RTM’s Ailsa Cowen spoke to three representatives from KeTech, Mike Dixon, Technical Director, Alistair Shutler, Software Team Leader and Graham Cooke Technical Consultant to find out about their innovative Universal Information System (UIS).
KeTech has been providing customer information, PA and display systems to the rail industry for many years, so their next step made perfect sense; to pull all those separate systems together and integrate them providing a common point of control for stations and trains.
As well as a leading software company KeTech, is also a specialist electronics provider, meaning that if an interface to a particular train fleet is needed, KeTech also has the capability to design their own electronics to provide the data exchange facility from and to trains. They can then return the data to the central system architecture and use that information wherever it’s needed.
Mike Dixon spoke in detail about KeTech’s UIS that has been developed. He explained that with their UIS, uniquely, if a customer information manager at a railway station wanted to distribute a message, to all their stations and their trains, they’d be able to do that from one place.
He further clarified: “Say there’s an issue with the toilets not working on a train and that train is approaching a station it would be useful to show on the station display that the toilets are not working on the train that’s going to arrive. Then somebody can make that decision as to whether it’s suitable for them to use the train or not.”
Connected Driver Advisory Systems can also be integrated as part of the UIS as well as lots of other systems like CCTV. Mike shared another example of the system’s uses, on some of the Siemens train fleet’s they collect information from the Train Control Management System, which is then passed onto depot staff; this is used for preventative maintenance and fault detection.
Technical Consultant, Graham Cooke, said their technology is all about: “Making the most out of the information available.” The system is able to present one piece of information and present it in many different ways for different people with different needs.
KeTech’s UIS is more innovative than PIS and CIS. Graham stated that the key thing for KeTech is to: “Inform passengers in better ways.” Bringing consistency to the data by using information from the common sources, but adapting this in different ways. Thereby freeing up operators for other activities.
Alistair Shutler, Software Team Leader, said during the Covid-19 outbreak they’ve been asked to use information from trains to look at occupancy, based on the government recommendations. For instance, whether social distancing has been compromised on a particular carriage.
The system is also able to put advanced warning of engineering works. Mike illustrated that: “We’re able to allow users to put a message up that morning, on a particular fleet, or particular journey. We don’t have to broadcast it network wide; we only send information that’s relevant to the particular train.”
On London North Eastern Railway trains, UIS is able to show Eurostar information before all the trains arrive in London. They’re also able to integrate any local data, for example bus and ferry feeds, even sporting event data if there was a football match on for example.
Mike divulged that KeTech’s goal of being able to distribute data in a way that if there’s an incident in a region, you would be able draw a circle on a map around a region and any train that comes into that specific area on the map would receive a specific message.
He commented that this would be a “powerful” tool in terms of managing incidents.
The frustrations of rail travellers are at the forefront of this company’s mind. The information on a lot of trains is still inaccurate or out of date by the time passengers receive it. Mike described: “UIS allows distribution of real-time data through information channels that have never been integrated previously.”
“So, say if your train goes off route, a different calling pattern produced a different set of stations, because there’s an incident, we would update that immediately and passengers would know instantly that the train has gone off route, and what the new stations are both visually and audibly in real-time.”
All new franchises have real-time information requirements built into them. Real-time information is becoming more and more regulated. Mike very rightly said, “It’s when things go wrong on the railway – that’s when the right information is the most critical.”