A glimpse of the future

Wednesday, 25th February 2015

​‘Big Data’ is set to bring huge benefits for rail customers – and Nomad is perfectly placed to help unlock them. 

Alf Pilgrim, Chief Technology Officer.

Gerry’s day starts with a dose of national news. At 7.45am, he fires up his laptop to check emails and join a regular breakfast conference call with colleagues.

Then he’s off to work – browsing on his phone while dodging the other commuters on the street. As he approaches the station, Gerry gets a message from the train operator: his regular service is due on platform 2 in four minutes.

That leaves time to take advantage of the special breakfast deal in the café including his favourite roll – a separate message has alerted him to that.

Once on the train, Gerry remains connected as he downs his coffee. He catches an episode of a TV show using Netflix. Meanwhile, messages keep him up to date with his connection time and platform.

Gerry’s second train is run by a different operator, but his online service continues unbroken. During this leg of the journey he gets update information on taxi availability at his destination. He also receives a message about forthcoming concerts that reflect his musical tastes.

All the while, information about Gerry’s journey and those of his fellow passengers are being gathered by the train companies. They’ll use it to hone and improve their train services, and to tailor the communications they send to customers’ hand-held devices.

Some data is also supplied to third-party media companies, allowing for the usual privacy safeguards, so that they too can offer targeted messages – for instance on entertainment and refreshment options.

This scenario isn’t yet a reality. As anyone who travels by train will know, it’s impossible to enjoy seamless connectivity and personalised passenger information throughout a complex journey. But the picture is improving all the time.

Nomad is, of course, at the forefront of providing the technology that will achieve further breakthroughs. While we’re a technical company, all our innovations are designed to enhance the passenger experience, directly or indirectly.

That applies not just to WiFi and passenger information systems, but to operationally critical systems and telemetry – which benefits travellers by making trains more reliable.

We aim to be a company that doesn’t just supply the technological kit clients ask for, but works with them to use that technology to serve their customers better.

So what are the likely trends? To achieve them and expand the seamlessly connected experience enjoyed by Gerry and his fellow travellers, there will be a hunger for ever higher levels of connectivity. So we need to be looking at hardware and software platforms that can improve throughput and robustness. 

We also need to look ahead to the way information is delivered. It’s almost certain that the big fixed screens that offer much of today’s passenger information will decline, in favour of targeted messages delivered straight to travellers’ own devices.

Naturally, the industry will want to see a reduction in unit costs too, so that rail companies can offer this improved technology to a wider market.

These are exciting times. We intend to stay ahead of the next developments in connectivity and data use – and we’ll be sharing our thinking in our conversations with customers.

Alf Pilgrim

Alf Pilgrim is the Chief Technology Officer at Nomad Digital. With a PhD in Computer Science and holding over 30 years’ experience in creating commercially successful software products, Alf has a solid track record of product and technology planning that has successfully delivered R&D operations for a variety of enterprise and venture capital funded organisations. Previous to working at Nomad, Alf was the Chief Technology Officer at Clearswift, an IT security solutions vendor with specific expertise in deep content filtering of email and web traffic.

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