The move to digital railway systems worldwide is fueling a need for big data, according to new research from Frost & Sullivan.

The rise of Internet of Things (IoT) and the proliferation of mobile devices have made it vital for the global rail industry to use big data platforms, the firm says. Some of the signaling equipment on rail networks is nearly 80 years old, the study says, and industry participants have begun to invest in the current generation of rail systems including computer-based point machines and interlocking.

This shift from analog to digital railway systems, which enables activity to be recorded and the integrity of systems to be identified in real time, has turned railroad companies’ attention toward big data technologies.

The global annual rail investment in big data will reach more than $2.14 billion by 2021, according to the report, Strategic Analysis of Big Data in Rapid Transit.

Investments will grow at a minimum of 60%. The study covers hardware, big data distributions, data management components, analytics and visualization software, and services.

“The main aim of the rail industry’s implementation of big data technologies has been predictive analytics,” Shyam Raman, Frost & Sullivan automotive and transportation research analyst, said in a statement. “Integrating media analytics to improve the security of rail infrastructure and payload are also key applications.”

However, applications of big data in the rail industry can extend further to include fare management, geospatial analysis, transit scheduling and revenue management, the report says.

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