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ASPECT 2023: Melbourne hosts rail engineers conference

aspect 2023

The Institution of Railway Signal Engineers (IRSE) international technical conference, ASPECT, has kicked off at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Held every two years at different locations around the globe, this year’s event – from November 21 to 24 – has attracted about 400 delegates, who will hear up to 51 technical papers presented by global industry experts on the theme of global integration.

IRSE president Steve Boshier said the issue of integration was important for many projects currently being delivered around the world.

“In addition there will be a focus on topics covering rail investment, interface management, asset management and sustainability, which are supported by the people, process and technology we require,” he said.

“ASPECT provides an unrivalled opportunity for learning and the exchange of knowledge in the fields of train control, railway communications, and related disciplines.

“There will also be technical site visits to complement the three technical days.”

The conference opened with the presidential address by IRSE vice-president Roderick I Muttram, who talked about key requirements for the effective, safe and ethical use of artificial intelligence (AI).

“Artificial intelligence and machine learning (ML) based on neural networks is on the increase and that is likely to continue,” he said.

“As these techniques evolve out of areas like data analytics and decision support into control functions with a direct safety relevance, it is necessary to approach the design process in a structured way that delivers performance, safety and ethical outcomes.

“Machine learning takes us into a new area where decisions previously made by human designers become taken by a ‘learning machine’. The assurance of performance, safe and ethical behaviour, and the ability to understand faulty/undesirable behaviour depends on the adoption of a number of key principles and techniques, some rather different to those we have used before.”

Muttram’s paper explained the fundamental principle of transparency and other key features such as accountability, traceability and a lack of unwanted algorithmic bias, looking at some of the work going on to give guidance on how to build an assurance framework for AI and ML.

“The railway industry must start to build a library of good practice techniques for delivering these principles,” he said.

ASPECT is open to IRSE members and non-members alike and brings together the world’s best signalling, control, systems and communications engineers, along with leading signalling and communications technology companies.