Improve customer experience and increase efficiency with insight from train and infrastructure data.
Build a central platform to capture and analyze IoT data and deliver innovative use cases.
Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Luxembourgeois (CFL) is Luxembourg’s national rail company. In 2020, they served 14.5 million passengers and transported 2.3 million tonne-kilometers of freight. They employed over 3,000 people making them one of the country’s largest employers.
Like other rail companies, CFL must balance the day-to-day management of track, rolling stock, station buildings and other infrastructure with the needs of its passengers and freight customers. CFL sees digital transformation and the adoption of innovative technologies as a key enabler for next-generation rail services and improved customer experience.
To help the business explore emerging technologies in areas such as robotics, multimedia, unified communications, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, CFL established a new department within its IT organization, known as Operational Technology.
“Operational Technology is the home for all the new technologies that don’t fit neatly into our existing IT stack,” explains Arnaud Comein, Head of Operational Technology at CFL. “We find ways to bring innovative technologies into the business to solve today’s problems, as well as extending the capabilities of our established systems.”
In an increasingly connected world, the trains, buildings and other assets that CFL manages are often equipped with high-tech sensors and control systems that generate large quantities of data every day. To turn this data into actionable insight with real business value, the Operational Technology team set out an Internet of Things (IoT) strategy.
“The business was already using a few different IoT solutions, for example to track the location of our freight trains using GPS,” says Arnaud. “But we noticed a pattern: each solution came from a different vendor, with their own sensors and their own software-as-a-service platform. Every time we wanted to address a new use case, we had to go to market for a new solution.”
“We wanted something different: a single, horizontal, technology-agnostic platform that could integrate with any type of sensor and any application. This would allow us to develop our own IoT use cases more quickly, more flexibly, and at lower cost, while keeping control of our own data.”
CFL found a small set of vendors who offered the type of flexible and horizontally scalable IoT platform it needed and invited each of them to demonstrate their solutions.
“It quickly became clear that Hitachi Vantara was the right partner for us,” says Arnaud. “Hitachi’s experience in the rail industry meant that they spoke our language, and we were impressed by the team’s project management and customer relationship skills, not just their technical expertise.”
For example, during the evaluation phase, Arnaud deliberately asked each vendor to solve a problem that he knew was technically unfeasible, to see how they would respond.
“The Hitachi Vantara team were the only vendor that faced up to the challenge. They explained that they couldn’t do exactly what we were asking for, but they could achieve the same result by another method. And we’ve seen that same attitude throughout our relationship. ‘Impossible’ is not part of their vocabulary, they always find a way.”
The Operational Technology team made a business case for adopting Hitachi Lumada Data Integration, delivered by Pentaho as the core of its new IoT platform, and won approval from the CFL board for a one-year trial. The next challenge was to demonstrate to line-of-business teams that the platform could deliver real value.
The team began by porting CFL’s various existing IoT solutions over to Lumada Data Integration, which proved the technical capabilities of the new platform. It also led to savings of several thousand Euros per month by cancelling subscriptions to external IoT vendors—delivering immediate value to line-of-business stakeholders and convincing them to advocate for the new platform.
Next, the team began developing new IoT use cases that would demonstrate the full potential of the platform. For example, CFL is now using Lumada to capture video data from CCTV cameras in its station parking lots and apply artificial intelligence to predict the number of parking spaces that will be available.
“We can already predict parking availability with 95% accuracy 24 hours in advance, and over 97% accuracy one hour in advance,” says Arnaud. “And that’s just the start. As we improve the quality of the data coming in from the cameras, we should be able to get even better predictions.”
In the future, CFL aims to make parking insights available to passengers via an online portal, so that they can check whether a parking space will be available before they start their journey and can make smarter decisions about which station to use.
Another use case will make it easier for CFL to maintain regulatory compliance. When trains cross the border from Luxembourg into Germany, the German railway regulator stipulates that the wastewater tank in the train’s restrooms must be less than 50% full. CFL is now using onboard sensors to monitor the water levels in real time, so it can discharge any excess before entering Germany.
CFL now has a single central platform for capturing, managing and analyzing real-time data from its trains, track assets, station buildings, offices and other infrastructure. This will empower the company to scale up its adoption of IoT technologies cost-effectively and deliver new capabilities to line-of-business teams quickly.
Moreover, by integrating artificial intelligence into its analysis of IoT data, CFL is planning to unlock new capabilities that will put the company at the forefront of rail innovation.
As Arnaud explains: “The whole rail industry is talking about moving beyond condition-based maintenance to true predictive maintenance. With Lumada Data Integration, we’re one of the first companies that is ready to start turning that dream into reality.”
The team is also excited about several other upcoming IoT projects. One aims to harness Lumada Edge Intelligence to manage IoT assets and LIDAR solutions to count and analyze the number of people who pass through its stations. Another will use artificial intelligence to predict the estimated time of arrival for individual freight shipments more accurately, which could potentially shrink delivery windows from days to hours.
Arnuad concludes: “In partnership with Hitachi Vantara, we have built a platform that will enable us to grow our IoT capabilities without multiplying the number of solutions and vendors we need to depend on. Over the next five to ten years, this should deliver significant savings, as we can develop dozens of new use cases at a fraction of the cost.”
The whole rail industry is talking about moving beyond condition-based maintenance to true predictive maintenance. With Lumada Data Integration, we’re one of the first companies that is ready to start turning that dream into reality.
– Arnaud Comein, Head of Operational Technology, CFL