The Railway Fleet Planning – Digital way!

By Sairam Bollapragada & Rajesh Mohandas

In our last blog on the topic (https://itservicesdelivery.wordpress.com/2016/11/30/digital-in-rail-fleet-management-a-viewpoint/), we had a perspective about the railways fleet management.  In this sequel, we wish to bring on the aspects of Fleet Planning through levers from digital perspective and highlight a few important KPIs today as eyed by the railway planning commission. Fleet planning for any logistics entity is a continuous activity.

Fleet planning basically need to answer two most important questions, which locomotive is needed where and when – and when to acquire (buy / hire) one.

The most critical KPI the fleet planners need to be equipped with is a 360-degree view of the enterprise connecting the decision makers with information regarding its Vendors, Customers, Fleet Assets, the market intelligence to meet expectations. The very reason for such an infrastructure lack exists today due to disparate and disintegrated systems where in most of the countries data collection is still manual in many ways.

The rail network is increasingly busy – the number of passenger journeys made has risen by 70% across the globe over the last decade while US alone operated 1,471,736 freight cars and 31,875 locomotives and originated 39.53 million carloads (averaging 63 tons each) generating $81.7 billion in freight revenue for FY ‘16. So it’s important to make best use of the capacity through effective timetabling, and the right decisions about where to invest in developing the network, Planning and operating the network as seamlessly as possible in line with the existing and future demand. A few of the global KPIs measured and monitored by all railway operators are

  1. Asset Utilization (Train Km per Track Km)
  2. Efficiency (Planned track possession KM hour per track possession km hour)
  3. Service Quality and Reliability (Trains delayed due to Infrastructure)
  4. Innovation and Growth (Average relative age of fleet assets)
  5. Accessibility (Service coverage) and
  6. Safety (Accidental equivalent facilities per train km).

 

  • Asset Utilization

Logistics have a single goal even in asset planning, targeted at effective error-free stock management. Knowing item location, quantities on-hand, stock-outs, re-order triggers, space and scheduling, and how to minimize movement and manage assets in a harsh, high pressure environment, demanding growth patterns are only some of the challenges faced. Planning commission of Railways is constantly worried about the aging vehicles and tracks that need constant attention beyond the environmental and safety threats. Another critical area is to ensure consistency in operations while maximizing utilization. The statistics International Rail Journal show freight traffic is at a seven-year high with revenues reaching over $70 billion and customers are continuously demanding faster cycle times.

Focus on investments in real-time data analytics for smart DSS and IoT based sensor analytics solutions is mandated to provide critical continuous inputs to the fleet and asset planning exercise with constituent factors addressing the mobile workforce, data mobility and data quality for the fleet planning and management.

  • Efficiency

Railways use real-time telematics data and all the data that can be collated from the sensors and actuators to monitor, improve, optimize, the fleet plans with a singular goal of peaking at the efficiency of the operational process excellence. Apart from efficiency, the continuous need to reduce energy costs and minimize human intervention, reduce maintenance costs through real-time diagnostics and predictive analytics, eliminate waste in fleet scheduling through fleet instrumentation. Efficiency and productivity can be increased multifold leveraging intelligent technology, like digital tagging that can be automatically read without the need for a direct line of sight; towards a more real-time inventory intelligence, replacing all other manual efforts required otherwise.

  • Service Quality and Reliability

Railway infrastructure is under consistent heavy stress to do more with limitations at physical expansion. In countries like India and China where the fast-demands-up is a way, the need for better reliability, safety and QoS without much physical elbow space for infrastructure capacity increase is a continuous challenge.

Clubbed with this is to operate with the optimized OpEx with increasing pressure on the price point which needs to keep low as alternative completion threatens. Even passenger services are facing such a price competition from roadways and low cost Airlines. Customer satisfaction is what guarantees the future of railways. Predictive pricing through predictive analytics is increasingly finding space in the planning exercise to ensure all such pressures are catered to. The same holds for fleet procurement and phasing out plans for the obsolete fleet elements, etc.

