Intelligent Rail: A Hands-On Introduction to AI for the Railway Industry
07 July 2020
On the 23rd June 2020, YRP hosted a webinar and workshop which looked at how Artificial Intelligence can be used and how it can be applied to the rail industry. As we enter the AI era, driven by the 4th industrial revolution, computers are taking on new forms and embedding into people’s daily lives. At the same time, the railways are changing, and more data are available all the time. The railway is focusing on establishing new ways to keep trains moving, improve safety, increase efficiency and improve customer experience.
Ali Parandeh, Senior Data Scientist at Hack Partners gave a presentation explaining the difference between data science, artificial intelligence and machine learning. He outlined how these technologies are an integrated part of daily life as they used in email spam filters and, for personalised tv recommendations on platforms such as Netflix. These technologies are also used for image recognition and Ali also demonstrated how systems can be trained to recognise the difference between cats and dogs to help explain these concepts to the novice audience.
As well as outlining these different aspects of AI, Ali also gave some thoughts on the various ways that it could be applied to the rail industry. These technologies can be applied to asset management, such as scanning and identifying track damage. To chat bots that can answer passenger queries. To detecting and monitoring wear and tear on assets such as lifts and escalators.
Not wanting to make this event a passive event, Ali then led an interactive workshop giving attendees the opportunity to have a go themselves at programming some machine learning. Using open Microsoft Office Azure Studio software, attendees were guided through an exercise, suitable for beginners, with the aim to predict fuel efficiency of road vehicles based on various characteristics like age and model. Ali explained that currently the rail industry is not as open with its data as other industries. However, attendees found the explanations of data quality requirements, of how to choose and experiment with algorithms, the training and testing of models and how to evaluate such models.
At the Q&A there were further questions on machine learning, not only aspects of how it works, but also how it can best be applied to the railway and what effect it may have on rail industry jobs.
We thank Ali Parandeh and Hack Partners for delivering an interesting, topical and uniquely interactive webinar which we hope provided attendees a great introduction for beginners to the field and a glimpse of where our industry is heading.
If you are interested in this topic of AI and Machine Learning then keep an eye out for more advanced workshops in future. If you weren't able to catch the webinar live, this session, alongside other previous YRP webinars, will be uploaded here.