IBM and collaborators open a new rail innovation centre in Beijing

As someone who loves taking the train, misses the TGV, Eurostar, and Thalys systems (having lived in France last year), and is perplexed why the world’s wealthiest country does not get serious about fast speed rail, this news story caught my eye.

I’ll paste in most of the accompanying text below, from IBM’s Smarter Planet website.  What is interesting, from a GlobalHigherEd perspective, is the nature of the array of institutions that have been brought together to create such space of innovation, and where it is based.

Today IBM opened a worldwide rail innovation center in Beijing, China.  We’re excited because it’s the first time rail companies, universities, government leaders and a wide range of rail experts are gathering to figure out what it will take to bring the best rail systems to every country in the world….

Already members include Tsinghua University, Michigan Technological University, Professor Joseph M. Sussman of MIT, Railinc, RMI, Motorola, Sabre, the California High Speed Rail Authority, and Olivier G. Maurel, CIO of ILOG (an IBM company) and former CIO of SNCF in France.

The kinds of things we’ll work on are advanced data analytics for scheduling and predictive maintenance, cell phone enabled passenger service, wireless sensors on bearings and axles, digital video systems that ensure a clear track ahead and automatically respond to danger — to create rail systems that will support economic vitality, improved quality of life through reduced road congestion, and environmental sustainability.

The idea is when the best minds get together, everyone benefits.  That means better, faster on-time performance, far more efficient scheduling, maximized equipment usage and fewer vehicles congesting cities.

Think about this:  A single freight train on a track can replace 280 trucks on a road, reducing fuel use, congestion and emissions.  And considering every year nine billion gallons of fuel is wasted in traffic congestion we need all the help we can get.

Here’s to breathing easier, relaxing more and getting from city center to city center in the most efficient way possible.

Kris Olds

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