The Indian railway system is the fourth largest network in the world spanning more than 70,000 km of track network routes, which handles more than 9,000 freight trains, 20,000 long-distance and suburban routes passenger trains from its 8,500 stations spread across the length and breadth of the country.

The fourth-largest railway system in the world holds an enormous economic impact, carrying millions of people and goods from one destination to another. The daily operations of the Indian Railways generate humongous amounts of data from passenger footfalls, to freight movements.

This data is a goldmine for digital technologies like Artificial Intelligence to harness them into business intelligence and operational efficiency and greater customer satisfaction.

Levering the feasibility of Artificial Intelligence

  • Data for Operations– Indian Railway network runs on the SCADA system, a computer system for gathering and analysing real-time data. SCADA is an acronym for Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition to monitor data for traction power supply. SCADA enables the accessibility to vast amounts of operational data for machine learning modelling and training purposes for operational excellence.
  • Predictive Maintenance– The confluence of IoT sensors and AI helps railways to spearhead predictive maintenance algorithms. For instance, intelligent automatic railway track cleaning systems can keep the tracks spic and span and the Internet of Things (IoT) with multiple sensors can be deployed to monitor the health of the tracks. Additionally, the railways can use drones to monitor and scan railway tracks for faults and pilferage, which can prevent any potential future derailments.
  • Customer Support- Natural Language Processing (NLP) driven chatbots to determine the user intention to carry an interactive conversation. Chatbots like AskDisha (Digital Interaction to Seek Help Anytime) are a blessing to an average of four million users visiting the IRCTC (Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation) site every day.
  • Train Scheduling- AI algorithms, graphs, control systems and simulation models are used by Railways into train signalling and scheduling activities. This ensures that all the tracks at stations are occupied by a train at any given time. These AI models are built on the historical and live data which point to the total or average running time of trains, the priority-weighted running time of trains, and the robustness of the timetable to deviations, and combinations.

Artificial Intelligence in Indian Railways

  • USTAAD
    USTAAD or Undergear Surveillance Through Artificial Intelligence Assisted Droid is an Artificial Intelligence robot developed by Indian Railway’s Central Zone. USTAAD is programmed to pictures and record videos of the under-gears of trains for predictive maintenance activities sending them to engineers for maintenance and repair activities. After it is put into operations, USTAAD will use a high-definition camera to check the parts of train coaches on a real-time basis and transmit them over a WiFi connection.
  • Intelligent Video Analytics
    Indian Railways implemented AI-driven intelligent video analytics during the passenger rush season of the Kumbh Mela 2019. Intelligent video analytics was used for surveillance, and crowd management in a big way across the railway stations and platforms.
  • Smart cards in Metros
    Artificial Intelligence-powered smart-card-based ticketing system was introduced by the Delhi metro allowing users to operate vending machines to get tickets, tokens and recharge their smart cards inside the DMRC premises. With AI assistance, the smart vending machine learns on the user intent and makes travel easy for them. The doors of the metro trains and platforms are driven by automated systems backed by AI technology.
  • Interactive Chatbots
    AskDisha (Digital Interaction to Seek Help Anytime) is a pioneer chatbot launched by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Limited (IRCTC) to elevate the customer experience. ‘AskDisha’ is powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and helps about four million daily visitors to the IRCTC website. AskDisha is designed to simulate a conversation with the users and is integrated with an ability to quickly answer customer queries, provide round-the-clock customer support, with a quick query resolution time.

In the promising future ahead, Artificial Intelligence will unlock potential opportunities and introduce many benefits to the Indian Railways. The integration of AI and Railways presents an exciting beginning to all its passengers, employees, management and stakeholders paving a new era of the Digital Railways systems.

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