Siemens Mobility CEO for Australia and New Zealand Raphaelle Guerineau discusses the trend towards industry digitisation, including benefits, challenges and opportunities.
SIEMENS Mobility CEO Raphaelle Guerineau is not only the first woman holding this position, she also likes to think big. In a recent conversation with Rail Express, she referred to a “paradigm shift” in terms of digital technology and how it is influencing the rail industry.
Siemens Mobility is one of the largest rail technology businesses worldwide, with around 120,000 employees. In Australia and New Zealand 550 people work for the business, with offices in all major capital cities and competence centres in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Auckland. Production facilities are in Port Melbourne and Perth, while the servicing centre is in Mackay.
“Our strong local presence enables us to understand well customer needs, react swiftly and exceed customer expectations when we deliver our projects,” Guerineau said.
“Digitalisation represents a paradigm shift and is part of a global megatrend affecting every part of our lives,” she said. “Those megatrends are also significantly impacting the mobility industry. Siemens has historically been a driver of innovation in mobility, delivering reliable services for the end user. Now we are on the forefront of digital evolution.”
An example of how Siemens has been ahead in terms of pursuing digitalisation, it recently released a whitepaper entitled How Digitalization is Evolving Intelligent Rail Infrastructure, on what it means for businesses. The paper notes that digitalisation is driving “higher availability, automation, connectivity and sustainability in rail infrastructure”.
According to the whitepaper, digitalisation of transport infrastructure will boost mobility and offer flexibility and efficiency opportunities.
Digital Railway of the future
Siemens Mobility in Europe recently teamed up with Austrian Railways to realise a completely new digitalisation solution in the field of safety and security technology. It was applied at a train station in Achau, Austria, and it could have a ripple effect on the industry worldwide.
For the first time, this station is operating all its complex safety systems virtually in the cloud. The distributed Smart Safe System (DS3) is an innovative digitalisation solution by Siemens, and the basis for cloud-enabled interlocking.
“The DS3 interlocking in the cloud for ÖBB in Achau is a real quantum leap for the railway industry,” Siemens Mobility CEO Michael Peter said.
The DS3 enables the virtualisation of most signalling components, such as interlocking computers, or ETCS computers. The trains send their position data by radio link to a central system which ensures safety, sets points, manages routes and sends authorisations to the vehicles.
“Siemens Mobility is proud to have developed this new signalling system, which will make rail operations more efficient, effective and flexible,” said Peter.
Points of progress
Guerineau says that in the future in Australia, many components of rail infrastructure will be virtualised. Siemens has already started this development together with operators.
“We’re using digital technology to monitor legacy equipment by adding new sensors, and then connecting that equipment to the cloud to capture and analyse the data,” Guerineau explains. “Such technology is ideal for maintenance systems, allowing the shift from regular scheduled maintenance to predictive maintenance, actually detecting the issue before an incident occurs, and thereby preventing failure.
“This has allowed us, in some cases, to ensure 100 per percent availability of resources with this type of technology, which is a massive improvement for operators.”
Another advantage, Guerineau adds, is that it reduces operational costs considerably and keeps staff out of danger zones.
For Guerineau, digitalisation in the railway industry is a process of constant evolution.
“We either add sensors to the legacy system to digitise the existing equipment, or we introduce new equipment that has full digital capabilities. We want to achieve bespoke solutions for operators. In that respect, we are proud of our local manufacturing sites that hold more than 10 patents in Australia. This shows the innovative brain power of our team on the ground that directly benefits our customers,” said the CEO.
“One of our unique positions is that we are a true one-stop-shop supplier. We manufacture the equipment in Australia; we supply it, we install it, and we maintain it.”
Revolution and Evolution
Guerineau thinks the evolution of safety critical systems is key to industry success.
“In railway, we have a lot of safety critical systems. Traditionally it was very restricted in terms of how the engineering system, for example signalling, was managed,” she said.
The successful example of the virtualised station in Austria points to the future, stressed Guerineau. It is the first step of virtualising rail infrastructure and equipment
“One day you will have the interlocking located in the control centre where the operators are managing the network,”
Such technology has been tested in the toughest conditions, notably the extreme weather of the Russian winter.
“We already have seven contracts in the world where we have demonstrated 100 per cent availability of the equipment on the networks,” she said.
“For example in Russia, a country with extreme weather, Siemens Mobility has achieved 100 per cent availability for rolling stock, applying predictive maintenance technology. This is a quantum leap,” she said. “We’re offering our experience to operators in Australia and New Zealand – both countries with a challenging environment too. Our digital knowhow helps increase availability also under the most challenging conditions.”
Cybersecurity and safety
The trend towards digital technology clearly comes with many new efficiencies and client service advantages.
But is there a dark cloud hovering in the form of increased cyber security risks?
While no one should be complacent, Guerineau explains that Siemens had taken concrete steps to thwart any such criminal activity via an effective data capture unit (DCU).
“The operator installs the hardware, and it allows data only to go in one direction. This is extremely important to ensure the safety of people and equipment,” she explained.
“This one-way data street offers tremendous potential because it permits the reaction-free connection of a signalling and safety infrastructure to the Internet of Things.”
In fact, rather than increasing the risk, data from projects worldwide suggests that digitalisation will actually improve the security of railway systems.
“Traditionally safety is a critical part of the railway, but now we must also have cybersecurity on top as a minimum trained skill for an engineer,” Guerineau stresses.
Today, Siemens’s developers are fully trained in cybersecurity.
“When we develop new software, we always focus on the security aspect first,” she said.
Pandemic and the impact upon technology
Guerineau said the pandemic had sped up some technological trends.
“Detecting occupancy rates in carriages, for example, became increasingly important for mobility as a service,” she said.
“Even when this crisis is over, I think the trend of customers wanting to choose their bespoke means of transportation on a daily basis will continue. Siemens is one of the world leaders for those technologies and we’ll increase our offering to customers.”