Indian Railways ties up with ISRO for real-time train tracking

Satellite imagery will deployed under the Real Time Train Information System project to run trains efficiently

Updated - March 07, 2023 10:02 am IST

Published - March 06, 2023 09:12 pm IST - New Delhi

A total of 4,000 locomotives have been fitted with the technology, and new locomotives come with tracking devices. Image for representational purposes only.

A total of 4,000 locomotives have been fitted with the technology, and new locomotives come with tracking devices. Image for representational purposes only. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

The Indian Railways is harnessing the power of data analytics for integrated transportation. It has commenced a project which will now enable real time tracking of train movements with the assistance of satellite imagery under the Real Time Train Information System (RTIS) project. D.K. Singh, Managing Director, Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS), said that CRIS has collaborated with Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) for live tracking to help Railways run trains efficiently.

Mr. Singh, and the Union Minister for Railways Ashwini Vaishnaw, spoke on the sidelines of a conference on ‘Reimagining Indian Railways: Harnessing the Power of Data Analytics for Integrated Transportation’ here on March 3.

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Mr. Singh said that ISRO has developed its own regional navigation satellite system called Navigation with Indian Constellation (NavIC) and Bhuvan, a web-based utility which allows users to explore a set of map-based content being deployed for tracking. “We have taken bandwidth from ISRO and integrated our systems with NavIC and Bhuvan. Every locomotive is fitted with a device and SIM, which communicates the train’s real position to the satellite and feedback is received. The movement is updated every three seconds,” Mr. Singh said.

Real time tracking of trains is also useful during accidents, floods and landslides, when there is a need to pin down the train’s exact location for rendering help. “Until now, 4,000 locomotives have been installed with the technology, and new locomotives that are being manufactured come pre-installed with the tracking devices,” Mr. Singh said.

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Mr. Vaishnaw emphasised the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and quantum tech for the Indian Railways. Mr. Vaishnaw said that there was a pilot project underway between Sanchar Bhawan, which houses the Ministry of Electronics, Information and Technology, and Rail Bhawan, which houses the Ministry of Railways, to use quantum key encryption in order to exchange information in a way that’s “non-hackable”.

“Communication flows from point A to point B but when it is encrypted or jumbled up through quantum key, it is increasingly complex to be hacked into,” Mr. Vaishnaw explained.

The Railways is tapping to data analytics to improve passenger experience, help chart out empty seats, and enable more passengers to receive confirmed tickets.

“Nearly 2.3 crore passengers travel on Indian Railways every day, of which 30 lakh passengers travel on reserved tickets while about two crore passengers travel via the unreserved ticketing system,” Mr. Singh said.

The CRIS has now developed a hand-held device that can help reduce queues by providing tickets on platforms to unreserved passengers. Mr. Singh said that the CRIS has identified 90 use cases where AI can be used for improving Railways services, including seat allocation, prediction analysis on when freight trains will be emptied, and balancing stocks of medicines across the Railways health infrastructure. “We crunch data and provide it to Zonal Railways for further problem solving,” Mr. Singh said.

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