French railway operator SNCF signs up IBM Watson IoT
France's largest railway operator SNCF signs up IBM Watson IoT
France's largest railway operator SNCF signs up IBM Watson IoT

French railway operator SNCF signs up IBM Watson IoT

French railway operator SNCF claims using IBM Watson Internet of Things (IoT) on IBM Cloud will enable it to deliver a better customer experience and improve staff productivity.

Serving more than two billion passengers every year, France’s largest railway operator plans to equip a network covering 30,000 kilometers of track, 15,000 trains and 3,000 stations with thousands of sensors.

Using IBM’s cloud-based Watson IoT Platform, SNCF’s connected railway will gather real-time data from these sensors with the goal of helping the company improve the quality, security and availability of train services.

Related: Avnet set to pilot IoT for predictive maintenance

Predicting maintenance work with IoT

SNCF says it is currently developing specialised industrial sensors for its tracks and trains, some of which have already been deployed.

On its mass transit Parisian lines, for example, new-generation trains are equipped with 2,000 sensors, which send back 70,000 data points per month.

As a result, rather than having to bring in each train and manually examine it, SNCF engineers can remotely monitor up to 200 trains at a time, looking for potential issues such as door failures or faulty air conditioning, while the trains themselves remain in service.

By being able to predict when maintenance may be needed, SNCF can prevent trains from being taken out of service unnecessarily, and avoid more costly repairs that result when issues aren’t tackled promptly, a benefit that also applies to railway infrastructure.

In a blog post, IBM claims that since going live, SNCF estimates that maintenance of tracks and trains is now ten times less costly.

Related: Predictive maintenance and the future of manufacturing with IoT

SNCF already benefitting

Raphaël Viard, CTO at SNCF said: “SNCF’s involvement with the IoT rests on three core principles. It must have a strong operational focus by digitalizing the business lines processes and cover the following three pillars: cybersecurity by design, ‘platform as a service’ deployment model, [and] the leveraging of big data for decision support.”

Harriet Green, IBM’s general manager for Watson IoT, meanwhile, suggested that this is an example of how IoT is impacting people’s daily lives already, without them knowing it.

“In this instance, consumers benefit by experiencing minimal downtime and on-time service, all made possible by Watson IoT, data from thousands of sensors and the brilliant engineers and innovators at SNCF,” Green said.

Related: Microsoft adds predictive maintenance to Azure IoT suite