Also it is an era of two-way communication between the passengers’/business houses and authorities leveraging mobility solutions as a constant feedback on improving the above continuously.

Some areas technology is being leveraged today is addition of intelligence with sensors for cold storage, capacity utilization and mobile-based condition monitoring, improving quality of the systems that trigger warnings, alarms and alerts generated after an event, incident or action by advanced measuring and modeling methods to eliminate the need for maintenance intervention.

  • Innovation and Growth

With Digital levers opening up doors to innovation and many impossibilities like real-time planning, open traffic data, social customer service, should ring in few disruptive trends around. User experience will increase manifold if the Digital fleet planning includes disruptive innovative features for better customer satisfaction and experience.  The solutions would need changes in the approach to planning based on user priorities, data flows, and dynamic response to disruption.

Another factor to fleet planning is the increasing need for an integrated and intelligent network leading to sense demand, measure performance, and monitor physical asset health.  Intelligent systems to respond in real-time to manage capacity and predict /avoid disruption.

Automation and safety will be another area of prime focus where exponential potential of the cognitive techniques will be relied on to save millions of lives, assets, pressing insurance industry as well to innovate.

Collaborative platforms for public and private will be created to meet the mobility challenges while fleet planning exercise would need to take innovative strides to take advantage of creating “low costs to scale” with high levels of participation globally.

The disruptive need to get the Innovation into the DNA of the Fleet Planning is seen as with the advent of autonomous vehicles and improved freight management. Legacy infrastructure is gradually being replaced by train management systems in which trains become interconnected communication hubs, transmitting data among themselves and to network control centers, and receiving instructions from control centers. M2M communication, with a dash from cloud, enabling operators to utilize equipment, tracks and stations more efficiently, while dramatically reducing safety risks. The IoT can further improve the system’s level of automation and its integration with the signaling system.

But all this needs meticulous planning. The yearly railway budget, coupled with a plan laced with the deadly combination of mobile-cloud-analytics as technological levers can bring in drastic improvements in fleet planning.

  • Safety

Though mentioned last, the railway safety is not merely an area of utmost criticality, but also poses challenges to the R&D to continuously create safety access mechanisms deterring crimes in railways infrastructure. As we incline more towards better digital equipped railways, an equal emphasis becomes mandatory for tighter data security and more on physical safety of the railway assets. While planning for the fleet through the year, a Q-o-Q Security is recommended to ensure all aspects of safety are addressed.

Today globally, we have 48,000 locomotives, more than 1.4 million rail cars and enough rail to circle the earth more than 13 times, railroads are relied on heavily by civilizations that be. To keep the vast 140,000 freight rail network and the equipment moving across it SAFE is definitely not an easy task for all the railway boards. The rail safety standards across the globe is getting addressed through the ISO/TS standards.

Managing high density areas challenges traffic regulation. T2T (Train to train communication) communication will allow drivers to understand the speed best adopted to ensure smooth flow of traffic. A real-time dashboard with surveillance video providing access information, where on board and ground staff are all on the same page for the traffic information, all powered by intelligent data gathering-dissemination systems, all alluding to predictive actions in the ecosystem providing safety as well as better functioning.

Digital features like sensors for diagnosing the condition of a motor, infrared sensors for counting the number of passengers, high quality on board internet connection, a suitable information system, onboard information kiosks, create rolling stock in order leveraging technologies, etc. Sometimes cost of such facilities on larger scale can be prohibitive and hence should be factored cautiously into fleet asset planning in a systematic phased manner.

However, the data points across rail locomotive logistics across the globe show that there is a drop of 14% on insurance costs, a drop of 15% on fuel costs, 21% drop in labor costs, 30% drop in operating costs and 21% Upward trend on safety and a similar 19% increase in profitability – all indicators to the fact that the railways across the globe are drastically improving. However, when all this can be factored into the fleet planning across railway authorities  it would be a perfect recipe for an outcome based fleet.

