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Technology is transforming the Indian transportation sector. Here’s how

      10/04/2019

Emerging technologies are transforming various industries in India and the transportation sector, the nervous system of India is no exception. From metro rails to ports, India’s transportation network is growing at a faster pace aided by technology and innovation.

From private players to government agencies, stakeholders are now shifting to new models guided by artificial intelligence, automation, mobile apps, real-time monitoring systems, etc., for faster completion of projects in a transparent manner, keeping customer experience as a priority.

To discuss how these emerging technologies are helping companies to improve their operations and enable richer and personalised experience to users.

Eminent experts from the transport sector Abhijit Singh, Executive Director, Indian Ports Association; Avinash Rai, COO, Adani Ports&SEZ; Kumar Keshav, MD, Lucknow Metro Rail Corp; Daisy Chittilapilly, MD-Digital Transformation Officer-CISCO India & SAARC; Zafar Khan, Head-Ops, Peak Infra Management Services; Akhilesh Kumar Srivastava, Chief GM-IT, NHAI; and Sandip Trivedi, Group GM-IT Projects, IRCTC spoke at length about their initiatives, successes and challenges.

Experts discussed how technology helped them to bring down costs and manage manpower.

“Technology is the core in bringing the time down, the cost to the control, and implementation of a very complex project like metro. Trains are nearly automated and human intervention has to be reduced. So, system rooms, technology like signalling, telecom, automatic fare collection system, public information display system, these are information that have to be on artificial intelligence, latest tech so that manpower is reduced and operation becomes very reliable,” said Kumar.

Kumar also shared how data analytics helps them to manage congestion at the metro stations. Likewise, port modernisation has helped businesses in a major way. For instance, Adani Ports became the first Indian port to handle 200 million tonnes of Cargo, which became a boon for traders.

“Whatever happens at the port enables the trade for the country to move at a pace and digital transformation at a port is being done only to support this pace. Every point of interface in the trade for a port which is so called 40-50 government agencies including everybody in the trade, every handover is a friction point. Every friction is a loss and every loss is a cost. So, this is where at Adani Ports we believe, that our digital transformation is to aid and accelerate the pace of trade,” said Rai.

Thus, from metro rail to ports to Indian Railways, technology is driving decision makers to take real-time decisions and deliver a seamless system. In this backdrop, IRCTC is a good example to follow.

“During last few years, we have taken certain steps like mobile app, where users can book ticket through app, we also brought a new idea to the system, the chatbot based on artificial intelligence. This is named is ASK Disha. Disha is an acronym for (Digital Interaction to Seek Help Anytime). (Under this) without calling to the call centre, or any mistake, people can ask the chatbot about any question. With this, we have reduced our calls also,” said Trivedi.

Another great example of government agencies taking concrete steps to improve highway construction and management is NHAI which is using tech to simplify operations, backend processes with speed and skill.

“We are using drone technology, LEDR, networks survey vehicle, cadastral maps to finalise alignments. During execution, we had developed a project monitoring information system which is a state-of-the-art system. We are using 3D BIM technology also to real-time check on the projects. Once the highways are constructed, we are using the RFID fast track. We are also exploring GPS technology which can improve efficiency on national highways,” said Srivastava.

Hence, tech is a becoming a necessity to facilitate projects, trim costs and build efficiency.

“Technology can impact four areas. Firstly, passenger experience, whether it is real-time personalised communication with passengers before, during and after travel. Second is safety and compliance. The third space which is emerging now is because of the focus on electric mobility worldwide, the requirements around vehicle to vehicle and vehicle to infrastructure connectivity. Fourth one is of course operational efficiency,” said Chittilapilly.

However, there are many challenges when it comes to implementing technology, one of them being the mindset. Chittilapilly said there are legacy issues that need to be addressed.

“There is a gap between vision and execution and more compounded by legacy issues. So, if we haven’t kept upto speed with emerging tech, the gap from where you are today to where you want to be keeps increasing,” she said.

In port management too, Singh pointed out how stakeholders still want to follow old practices.

“We are facing the challenge of adoption of technology. Stakeholders basically wanted to follow old practices, they are reluctant to adopt new change. Though we are giving them a comfort level of time and hosting a number of workshops, handholding services, developing helpdesks, the greatest challenge is we are facing adoption of tech,” said Singh.

For emergency services at highways too, it’s a long road ahead.

“Safety is the most important parameter for us to do business in India. Systems are in place but the problem is those technologies are still not linked to the stakeholders. For instance, if an incident happens, the incident response has to go to the local patrolling team, the ambulance and the local hospital and hospitals are still not linked. There is a gap in the system. So, once system and technology are there, we can provide,” said Khan.

Hence, transportation sector is witnessing a tectonic shift as automation is enabling a frictionless experience. Watch the full episode here.