The London underground system, affectionately known as The Tube, is the fourth largest (behind Seoul, Shanghai, and Beijing) and the oldest (the first station opened in 1863 and expanded rapidly for the next 50 years) underground railway system in the world and as such, it needs a continuous amount of maintenance along a network that is 402 kilometers long. Despite advances in technology over the last 151 years, finding and repairing tracks often relies on manual labor whether that's driving machines or walking along the rails. The problem is that these methods take a long time to spot the fault and then act upon it thereby increasing the time to perform maintenance which can cause serious issues and longer delays for customers.
But now the Internet of Things is going to be used to bring real-time maintenance information to a range of mobile devices through a host of sensors places strategically throughout the network.
A partnership between Microsoft, Telent (a British systems installation company), and IT consultants CGI are designing a system that will monitor the assets of the railway using Microsoft's Azure Intelligent Systems Services software connected to thousands of devices and sensors as seen in this video.
As with other SCADA software, Azure will allow engineers to spot problems and degradation in real-time and because this data can be stored and then analyzed, patterns can be recognized so that for example, if two pieces of equipment are using slightly different components, then the best performing piece can be established accurately.
There's no news on when this will be rolled out or how long it will take to get the system working and besides passengers aren't likely to notice the difference anyway, but engineering staff may at sometime find their jobs getting easier as the Internet of Things takes over all aspects of our lives.