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Digital in Rail Fleet Management: A viewpoint

By Sairam Bollapragada & Rajesh Mohandas

Rail is a vital service to global society and the transport backbone of a sustainable economy. Many of the Rail entities around the globe are sprinting towards Digitization.  In the Global Vision for Railway Development (GVRD) document by the International Railway Research Board (IRRB) the core themes include delivering smart solutions as regards to safety, security, punctuality, availability, accessibility, seamless operation, capacity, connectivity and sustainability. These are the critical success factors of a rail network across any country.

The overall rail supply market has witnessed a substantial growth at 3%, driven for the main part by the Asian Pacific region. At over EUR 159 bn, the world rail supply market has reached a record high level. From a product segment perspective, the largest contribution to the market’s growth in the 2013 – 2015 stemmed mainly from the rolling stock and services segments. Added, these two segments clock at 72 % of the total rail market in the 2013 – 2015 period; and still growing. In line with overall market growth, the infrastructure in operation grew by 26,000 km, primarily in the urban and very high speed track segments, with track infrastructure in sum reaching more than 1.6m kms of urban and interurban tracks.

Some of the salient points to understand and take forward in this segment are:

  • The bulk of the additional track kilometres are attributed to the Asian Pacific region due to the construction of new routes in China and India.
  • As reported by UNIFI: European Research Firm, the total market for rail supply is set to continue its growth of recent years at 2.6 %. The rail supply market is foreseen to reach approximately EUR 185 bn per annum in the 2019 – 2021 period.
  • The highest growth rates are expected in Western Europe and Africa/Middle East, 3.1 % and 3.0 % respectively.
  • Frost and Sullivan claims in its research report that Europe alone is set to replace 10,298 locomotives and 1,860 rail cars between 2015 and 2022.
  • With the above, Africa and Middle East market size is expected to double by 2022, while India and Malaysia in the coming 5 years will see 2x infrastructure expansion.
  • India and China, due to the population challenges, are considering increasing the network length to lower the load while in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Russia and the US private fright operators own most of the rail network.
  • Spain, France and Turkey are expected to have the largest networks by 2022.

Growth Brings Challenges and opportunities too…, one of the areas where the challenges are widely seen is the FLEET MANAGEMENT, the exponential growth followed with high expectations and customer experience certainly needs to be addressed and people are now looking at DIGITAL solutions to ease Strategic and Tactical Operational issues. Key issues with respect to Fleet Maintenance today can be broadly categorized as below:

  1. MAINTENANCE PROGRAMME REDESIGN by comparing experiences of key maintenance approaches and methodologies to assess how each impacts cost and availability, energy flooring and driverless pods become the innovative elements of redesign driven by cost of Energy which is the biggest expenditure incurred by the railways.

  Not to forget the railway telematics through plug and play applications on mobile devices allowing you to report the availability and utilization of locomotives. If we bring in more rigor into planning, safety, operations and execution, with the existing railway infrastructure, we can take an additional capability of 40% through digital means and so on. The overall operational aspects can be improved through digitization as is being proven over the past few years.

  1. INFO MANAGEMENT by examining approaches and new systems for transforming raw data into information to optimize maintenance planning and cost-effectively trigger automatic maintenance operations leveraging the power of BIG DATA and ANALYTICS. Analytics can help us in bettering the routing algorithms, better connectivity, and hence multiple better options, optimize operational costs, a more reliable railway, a better dashboard in the driver’s cabin plugging in critical information for increasing safety (helps avert any mishaps when trains need to cross busy junctions), reliability, punctuality, arrival accuracy, planned travel duration, SoS,etc.
  1. REMOTE CONDITION MONITORING: with so many locomotives on the move, one should continuously know about their health so that you know when it needs attention. One can create the ecosystem whereby all the drive-data is stored (on cloud?) and enabling immediate notification for any anomalies. It will also allow you to anticipate a potential problem and help plan a predictive maintenance. Drones will play a vital role in predictive maintenance and improved security. Electronic tagging or cargo for reliable tracking and reduced delays will improve remote monitoring efficiency.

