The evolution of rail freight transport appears to be where commercial trucking was about 5-10 years ago. Some innovations in other verticals like telematics, prognostics, or driver assist solutions may be new to the rail freight industry and can be adapted to the unique needs of the industry. Operators like Union Pacific boast having their own labs for working on potential implementation of technologies, such as machine vision and Positive Train Control (PTC).
The subsequent industrial Internet technology adoption rates are “crossing the chasm” in increasingly shorter waves. This can lead to traditional transit, such as rail, adopting technology in less time and at greater scale. The technologies defined above are intended to improve safety, bolster security, enhance efficiencies, and compete more closely with road-based transit.
Emerging technologies for freight include: alternative fuel/energy-efficient locomotives and wagons, train control systems, asset monitoring, video surveillance predictive maintenance, intelligent rail infrastructure and operations, freight information systems (FIS), safety systems, and cybersecurity.
Opportunities exist across the value chain, from OEMs and operators to telematics, data, and infrastructure providers. Hardware, which includes cameras, sensors, gateways, and software for scheduling, security, safety, load optimization, and tracking/tracing, presents options for achieving transformative and actionable intelligence.