Passenger Rail, Products & Technology, Technology and IT

AusRAIL: The big Reveal – Hitachi harnessing rail data

Tom Ross from Hitachi Information Control Systems tells Rail Express about the latest addition to the technology firm’s rail software suite.

The ongoing digital technology revolution has driven significant change across every aspect of modern-day life. It’s created new go-to-market models and enabled a new generation of disruptors to challenge traditional approaches. Data application, the key to digitalisation, is creating novel ways of solving issues and delivering new services that promise further change.

Rail has been at the forefront of data generation and capture with trains, assets and infrastructure, and control centres generating vast quantities as part of the day to day operations.

With each asset change, signal renewal, electrification and maintenance program huge volumes of data are generated.

The challenge presented by this, however, is that much of this data is independently owned and can be managed by multiple stakeholders across any given operation. As a result, it is not fully accessible to add value to any one business. Sometimes, this sheer volume of data is actually a problem which leads to data being used purely to highlight major problems for a reactive fix.

“The effect this has on the industry as a whole is significant as data collection and management is duplicated multiple times which is both inefficient and expensive,” Hitachi Information Control Systems’ Tom Ross tells Rail Express. “Often there are multiple iterations of the ‘same’ data with no single source of the truth.”

The challenge, therefore, is to find a way to enable industry partners to work together as a collaborative community by integrating data into a collective, accessible environment. The result of this would be to create information led processes and systems which enable companies to work and operate independently while also focusing on collaboration and data sharing. In this way we ensure the way rail utilises its data is transformed to become a strategic business asset.

That’s the line of thinking behind dessan Reveal, the latest addition to Hitachi’s dessan rail software suite. dessan Reveal is an analytics engine designed to digitally capture complex data from a live railway, and provide intelligent analysis to deliver valuable insight into what’s happening across the network.

“A key component and differentiator is the ability to integrate, enrich and activate large complex data sets from multiple sources,” Ross says. “This can include data from train timetables, track possessions, supply chain operations, traffic management systems, digital signalling and asset conditioning monitoring to name just a few.”

dessan Reveal takes feeds from data generation sources and becomes the single data pool for the railway business. The data can then be validated and managed within the analytics core, which creates efficiency for IT resources, networks and hardware.

“The data is now in a state where it is valuable and trusted information for key stakeholders across the railway. This information is also now available to be used by tools to carry out specific tasks around the real-time delivery and enhancement in the operation of the railway,” Ross says.

Open architecture

Ross says the dessan Reveal system has been designed to facilitate third party utilisation of data once it’s in this trusted, central hub.

“Our philosophy is that the data belongs to the customer,” he says. “dessan Reveal is the enabling technology to create management information from your data. In this way data is transformed into a catalyst for focussed, specific and targeted business change.

“Experience shows that an ecosystem of suppliers will spring up offering services and apps to both rail professionals and customers.

“We strongly believe that dessan Reveal offers value in ways we have not yet envisaged. At a macro-economic level we now have the ability to bring projects through Strategic and Outline Business Cases more quickly and with data led decision support we can bring benefits beyond our organisations to our larger community.”

Some examples of tools and services Hitachi already recognises as being enabled by dessan Reveal are:

  • Possession Conflict Manager, to remove potential issues in the timetable in advance of any delays on the live railway.
  • Digital Design, linking core railway data to 2D and 3D BIM tools.
  • Delay Manager, enabling a real-time analysis of delays, heatmap outputs to highlight problem areas, and machine learning to reduce future delays.
  • Strategic Outline Business Case, which is utilised to quickly model and test proposed changes to the infrastructure, rolling stock or timetable to maximise the value of every dollar spent.

Hitachi’s IoT approach

Hitachi was founded in 1910. Combining 109 years of operational technology experience with 59 years in IT has positioned it perfectly to embrace digitalisation and the Internet of Things (IoT), and it is the world leader in terms of patent applications in big data analysis foundation technology.

Ross says the development of dessan Reveal is supported by the deep data and IoT expertise of Hitachi Vantara, the group company focused on the management and analysis of big data.

“dessan Reveal has the ability to seamlessly integrate huge amounts of operational data and is able to produce advanced outcomes and provide validation in areas such as railway infrastructure enhancement, possession management and strategic business case development,” Ross says. “The Hitachi approach to IoT is focused on the outcomes not the ‘how to’. We use technology as the tool to drive results into your business. Collaboration has always been a strength of Hitachi and we will continue to build on our successes in this area.”

Another of Hitachi’s major subsidiaries, Hitachi Consulting, provides another element of the company’s approach. “We understand the need for targeted and controlled business change to maintain the integrity of the data. To support our customers through this process we have built on our experiences working on complex projects both within our own organisations and those of our clients to develop our own engagement methodology that provides for consistent, complete and repeatable results for our clients.”

With that said, Ross outlines four key concepts behind Hitachi’s methodology:

“Start with the end in mind”: This means that all the deliverables are completed with the project goals in mind, including focusing on strategic and business needs vs. system needs, focusing early on defining the desired end result and building knowledge and team for eventual support.

“Go slow to go fast”: Up front planning is not only efficient but helps to manage costs and works as an accelerator in the long term for projects in which great emphasis is spent on the definition and design phases in order to efficiently and effectively move through the development phase.

Recognise Hitachi must be flexible: This means that tailoring its methods to meet the client’s business and IT needs to develop solutions that are right for the organisation, rather than attempting to force-fit pre-developed solutions.

Work in a manner that is people-oriented and facilitative: This involves working collaboratively, blending internal and external resources across project roles, focusing on change management, and being sensitive to client culture.

“The methodology is flexible enough to be tailored to any project’s needs, while at the same time robust enough to encompass all aspects of a project,” Ross explains. “By breaking down project aspects into deliverable phases and workstreams while managing compliance with the project management discipline, our project teams implement successful solutions which consistently leads us to the desired outcome.”

Rail knowledge

While Hitachi has become a digitalisation leader across multiple sectors, Ross reiterates the company’s mature understanding and deep knowledge of the rail sector.

“Our experience in building and maintaining trains, controlling the network, simulation and modelling is central to dessan Reveal,” he says. “In order for the rail industry to achieve its long-term future goals there is a need to reduce the capacity crunch and become a more reliable service. This exciting new development from Hitachi will help to reduce the number of acceptable risks, cut maintenance costs and enable accurate, targeted deployment of resources and assets within general infrastructure planning and maintenance, ultimately improving user experience and ensuring passenger demands are met.”

The same qualities demonstrated across multiple sectors for the validation and management of data, can similarly offer railway companies a way to improve the passenger experience, improve safety and improve reliability.

“The world’s largest and most profitable businesses are data driven,” Ross concludes. “However, data has true value only when turned into management information to enable more validated, more timely, more measured decision making. Data into information is a step change for any business – we believe dessan Reveal is the enabler for the rail industry.”


Visit Hitachi at AusRAIL PLUS at Stand 214.