While solutions like Smart windows are a given for an enhanced customer experience, the bigger offerings are around features like wireless locomotive monitoring and checks for better asset utilization, optimized asset planning with reduced shed times, near real-time locomotive inventory, with component level monitoring bringing in huge efficiency in the entire maintenance processes.

  1. RELIABILITY-CENTRED MAINTENANCE by Identifying a best practice model for applying RCM and examining the extent to which the methodology has increased reliability and eliminated unnecessary maintenance costs leveraging the power of Artificial Intelligence. Swarm robotics is another area for future transport and infrastructure projects, the intelligent robots will be used more and more for repair and maintenance activities. Automatic Gauge change for cross border travel powered by IoT will be the new norm.
  1. MANAGING SUPPLIER CONTRACTS by Identifying opportunities to increase control of the supply chain with optimized material costs through efficient supplier contract management and using Cloud based solutions coupled with Social CRM applications as the global consumption of resources will nearly triple to 140 billion tons per year by 2050. The Fleet of tomorrow will be digital enabled with virtual shopping mall experience for the user to benefit adding convenience and ease.
  1. EXTENDING FLEET LIFESPAN: Optimizing component life-cycle, fleet connectivity, fleet integration plans and obsolescence management to extend lifespan of the fleet with the best in class asset management solutions that can be plugged into the existing architecture. Advances in nanotechnology may lead to new materials that are lighter, stronger, smarter and greener. Availability of information of a hub-spoke inventory management through mobility services from the cloud stored data for access will enable Just-In-Time services optimizing the shelf dwell times and hence the level of re-orders needed to be maintained.

While the above 6 key factors can be essential to improve the operations and maintenance, there are multiple other areas (both Strategic and Tactical) like Fleet Planning, Fleet Acquisition, Fleet Distribution and Fleet Disposal which are being addressed leveraging Digital Technologies. We will discuss in a sequel about how the Digital world would bring about strides of changes in these areas. Collaboration between business and IT will drive efficiency and strengthen engagement benefiting both the industry and the economy.

The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” …our focus and goal in line with Digital 2020 should be to tap into these opportunities and assist the players overcome the challenges in the  Collaborative Digital Transformation that will enable a Win-Win situation, thus embarking into a new journey, partnering and contributing to the overall GROWTH…!

Smart Living … beyond smart cities (Part 1)

Smart Living … beyond smart cities (Part 1)

By Sairam Bollapragada & Rajesh Mohandas

Every increase in motorized speed creates new demands on space and time. This demand of space and time killing the nature in the name of development has led to many adverse impacts.  India may be lagging behind China on several economic indicators but when it comes to environmental degradation, the country has definitely outsmarted its giant neighbour.

Of the world’s top 20 polluted cities, 13 are in India. Air pollution slashes life expectancy by 3.2 years for the 660 million Indians who live in cities. The Ganga and Yamuna are ranked among the world’s 10 most polluted rivers. A three-year analysis of the water quality in 290 rivers by the Central Pollution Control Board said about 66% of the stretches monitored had high organic pollution. It means 8,400 km of these rivers are badly polluted and not fit for supporting aquatic life. India’s cities are in crisis. They are clogged with traffic, choked with pollution, blighted by concrete flyovers, overcrowded, suffer from power and water shortages, are prone to flooding and can at times be almost unbearable to live in.

Smart cities call for smart solutions in an age when carbon emissions and respect for the environment have come to the fore. And very often it is the low-energy, simpler forms of technology that can provide the answers. Writing in 1973, the philosopher and social commentator Ivan Illich stated the following:

“Man on a bicycle can go three or four times faster than the pedestrian, but uses five times less energy in the process. He carries one gram of his weight over a kilometer of flat road at an expense of only 0.15 calories… Equipped with this tool, man outstrips the efficiency of not only all machines but all other animals as well… In contrast, the accelerating individual capsule [the car] enabled societies to engage in a ritual of progressively paralyzing speed.”

