The Indian government on February 25th presented the annual Union Rail Budget for 2016. This budget finally brings in a lot of technology to good use.
From the use of aerial vehicles/drones for monitoring to Wi-Fi hotspots at railway stations, this budget is so much more than any past Rail Budget, when it comes to the addition of smart tech. The rail minister promised the use of social media for real-time updates as well as a complete overhaul of the IRCTC booking facilities.
Here are the top 6 announcements of the Rail Budget that aim at making the Railways a highly tech-savvy public organization.Here are the top 6 announcements of the Rail Budget that aim at making the Railways a highly tech-savvy public organization.
WI-FI HOTSPOTS AT 100 RAILWAY STATIONS
Something that Google had already promised last month, the Railway Minister confirmed that the Railways, in partnership with the Mountain View giant, would be installing complete Wi-Fi hotspot points at 100 major railway stations in India. This project has already in its beta testing mode at stations like Mumbai Central, where users report highly promising Internet speeds on their connected devices.
The government is also planning to urge other service providers to enable such resources, with the added benefits of government support. Net Neutrality will be a key factor in deciding the scale of providers.
E-CATERING AND ONLINE FOOD ORDERING
Online food ordering in trains was started in 2015, with only 45 stations having the service till now. In this year's Rail Budget, the Minister announced that the E-Catering service would now be accessible across all 400-railway stations in the Category A1 and Category A segment. Partnerships for the program will also be expanded, with players like Domino's Pizza, TravelKhana, KFC and Pizza Hut already joining in. The meals will be focused on a local cuisine and there will be options of separate menus for women and children.
MONETIZATION OF ONLINE TRAFFIC
The Railway Department's e-commerce portal, IRCTC, has a great amount of website traffic all across the year. While the website has an additional e-commerce section - apart from the usual ticketing service - the Railway Ministry wants to monetize the customer patterns via targeted ads. The Rail Minister mentioned that the department had been incapable of taking advantage of the same and that they would be targeting a revenue of Rs. 4,000 crore by year 2020.
USE OF DRONES TO MONITOR PROJECTS
The Railways, in a first, will use drones and other unmanned aerial vehicles to monitor their major development projects in future. They will also use multiple geospatial satellite technology to perform regular reviews on work progress. A special Research and Development organization - SHRESTHA (Strategic Technology & Holistic Advancement) will be set up to perform long-term research on the use of extensive technology in Railways. This will be the first instance that a substantial investment is taking place in putting technology into any public service in India.
IMPROVED SECURITY OF PASSENGERS
For the safety and security of travelers and visitors alike, 331 railway stations will be equipped with CCTV cameras at platforms and in the reception area. More than 20,000 centrally connected screens will also be installed at around 2,000 railway stations for displaying crucial information to passengers.
In terms of entertainment, the trains will now also equip LED-lit attractive ad boards, Public Announcement systems with FM Radio support, vending machines and so on. The Railways is also planning to partner with foreign firms to implement a 'Zero-Accident' system in India.
TRACK MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
A feature that went online earlier this month, Track Management System was officially announced at Rail Budget 2016. The web-enabled Track Management System allows the Railways to monitor maintenance-related activities on a real-time basis, thus reducing turnover times and train delays. The Railway Minister also promised that further sophisticated inventory management and level-monitoring technology would be introduced under this program.