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Rail 4.0: Digital Transformation in the Rail Sector

In the rail industry, processes and components are becoming increasingly digital. Therefore, safety controllers are designed with a focus on critical applications, such as railroad crossings, signal boxes, and rail carriages. Sedat Sezgün, group vice president for the rail segment at HIMA, speaks about the benefits of COTS controllers in the digital age.
Mr. Sezgün, we are seeing an increasing number of people using public transport in densely populated areas. At the same time, operators are coming under more pressure in terms of costs due to infrastructure budgets decreasing and expenses for modernization rising. How can the rail industry deal with these challenges?

Sedat Sezgün: We advise rail operators to use open, commercial off-the-shelf systems. The controllers are mass produced and are used in many different sectors. Furthermore, open ports allow for expansion when required. Since they are composed of standardized components, COTS systems are significantly more cost efficient than proprietary systems.  

Many rail operators still use proprietary systems. Why should they make the change to COTS solutions?

Proprietary safety technology is often overly complicated. Operators who choose to utilize COTS solutions gain greater flexibility, such as the freedom to choose a supplier for components. Spare parts are also globally available at short notice and are easy to install. Our safety controllers HIMax and HIMatrix enable this, and are therefore more cost effective than conventional technology. With COTS solutions from HIMA, you can secure electronic signal boxes, level crossings, sensor-monitored automatic door systems, electronically controlled anti-slide and anti-skid systems, safety control stands, and remote controls. Not only this, you also ensure that your systems are future proof.   

In the current climate, organizations must increasingly protect their systems and products from cyberattacks. What can rail operators do to achieve this?

You should restrict opportunities for people to access systems as much as possible and implement closed safety systems. HIMA controllers are suitable for this task, as they run their own operating systems for safety applications. This includes all typical functions of a safety PLC, but doesn’t consist of additional functionalities. Furthermore, our distributed control systems and safety systems are independent of one another. This means that if the communication processor is attacked, operation safely continues.

Many railway networks are outdated and require comprehensive modernization. How can rail transport prepare for the future?

For the rail industry to be able to compete with other traffic and transport networks in the long run, we recommend replacing outdated technology with more efficient, automated processes. One way to do this is to adopt cost-efficient COTS controllers from HIMA. They can be used in almost any industry as they have the distinct benefit of an operating system that provides interfaces to all important communication protocols. Moreover, the fully integrated configuration, programming, and diagnostics tool Silworx uses all standard industrial programming languages. It also provides cybersecurity by protecting against manipulations and user errors, while restricting unauthorized access to critical function blocks.
Sedat Sezgün, Group Vice President Rail Segment at HIMA, Image © HIMA

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