Much modern urban planning is car-centric. But where is the need for the car if work, school or healthcare facilities are close by. Less need for ugly flyovers or six lane highways that rip up communities in their path. Getting from A to B would not require a race against the clock on the highway that cuts through a series of localities that are never to be visited, never to be regarded as anything but an inconvenience to be passed through en route to big-mac nirvana, multiplex overload or shopping-mall hedonism. The main factor that keeps cycling rates low in many cities is that most people are not comfortable sharing space in streets with fast-moving cars and trucks. Most modern cities are designed for cars. Thus, an intelligent city planner while planning a smart city should assume that cycling, walking and public transport would be the main forms of transport while trying to figure out how to accommodate inefficient, polluting and dangerous modes like private car use.

A humanistic, people-friendly city is first and foremost an accessible city, where mobility is possible for all. Traffic congestion represents a major economic problem because of the many working hours lost each day from sitting in traffic jams and soaring petrol costs. So what’s the solution? The good old bicycle! A growing number of cities around the world are eager to become bicycle cities, as part of a wider strategy to raise their green profile. The key to enabling high levels of cycling is having the right infrastructure, including cycle paths and bicycle parking, but also a number of communication campaigns to promote cycling, educate children and target groups who do not normally cycle.

Currently, 31% of India’s population lives in cities; these cities also generate 63% of the nation’s economic activity. These numbers are rapidly increasing, with almost half of India’s population projected to live in its cities by 2030. Smart Cities focus on the most pressing needs and on the greatest opportunities to improve quality of life for residents today and in the future. With this in mind, planners would create so-called separated cycle facilities “a combination of cycle tracks at the sidewalk level and/or protected bike lanes in the roadways”, Infrastructure, however, is not just about bike lanes associated with that in a smart city there will be opportunity to leverage technology to enable many facets of cycling.

There is already a lot of advancement in the area of Cycle Locks that are connected to your hand held devices that inform you of any possible tampering. Using Bluetooth Low-Energy, Wi-Fi, and an accelerometer, the lock pairs itself with a smartphone to be contextually aware.

Innovation in the Cycle industry has brought in various ways to track your wellness, the cyclist now is able to know the distance driving, calories burnt, heart rate, pulse and few other key statistics, also the cycles are smart enough to store your data on cloud and monitor the improvement in health parameters. There are advanced studies that show how this data help the medical and Para medical faculties in helping one overcome lifestyle disorders of diabetes and blood pressure

Another classic innovation is the Copenhagen Wheel that allows you to capture the energy dissipated while cycling and braking and save it for when you need a bit of a boost. It also maps pollution levels, traffic congestion, road conditions in real-time. Controlled through your smart phone, the Copenhagen Wheel becomes a natural extension of your everyday life. You can use your phone to unlock and lock your bike, change gears and select how much the motor assists you.

Smart pedal and smart chain / belt are two other innovations that leverage the IoT and facilitate bicycle rides for longer distances. If one has to travel from home to office say 20Kms the modern cycle leveraging the technology has made it in par if not as fast as a car to cover the distance of 20Kms at the rate of 60Kmph. So you can reach the destination in 20mins overcoming all traffic

Smart Cycles are great energy savers, the capacitors and auto charge elements of the bicycle are generating energy that can be used back home for daily chores, heating, lighting and many other day to day activities.

What is required by the planners today is to ensure when Smart Cities are built there should be enough infrastructure for Cycling and Pedestrians and this alone will contribute help improve the living conditions, directly impacting fuel costs and wellness of the person on cycle.

Will Smart Cities set off reverse migration?

