In keeping with its Smarter Planet strategy designed to match analytics software, sensor technologies and consulting expertise to the world’s problems, IBM has opened the Global Rail Innovation Center in Beijing.
Founded in conjunction with several partners including Motorola, MIT, Tsinghua University and California High Speed Rail Authority, the center aims to guide the estimated $300 billion that China plans to spend building out high-speed rail lines across the country.
As planned, China should have more high-speed rail in five years than the rest of the world combined.
IBM’s Keith Dierkx says that the first issue is safety. A train traveling more than 200 miles per hour, or one carrying millions of tons, takes a long time to stop.
He said, "Imagine a mesh network on the train. You’ll have hazmat detectors, you’ll monitor for leakage, you’ll have intrusion detection and sensors that will tell you if a refrigeration unit has failed. In the future, we will be able to automatically slow or stop a train from a control center.
Derailments and delays become a thing of the past. There’ll be on-board capability to communicate where I am, how fast I’m going, the weight distribution and what products I’m carrying. Video has also become very useful. With machine vision — the ability to automatically scan and interpret images — you can monitor the condition of the track and communicate from one train to the next."
Place sensors on bridges, tunnels, underpasses and nearby roads, and it’s also possible for a passing train to pick up status reports on all infrastructure.
CNNMoney.com reports that Keith Dierkx said, "This is a once in a generation if not once in a lifetime opportunity," he says. "If we don’t do it now, it’s not going to get easier or less expensive over time — but may become more urgent."
Note this is all going to be done from computer. And, as been shown by practical experience, computers never fail. Or not that often.