Mr Simon Fletcher, UIC Director Europe, welcomed the more than 100 participants from around the world who attended online. The conference was formally opened by Mr François Davenne, UIC General Director, who stressed that digital technology would, in the future, permeate all railway issues and was already taking its place at the core of the railways. Mr Davenne explained that digital technology could serve as the backbone of mobility from a telecommunications perspective and reminded participants that UIC was working actively on FRMCS as a key stakeholder and the party responsible for specifications. “If we can succeed in optimisation and connect various aspects, we will be able to determine what the costs will be” he said, adding that the future would also herald automated management and autonomous trains.
A second opening speech was given by Mr Evgeny Charkin, CIO of RZD and UIC Digital Platform Chairman. He explained that the digital sector was crucial to the railways as a whole, and that it was important to demonstrate that the railways were evolving with the times. The Covid-19 crisis had stimulated interest in digital technology. Mr Charkin mentioned four key trends that are relevant for Russian transport and logistics industry including railway are a “total experience” strategy, “anywhere” operations, AI engineering and “cybersecurity mesh” and he mentioned that our priorities are broadly similar.
The next presentation was a keynote speech given by Mr Jean-Michel Mis, Member of the French Parliament and Member of the French National Digital Council. Mr Mis began by noting that digital technology was, first and foremost, an incredible lever for organisational transformation, enabling technological interconnection. He noted that the railway sector was the fourth sector most targeted by cyberthreats and that additional resources therefore needed to be allocated to cybersecurity. Further issues to be considered included autonomous trains and blockchain.
Mr Mis continued by highlighting the importance of the climate transition taking place in parallel, noting that AI was an excellent driver for improving maintenance and developing effective predictions. A further goal, he said, was to improve services for users, stressing that Europe needed to find its place in the global race on innovation while retaining its sovereignty. Mr Mis reminded the audience that the Digital Services Act was in progress.
A second keynote speech was given by Mr Cameron Brooks, AWS Public Sector Director, Sales Europe, who began by outlining railway industry objectives: efficient operations, protecting customers and personnel and provision of additional services and value to customers. Key challenges for the railways, he said, included sustainability, MaaS, autonomous trains, and employee and customer protection and security.
Mr Brooks continued by explaining the concept of cloud computing and highlighted its advantages in terms of cost savings, employee productivity, operational resilience and innovation, providing a number of examples from the railway and transport industries.
Mr Brooks explained that next steps would involve achieving alignment between stakeholders and senior leaders, setting top-down, quantifiable goals, and choosing the more suitable migration pattern while trusting the process.
Mr Olivier Maurel, CEO of MCLedger, then presented the ECOMPS project, the objective of which is to attract more freight traffic to rail. Mr Maurel explained the need to bring about multimodal shift from road to rail and sea freight. MCLedger’s goal is to set up a customer-oriented cloud with a control centre to try to convince customers to switch to rail, and to design and implement an ecosystem with very swift access to various types of information. Customers of the system enjoy all the benefits of digital technologies, better use of rail resources, the possibility of collecting more information, optimising prices, increasing productivity and improving services.
Mr Maurel also highlighted the issue of cost complexity, explaining that costs must be controlled more efficiently, first taking into account the additional costs of wagons and then controlling the overall cost chain. Concluding his presentation, he reminded the audience that rail has an essential role to play in transport.
This was followed by a presentation of the BDTM project by Mr Alexey Ozerov of NIIAS, focusing on railway timetabling. Mr Ozerov began by explaining that railway timetables were crucial documents for railway traffic organisation and must provide competitive travel times and at the same time be able to withstand delays. He noted that the timetable was a key reference for railways with an impact on all aspects of operations and all levels of railway management, representing a network-wide operations plan.
The next speaker was Ms Parinaz Bazeghi of UIC, who presented the DIGIM project on connected level crossings implemented in cooperation with Dassault Systèmes and eight UIC members: SNCF, SBB, Network Rail, RAI, Via Rail Canada, Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane, CARS and Infraestruturas de Portugal.
The DIGIM II project was launched in 2019 with the objective of improving safety at level crossings by connecting them with their surroundings. The level crossing is connected to cars in order to transmit relevant information on the level crossing’s status, for example. If no action or insufficient action is taken by the driver in the event of a level crossing being closed, the car will take control of the ADAS (advanced driver assistance system) and will slow down and stop safely before the barrier.
The potential for cooperation with car manufacturers to develop the system and possibly test the product in a real environment will then be evaluated.
Mr Benoît Herail of Dassault Systèmes presented the technical aspects of the DIGIM II project and showed a video of the outcomes of DIGIM II and the 3D simulation.
Next, Mr Francis Bedel, UIC Chief Digital Officer, introduced the fifth UIC Digital Awards. He explained that in spite of the complicated situation in 2020 regarding the Covid-19 crisis, UIC had received dozens of high-quality applications for the UIC Digital Awards competition. He then announced the winners, as well as the startups in second place:
Winners of the fifth UIC Digital Awards:
- Productivity category: Mindsay, France
- Safety category: IVM srl, Italy
- Safety category: Beijing JingWei Information Technology Co., Ltd., China
- Services category: RailWatch GmbH & Co. KG, Germany
Startups in second place:
- Second in Productivity category: KNOUX, Germany
- Second in Safety category: National Company “Kazakhstan Temir Zholy”, Kazakhstan
- Second in Services category: ROAV7, France
More information on the winners and the startups in second place will be published on the UIC website and in UIC eNews.
Mr Bedel thanked the members of the jury in particular, explaining that they comprised professionals working at universities and CDOs and CIOs of UIC members and industry. He noted that all UIC Regions had been represented on the jury for the first time, with representatives from Africa, America, Asia Pacific, Europe and the Middle East.
The 2020 Digital Award winner gave presentations on their respective projects.
Mr Guillaume Laporte of Mindsay (France), the winner in the Productivity category, presented the Customer Service Automation for Railways project.
Mr Francesco Mannara of IVM (Italy), joint winner in the Safety category, presented the Digital Railway Optimisation on Wheel-Rail/Interaction – Enabling 4.0 Predictive Maintenance project.
Mr Wang Zhe of Beijing JingWei Information Technology Co., Ltd (China), joint winner in the Safety category, presented the Intelligent Marimo Analysis of Railway Accident Risk project.
Mr Eike Westphal of RailWatch (Germany), the winner in the Services category, presented the project “IF YOU DON’T KNOW ANYTHING, YOU MUST BELIEVE EVERYTHING”.
Closing the conference, Mr Bedel thanked the speakers and participants, noting that the UIC Digital Platform would continue to work on new digital trends and events in 2021 with a focus on the definition of the digital infrastructure and data model exchange. He explained that the details of forthcoming events would be communicated in due course in light of the evolving situation with regard to Covid-19.