By Sairam Bollapragada

The lure of emerging technologies, IoT, SMAC resulting in ‘smartening’ everything in a Smart City concept is catching a lot of attention. A typical scenario in India and perhaps in some other countries is that the smart city is planned or promised to provide all one can think of from the perspective of greater convenience, bettered facilities, and a better quality-of-life.

Earlier, when the poorer cousins of cities were devoid of earning opportunities, people rushed to cities in a bid to earn livelihood. Hordes of people would take a train to bigger developed/developing cities and the skilled population in towns started thinning to leave the towns under-developed, if not pushing them backward. The migration created a lot of divide between haves and have-nots. Thus, there emerged the social parameters of ‘earn-abilities’ and ‘learn-abilities’.

The smart city concept has compelled the state agencies, policy makers and country planners to think on which kind of smaller cities or towns can be quickly transformed into a place for getting the best of the benefits to its citizens. The cities, with the expanse of irreversible growth in infrastructure, transportation, tall buildings, depleted oxygen levels, tiring network of roadways, increasing number of vehicles, and many things supposedly defining the so called ‘Developed City”.

What people would slowly start seeing in the next decade or so, will be a reverse trend due to the same reasons for which they migrated. Roads are great but traffic snarls came in, too many people and social circle but the stigma has pricked, better buying power but the divide has increased, better education but stiffer competition and hence the upward cost of education, more buildings and losing touch with the greens, and many such things which once lured many. People in cities (big ones especially) feel the pinch of polluted air, environment, crowd, lesser interfaces with nature, increased carbon emissions, unclean and non-potable water (remember in the school we used to drink from the tap directly!), increased usage of plastics, and many such things.

The smart cities today, if well planned laced with the same facilities which once brought so many to bigger cousins, would attract population to come back to the roots. This time the wait is worth; the transformation to a smart city from a town will open up many opportunities.

The same facility with all advantages of nature, time for hobbies, wonderful work-life balance, healthier way to live, shorter traffic times, better standards of living, better education and better skilling to prepare smarter workforce, better housing facilities, innovative utilities for a smart living, better plans for optimum movement of people and goods to create a smart mobility, better plans for higher employment with more investments towards a smart economy, sustainable development, natural resource utilization like water and energy – all creating smart environment for a citizen to become part of such a balanced and content life. Not to forget – the evils of such growth will still be around – be it price rise of real estate, people flocking, opportunistic deals, etc.

However, the policy makers can quickly create policies around prevention of the same. The legislations should create a vision for the smart city with a potential future blueprint like, say, a 20-year vision keeping in view livability and environment management with tagged sources of funding for such innovative transformations. The options for delivering to the purpose, especially on the infrastructure side, will depend and include a lot of PPP models and unsolicited proposals from citizen forums/associations/societies etc., including smaller infra packages bundled into private sector development of residential and commercial hubs. Connected communities will empower and encourage more local economy. The Corporate Social Responsibility will need to play a larger role in the development of these smart cities and corporate biggies should be provided with business opportunities to establish their work places from these cities, opening employment opportunities to citizens and hence giving an economic boost to the area.

The independent entrepreneur class should be encouraged to heavily participate in the PPP models as well. The encouragement can be mostly in terms of tax holidays, infra provisioning, etc. All these initiatives will provide to better average buying power of the citizens and hence the economy uptrend. The ease of doing business will be a critical success factor offering by the policy makers to ensure smooth commissioning of new business.

Major IT companies should already plan for positioning their work packages in these tier II cities for better profitability creating local jobs. It would be a win-win for both the company and the state. The movement of jobs (and not folks) from major cities to these smart destinations would need to be very meticulously planned towards strategic business benefits. On an average, such cities promise to provide better profit-after-tax (PAT) of at least 40%, lower attrition rates (<5%), better customer satisfaction levels (CSATs>4.6) and promise to growth. The psychology of IT fraternity will move from that of clinging to complex major cities to ‘let’s embrace smart’.

