efficiency and consistency is not humanly possible irrespective of the extent of personnel deployed. That’s where advanced AI integration in various aspects of operations, especially in ensuring safety and security has become the need of the hour.

There are already several areas of railway operations where AI and data analytics play a critical role, including modelling, designing and modifying the infrastructure being built in different terrain and climatic regions. Further, the evolution of AI-powered video analytics has taken safety and security capabilities to an altogether different level.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways in which in the AI tools are set to help the railway revolution in India.

Restricted area monitoring and access control –AI tools can not only keep a track of the number of people visiting a railway facility, but also those entering, exiting or loitering around in restricted access areas. For instance, railway control rooms, maintenance and storage areas or sites of under-construction projects can be monitored effectively, 24/7 through automatic AI analytics integrated CCTVs. The cameras operate on facial identification and vehicle number plate identification parameters to identify whether a person or vehicle entering/exiting the premises or restricted areas is authorized or not. Not only that, it would also have the capability of identifying, warning through integrated PAS or reporting people loitering suspiciously or vehicles parked illegally/haphazardly.

Trespassing –AI-integrated CCTV networks can act as intruder alert systems and if anyone other than the authorized personnel access a restricted area, the system would be able to alert the human security teams or deny access/act as a tripwire to prevent the trespassers.

Manipulation of CCTV systems – Integration of AI with CCTV systems can enhance their surveillance capabilities by several notches, and also enable them to self-diagnose and report an operational problem or attempted system tampering. For instance, AI integrated video analytics would be able to report if a camera’s video signal is lost, its view is blocked, viewing angle is changed or the camera is defocused/blurred causing disruption in the video monitoring abilities. Thus, the technicians and security teams can actively respond to such problems and rectify them quickly.

Tunnel security – Tunnels play a critical role in taking the railways through the mountainous terrain, and if not secured properly, they can also be a security risk. That’s where AI surveillance helps in identifying if there are any people in the tunnel, their exact location and the movement of train etc. For instance, the system can keep a track of the train’s speed and direction of movement inside the tunnels, and report if the train moves over/below the prescribed speeds or comes to a stoppage inside the tunnels. It can also identify if there is a theft or object removal which could potentially jeopardize safety of train movements in the area under surveillance. If there is smoke or fire, video cameras can identify the incident and alert security personnel to prevent the fire from spreading out of control.

In today’s dynamic world, having the capability to real-time monitor and respond to security risks and threats is critical. With billions of dollars and large number of lives to protect, AI-driven video analytics and CCTV systems are going to be key in ensuring safety and sustainability of operations for the railways in the years ahead!

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