IBM pushes train tech

October 7, 2009: 6:31 PM ET

IBM (IBM) is pushing more of its technology into trains.

The company has announced today that transit agencies in New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. will use its Maximo software to monitor the health of rail cars, bridges, tunnels, tracks and other assets, and flag them for maintenance before they break down.

Ken Donnelly, worldwide Maximo industry lead, at IBM, says the $100 million transit maintenance market turns out to be a relatively healthy area in a troubled global economy. Even though budgets are tight, governments are eager to find more efficient ways to keep transit equipment in working order without overpaying for inspections or for emergency work when systems fail. And the market seems likely to stay healthy, since many countries have targeted their economic stimulus dollars toward public transit.

Asset management software like Maximo can track how equipment is being serviced, and compare that against a recommended maintenance schedule. As newer trains come equipped with sensors that monitor specific functions – say, doors that open and close – the software can learn that a train's doors typically malfunction after opening, say, 10,000 times, and schedule them for maintenance after they reach the 9,500 mark.

The transit agencies using the software are the Long Island Rail Road in New York, Bay Area Rapid Transit in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority in D.C.

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