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Software is now eating the rail industry

George Hammerstein
Connected rail will yield data that improves key aspects of rail operations.
By kdespagniqz
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Railroads, already contending with congestion, breakdowns, and sluggish speeds of freight trains in many routes, have a bigger challenge coming their way. Over the next two decades, freight requirements in the US are expected to double from the current levels, putting enormous pressure on railroads to not only expand but also enhance their efficiencies.

GE believes that software, and the Industrial Internet, will create solutions for the railroads. That software is RailConnect 360, a portfolio of connected solutions that offers customers data-driven insights to help optimize assets, networks, and operations. GE is already in discussion with the five of the Class 1 railroad operators to implement the tool.

The RailConnect 360 suite has a host of software offerings, including Movement Planner, Trip Optimizer, Yard Planner, and RailDOCS Wayside Asset Management System. Each of these solutions deals with a key aspect of a railroad’s operation. Movement Planner provides real-time traffic planning and network optimization, allowing more locomotives to run on the same track at faster speeds. Norfolk Southern is currently using this solution, and it has led to a 10 percent increase in network velocity and 50 percent reduction on expired crews.

The Movement Planner dashboard.

Yard Planner generates a yard-level car processing plan that includes scheduling and required resources for moving each car. It helps visualize the yard status and helps optimize timely departures and car connections.

The RailConnect 360 suite is leveraging GE’s Predix software, a pioneering technology platform that connects machines, industrial data, and people. On Predix, software applications built for any system or machine, be it a jet engine or an MRI scanner, can be remotely managed over the Industrial Internet. Solutions can also be integrated with customers’ existing software and data management infrastructure.

GE’s huge base of installed machines and deep domain expertise of industries ranging from transportation to healthcare to aviation contributed to the development of Predix. The tool can also be deployed in the cloud to make it more widely accessible. GE is making Predix available externally as well, so that more businesses can write their own software for the platform. That would help Predix become the Android of the industrial world.

Class 1 railroads such as Union Pacific and Norfolk Southern move about 24,000 locomotives and 365,000 freight cars over a 140,000-mile network. With such massive operations, even a 1 percent improvement in efficiency can result in a $2.8 billion annual savings for the industry. RailConnect 360 is designed be the tool to achieve that.

This article was produced on behalf of GE by the Quartz marketing team and not by the Quartz editorial staff.

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