Digitally Interconnected

Digitalisation has long since entered the world of trains, locomotives and trams, with the twin aim of maximising passenger convenience and comfort and reducing overall costs for operators. The efficient interconnectedness of trains and rail infrastructure in today’s fast-moving world calls for integrated mobility concepts that incorporate intelligent communications with monitoring and information systems right from the very beginning. Railway systems suppliers are tasked with developing these interconnected systems and ensuring their reliable functionality throughout their entire life cycles. With its fully integrated driver’s desks, the Schaltbau subsidiary SPII, based in Italy, is among the most inventive, ingenious manufacturers in this field.

The comprehensive, integrated use of “big data” information has the potential to fundamentally change the way we go about designing mobility in metropolitan areas: driverless vehicles that communicate with one another make for higher train frequency and help keep delays to a minimum. Permanent real-time diagnosis and requirements-based maintenance derived from the available data can greatly reduce the number of technical breakdowns. The real-time monitoring of trains means that both passengers and train personnel are continually and accurately informed of travelling times, available capacities and connections. The interconnectedness of all modes of transport, the use of mobile communications and the integration of automatic ticketing systems all help create a pleasant, stress-free travel experience. Moreover, the seamless synchronisation of rolling stock with stationary infrastructure makes rail travel safer than ever before.

Complete mobility concept

In technical terms, these benefits are already available today and have, in some cases, become a daily reality. However, the mammoth task of integrating the various monitoring and information systems and intelligently interconnecting them needs to be tackled by rail systems manufacturers and suppliers alike in a united effort. Major projects such as the new metro and bus system currently being developed for the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh already show that a task of this nature can be accomplished: rolling stock manufacturers no longer simply develop trains, but complete mobility concepts in which all of their subsystems seamlessly cooperate and simultaneously communicate with the world around them. This is where major suppliers such as Schaltbau take on a key role, as they actively promote and develop interconnectedness at component and subsystem levels. Schaltbau‘s aim is to supply increasingly intelligent products that can be ever more simply and efficiently embedded in larger structures.


A pioneer in integration

With its integrated driver’s desk concepts, SPII, the Schaltbau subsidiary based to the north of Milan, is among the pioneers in this field. Instead of lots of single components that need painstakingly piecing together by the railway vehicle manufacturer, SPII supplies customised driver’s desks in close cooperation with the systems supplier and delivers them straight to the assembly lines on a just-in-sequence basis. From the customer’s point of view, this not only means far fewer cables and connectors to deal with, but also a considerable reduction in development, production and testing costs, greatly reducing the risks involved in system integration. With this strategy, SPII plays a key role in improving both quality and product availability. Each driver’s desk can be either tailor-made to precisely match customer specifications or configured from predefined modules. SPII deploys a wide range of predefined software solutions and standardised bus protocols in order to quickly and reliably cater for customers’ varying requirements.

The unbroken trend towards system integration is one of the main factors driving consolidation in the rail sector. Suppliers capable of offering customers the majority of subsystems from one single source on a worldwide basis are well positioned to implement major projects. As analogue product characteristics such as longevity and functional design increasingly need to be interlinked with digital features, innovation processes are becoming more and more complex and call for strategic partnerships on a global basis.

Cross-company collaboration

The integration of SPII in the international corporate network of the Schaltbau Group not only makes it simpler to handle the constantly growing localisation requirements in what are mostly publicly financed rail projects, it also opens up an array of opportunities to collaborate in the field of research and development. Here in particular, the system components developed and produced by the Schaltbau Group can be ideally interlinked and coordinated with the system solutions designed for the driver’s desks manufactured by SPII. The broad range of products and systems produced by the Schaltbau Group, such as communication and monitoring systems, door systems, sanitary systems, interior fittings with built-in sensors, electricity converters and air conditioning systems, to name but a few, can all be seamlessly integrated in the SPII driver’s desks via bus systems.