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Smart Rail Summit: “COTS Has Long Been in Operation Worldwide”

It was the first event of its kind: At the HIMA Smart Rail Summit 2018, system integrators and OEMs discussed the challenges for the global rail industry. The bottom line? A smart partnership will determine the business success of tomorrow.

“I’ve worked in signal technology since 1983”, explains Dr. Dejan Lutovac to around 100 participants at the Smart Rail Summit in Mannheim. “And I can now finally develop what I’ve always wanted to develop.” It is astonishing that a speech about commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) controllers could be as personal and moving as that of the Serbian engineer. On the other hand, this did not come as a surprise to some. Many system integrators now also share similar sentiments to Lutovac, director and owner of Signalling & Control d.o.o. For decades, they had to decide whether to work with inflexible, proprietary controllers or use outdated relay technology. “That [relay technology] was actually already obsolete when I went to university,” says Lutovac. The expertise of engineers and consultants could never be used to its full potential with rigid systems.

   

Successful COTS Projects from Russia to Australia

There is a real will to rethink and improve established models for rail safety, and this was evident at the first HIMA Smart Rail Summit in Mannheim. The participants came from all over the world, and they all brought their own stories with them. Many presented real-life projects successfully running on HIMA controllers. 

Neil Popplewell, Technical Director of Rail Control Systems Australia, explained which central challenge the attendees share: the perception of COTS technology on the market. “Customers previously thought that standard controllers had a short lifecycle or wouldn’t be able to deal with future requirements,” says Popplewell. He believes that the opposite is true and that this must now be communicated to the market – something that can only be achieved by collaborating and exchanging knowledge.    

Knowledge Exchange between Rail Experts Is a Success Factor 

HIMA realizes this too, explains Sedat Sezgün, Group Vice President of the Rail Business Segment. He believes that in recent years, COTS has emerged as a global movement in the rail segment. To benefit from this momentum, a smart partnership between HIMA, system integrators, and OEMS is now required. It’s important to “exchange ideas, share experiences, and learn from best practices,” says Sezgün.  

Sezgün clearly expressed what many present already had in mind, and a live survey involving all participants proved his point. According to the study, 64 percent would like support in accessing new markets. More than half believe synchronized marketing activities to be helpful. A total of 85 percent of people asked see clear benefits of a HIMA-organized user group for COTS. “We will now evaluate how we can apply this feedback to actual projects,” says Sezgün. 

Digitization and Standardization as Megatrends 

There were definitely enough topics for the rail experts to discuss. The attendees spoke about future trends in the sector as well. The presentation on the EULYNX project by Frits Makkinga from Movares generated significant interest. EULYNX should be a universal interface standard for the rail industry that could standardize signaling technology throughout Europe. 

However, for Wolfgang Kanovsky, CTO at RDCS Informationstechnologie GmbH, the future lies in virtual stations. Thanks to fiber optic cable deployment along the track, it will soon no longer be necessary to install safety systems where the object that has to be secured is located – at signal boxes or at a level crossing, for example.  

Whether it’s inspiration or exchanging practical experience, the Smart Rail Summit was beneficial for all participants. It’s now about converting the motivating talks into actions, just as Dejan Lutovac has done. “For a small company, it is difficult to get approval for a safety solution,” he explains. “With its SIL 4 systems, HIMA came along at the right time.”  

COTS can eliminate vendor lock-in – results of a survey conducted amongst summit participants
Steffen Philipp, Managing Partner of HIMA, underlined the huge significance of the rail industry for the company. Just a few years ago, HIMA established a business segment dedicated to rail, and it has been generating considerable additional revenue every year since.
Forging new partnerships through networking: One of the key messages of the Rail Summit was that OEMs, system integrators, and COTS suppliers need to collaborate more closely than ever before.

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