Technology will be an enticing factor in smart cities, especially for the technocrats, who can find such place more interesting to reside if the planners create strong knowledge hubs around various areas, create smart communities to brainstorm and solve the most recurring issues collaboratively. Such smart and healthy communities will also increase the awareness amongst the citizens on how inclusive participation with the government agencies will create synergies.

The smart cities are expected to become environmental CoEs. Resource efficiencies (especially the natural ones) identified, tracked and reported through connected devices and sensors are expected to drive behavioral patterns through analytics and communication channels.

It is expected that the carbon footprint would reduce as more people would accept pooling or sharing and be encouraged to use public transportation reducing the owned cars numbers. The older cars ( >15+ years) can be faded from usage through policy regulations to help further. The encouragement of work from home in a connected city will lead to lesser carbon emissions, less pollution and something every employee will appreciate with the employer.

Smart information via transparency on social channels will bring in peer pressure for everybody to be aligned and citizens would be compelled to be aware.

Senior citizens would prefer smart cities while living alone would need leveraged confidence levels from connected devices like wearables and connected healthcare communications. In order to include them in this game, awareness programs for the not-so-technology-delighted senior population, must be held creatively. A well-connected neighborhood and societies will provide a level of comfort between all citizens and build a stronger society like a larger joint-family!

Energy transmission through Smart Grids will create optimized power consumption. Smart utilities will help retain unused power so that the power purchase driven by demand through the agencies can be only as per consumption and this will help in paying for what is optimally used only.

Smart building and office offering the right level of facilities usage to increase work productivity, less downtime with increased resource efficiencies will also help sustain the resources.

Each citizen will be expected to become smarter by being connected – they can report incidents, fires, traffic jams, any suspicious activities, water leakages, electricity theft, emergency response required events, and many more – in all each citizen will be a smart city manager in a way since all these exchange of information will lead to maintaining the balance between cost and standards of life.

The policy makers in Vienna, for example, have committed to publish all spend reports, while local police publish the real-time crime data. Getting citizen involvement is also one of the USPs where feedback on urban planning and city services are taken for improving facilities. Apps like EveryBlock in Chicago and CitySourced in several UK cities enable residents to report problems from potholes to broken street lights to crime anytime anywhere.

We may be setting new standards of responsive city services where citizens feel they have better sense of belonging and stake in them.

The tremendous pressure put currently on the cities due to ever increasing demand on the infrastructure and facilities, is already taking a toll.  With increased density of traffic, as an example, a person spends 25%-30% of his productive day on roads. In the next one decade, it could be seen that the reverse migration will become a reality, especially in countries like India.

Smart is not about big, smart is about intelligent technology for better lifestyles from cost and standards point-of-view. Who would not want to live in Smart & Green Cities at reduced cost of living!!

IoT Security is everybody’s business!! – Part 1

By Sairam Bollapragada

With the Digital wave, the structure of the IT organizations, especially those racing to embrace new technologies and IoT is poised for a paradigm shift. Every brilliant side of technological revolution comes with a darker patch as well. With so much of data slated to being generated via connected devices, the Cyber Security can no longer be the forte of IT folks ONLY.

While technology brings in convenience, it also comes at a cost (read flip side).

In the recent past in India, we have started seeing mobile wallets increasingly being used for payments and other financial transactions to another device or account. The connected wallets also create opportunities for hackers to break in and creatively lay their hands on the information pertaining to transactions, account details, the payee details, their numbers, the payment patterns, sources of funds, and many such confidential data which one would not like to divulge.

Cyber security, will don a new hat with the advent of new technology and devices working in tandem. Trying to stop break-ins will need a lot more intelligence and smart techniques to be devised. The provisioning of security to these mushrooming applications and connected devices will need to be really understood well so that people know they are secure while transacting with gates to personal data. The approach itself requires comprehensive techniques.

The mobile channels will provision more incentives with increase in volumes of both devices and transactions. The global reach of the mobiles have opened standard techniques for the hackers across the global hacking communities. Ubiquity and connectivity are vulnerable and enables folks to get to mobile devices. The incentives are more for mobiles which use financial transactions, undoubtedly. It may not be hard for hackers to know which user uses which number to carry out which financial transactions.

