The IRSE International Technical Committee recently published an insightful report on Strategic drivers of change in the signalling industry. It includes the perspectives of both the user and supplier side, and gives an excellent summary of the challenges currently faced by the signaling industry.
IRSE views the primary technology drivers to be:
- Continued emphasis on safety
- Lower cost signaling solutions to support business case of signaling upgrades
- Maintaining a competitive edge. Suppliers to evolve engineering processes, software development and deployment costs, reduction of hardware costs
- Global solutions, moving away from country and operator specific signaling solutions.
In short, one could say that we need signaling systems that deliver improved services (most important is perhaps higher capacity), while maintaining the highest level of safety. They also need to be delivered quicker, more cost efficiently and with a lower life cycle cost. This is needed to meet public demand, and to face the increasing competition from other transportation modes.
At Prover, our focus is on increasing the level of automation in software development and V&V processes. The safety approval process is of particular interest, as this is often a major bottleneck when introducing new signalling systems. A key to succeed with automation here is to focus on the requirement and specification side; modern development tools can turn formalized specifications into revenue service software, automatically tested and verified (with formal verification techniques) per the specifications.
Another important aspect to consider to successfully bring down the life cycle cost, is standardization of interfaces in all level of the complete signaling system. This can for instance help decouple the hardware from the software, giving systems that are easier to upgrade and maintain, and paves the way for an efficient use of commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) products in the signaling systems.
An increased use of COTS products is also likely to increase the competition amongst suppliers and make it easier to capitalize advances in computerized automation from other industries.