Praveen Goyal, Director, Systems, Kochi Metro Rail Corporation

While the Kochi Metro Rail Corporation is yet to commence operations, it has already put in place robust IT and communications systems to ensure smooth operations. Praveen Goyal, Director, Systems, Kochi Metro Rail Corporation talks about the various areas in which the organisation has deployed technology solutions, challenges it faces in managing its IT set-up and the upcoming technology trends…

What are the key areas within the transportation industry that see the maximum utilisation of information and communication (ICT) solutions?

The signalling system used by Kochi Metro is communications-based train control (CBTC). It uses a Wi-Fi network to locate the train and convey it to the concerned controller. Apart from the signalling system, most metros adopt the following communication solutions:

  • Train radio: It enables communication between the metro staff such as the train operator and the operational control centre (OCC); as well as between the OCC and station controllers.
  • Walkie-talkie system: It is used both for universal and point-to-point communications.
  • Optical fibre network: It forms the backbone of connectivity infrastructure in a metro. Applications such as automatic fare collection, signalling and SCADA are run on this network.
  • Local area network (LAN) within a station
  • CCTV cameras, passenger announcement systems, and passenger information systems.

Metros also have a robust IT infrastructure. All information related to train stations is relayed to the OCC. This information is processed and converted into a visual form for use by controllers to either know the status of the train or give the desired control orders.

What are the key challenges that enterprises in the transportation industry face with regard to managing their IT and telecom infrastructure?

The biggest challenge is the high cost associated with maintaining a huge ICT set-up. In addition, the functionality requirements are constantly increasing, which, in turn, necessitates a modification in the existing infrastructure from time to time. Obso­­le­scence is also a big challenge faced by metros. The speed at which IT systems are evolving is a key concern for enterprises in this industry. This is because manufacturers move to next generation technologies and do not give enough attention to the existing equipment.

What are some of the enterprise and mobility solutions that your company is using? How have these helped in enhancing business operations?

We are soon going to launch CityApp, which can be used by travellers to determine the departure and arrival time of a train, the other possible connections from a station, the other modes of transportation available, etc. We are trying to integrate the bus system with the metro system. Under a Ministry of Urban Deve­lop­ment scheme, GPS-enabled city buses are being provided. This will help us track their location and inform passengers accordingly.

Meanwhile, we are looking at ticket selling through a QR code, which can be printed or transmitted on the mobile phone. Each time a ticket is booked, a QR code will be sent on mobile that can be used at the automatic gate to gain entry.

What is the level of adoption of technologies such as cloud, IoT and big data analytics in the Indian transportation industry? Is your company using/planning to use any of these technologies?

As far as cloud is concerned, the industry is not very keen to adopt this solution because enterprises want their data to remain within their IT system. Meanwhile, 4G is slowly gaining adoption. The technology is being tested in various places across the world to replace the train radio and CBTC systems.

Metro rails generate a large amount of data pertaining to passenger movement. This data is being analysed to optimise our train services and expand our network. In addition, CCTV data analytics is being undertaken to detect any unusual events. Data analytics is also used in SCADA and building management systems.

How critical has online/mobile presence become for enterprises in this industry? How is this phenomenon likely to change industry dynamics?

It has been observed world over that the banking industry has become very interested in the metro card business as it helps them acquire more customers. They can capture 30 per cent of a city’s population using the metro. It is looking to become a major part of the ecosystem by introducing integrated solutions. For example, a credit card or a pre-paid card can be used in a metro provided it is a contactless card. We have also collaborated with a bank for this. The card issued by the bank can be used outside our transit system as well. The App being developed by Kochi Metro will be connected on line with this card. The use of a contactless credit card issued by a bank as a ticket is gaining traction.