Facing continued competition from rideshare apps and the dramatic shifts we’re seeing around public transit in the last year, rail operators are looking for new ways to attract riders for safer journeys and keep costs down. Here are five ways we’re seeing operators gain an edge by using the Internet of Things (IoT) — connecting onboard devices like IP security cameras and location transmitters to trackside networks.

#1 – An onboard experience like being in your office or living room

Back when passenger Wi-Fi was a novelty, riders would tolerate and accept dropped connections in tunnels and the countryside, and limited video streaming capabilities to name a couple examples. No longer. To attract riders who want to work or entertain themselves onboard, operators need fast, reliable Wi-Fi. The same investment can generate new revenue streams from infotainment services. For example, St. Petersburg Metro attracts riders with passenger Wi-Fi built on a Cisco Fluidmesh train-to-ground network with LTE backup.

#2 – Better passenger safety, with real-time security video

Traditional CCTV systems come up short for passenger safety because of poor quality and interruptions when trains move between wireless coverage zones. High-speed trackside networks and advanced wireless communications change the game. In Lyon, France, security personnel for SYTRAL (Syndicat mixte des transport pour le Rhône et l’agglomération Lyonnaise) monitor feeds from more than 1000 IP cameras, at any train speed, with Cisco Fluidmesh train-to-ground technology. If any component fails, the network fails over to a backup in just a few milliseconds.

#3 – Station crowd management with Meraki cameras

In the new world where social distancing and physical safety are more crucial than ever, technology that supports crowd management at train stations is key. With the help of Meraki cameras and its enhanced object detection analytics, rail operators can monitor people density, movement and social distancing right at the train station.

#4 – Capture train location

If they can’t reliably capture train position, operators have to maintain long “headway” between trains. Now rail operators like one leading rail signaling vendor in Europe can capture train location. As a result, the vendor operates more cost-effectively than traditional metro systems while maintaining a safe passenger capacity.

#5 – Predictive maintenance

Cisco train-to-ground infrastructure also supports predictive maintenance, for improved safety and lower costs. Onboard sensors transmit real-time telemetry information to the operations center, where machine learning models predict failures before they occur. Beyond onboard sensors, trackside infrastructure is critical to track as well. Remote condition monitoring of trackside infrastructure devices like signaling system, level crossing, and point systems have a direct impact on reducing operational costs for rail operators. For example, every minute a train is delayed on the track can potentially result in $1000s in fines. So rail operators need a much more efficient way to identify the trackside issues, and respond quickly to those.

For more on how Cisco is helping our customers improve rail operations, check out our new connected rail solution brief.


Bryan Tantzen

Senior Director

Manufacturing Solutions