The richer the features of the mobile, the more it becomes a target for the hackers.  The concern about the privacy invasion by advertisers is rising steeply with these smarter devices. In 2010-11 Wall Street conducted a test for 101 Android/iOS applications and found that more than half sent device information, 47 shared location data, and 5% users –  personal information to advertisers without the consent of the users.

More than 1000 malware target mobile devices globally. An instance of worm attack can infect mobiles rapidly to the tune of millions of handsets.  As mobiles are getting more advanced so are the worms accomplishing more sophistication – raising their quality of attack as well.  As technology carriers are improving the device capability, the blue-tooth and Wi-Fi is also becoming airborne contaminators. Some viruses dial international numbers while the subscriber is sleeping.

The mobile computing increases the data loss as well. With the connected devices expected to transmit data across applications and other devices, the hackers would try means and ways to create opportunities in the chaos. Mobile banking has also brought in rogue applications which are smartly working their way to gather financial information from devices through even legitimate applications topped with these malware at app stores.

Over all this, it is said that more than 37% of the service providers do not have any threat intelligence programs.

Impacting Scenarios

As hackers take control of the connected devices, the very capability for which the IoT was brought in (efficiency, productivity, ease, etc) will be compromised.  It is scary to even think what if the folks are unable to stop machines, controlled by connected devices for convenience- large ones at that. IT security itself will not stand ground here.  The extended knowledge across applied industrial controls and production processes would become mandatory to put the checks and balances in place. (What if one is not able to stop a blast furnace in steel plants?…)

Water Management:  Anything which is scarce and essential comes under the cloud of threat and catches attention for disruptive opportunities. Water management through connected devices is becoming a lucrative offering from many vendors ensuring appropriate water quality, controlled water supply, water treatment, metering and other features. Water consumption, like electricity is also vulnerable where automatic vaults and control mechanisms for pressure and flow are devised to be controlled through technology. A loss of control would create wastage of water across and lead to a water crisis.

Patients Health Records (PHR)

The PHRs of patients are too personal a data to be privy to. These personal health records reveal several confidential parameters of personal health profile of an individual with historic ailments, health issues in the recent past, blood group info, and many more data which can lead to people either playing with or destroying the data for obvious reasons or holding the same for ransom. Very dangerous but true, not because we need to be scared, but the awareness of such a threat is missing till the first casualty occurs.

The Nuclear plants, used for positive reasons, like generating power can be a huge source of risk – if they were to lose hold over the control process of nuclear reactors.  If IoT based controllers were deployed in these plants for the purpose of analytics and other accompanying research advantages, there should be exhaustive sets of checks and audits built in – plus multiple approvals at multiple governance decision points to ensure disasters would be at least minimized.

Likewise, hacking connected or smart cars can lead to road disasters.  This includes the hacking of smart traffic management – feature of smart cities. Insurance transactions can be blocked and claims disabled or diverted, where insurance segments are moving from statistics to individual fact-based policies.

Cloud is another source of vulnerability. The plethora of data being stored on cloud will require tighter secured solutions, and hence the cloud data security will only become more crucial.

It is said that M2M communications will themselves generate about $900 billion in revenues by 2020.

Dependency on the connected devices for various aspects of the futuristic work-style like improved real-time decision making, better design of solutions, reliability on the so-generated data analytics (what about data quality?), driving future product conceptualization, fleet management,  and many others could be a challenge if the systems malfunction due to malware or cyber-attacks.

The above are potential scenarios where the flip side of technology, if misused, can create disasters and can cause unimaginable disruption. However, it is not too late to create a strategic security blueprint and get the awareness levels in the public embracing these newer emerging solutions in future.

We will discuss the potential next steps on what we should do, what the state agencies should do and what the general users should know in the sequel to this blog shortly. Till then happy reading….