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Network Rail investigates immersive technologies


Mark Say Managing Editor

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Network Rail is investigating the possibilities for immersive technologies in managing the country’s railways.

It has published a notice through the Connected Places Catapult for potential suppliers to provide ideas on how solutions could be used in planning and maintaining the infrastructure, making them available for a wide pool of users including contractors.

Network Rail already has a building information modelling (BIM) system in place and uses LiDAR ((light detection and ranging) data for a section of railway in the Wales and Weston region, but these are generally accessed only by specialists in computer aided design (CAD).

It says it believes the value of the digital assets could be increased by enabling a wider range of stakeholders to have access, and that this could be possible through using immersive technologies with the 3D/BIM models and other data sources.

The sharp reduction in business travelling brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic has made it harder to bring people together and created a new impetus for the use of immersive technologies. These include 3D and head mounted displays, holography, 3D audio effects and haptic (touch) technology.

“There is also an aspiration to be able to integrate and update the digital environment with real time feeds from data sources which could include drone mounted, worn/carried by personnel or train-borne cameras,” Network Rail says in the notice. 

“The integration of visual and data sources in real time with existing digital models would enable real time assessment and visualisation of the infrastructure from a remote location in order to, for example, assess failure points or incident sites.”

Understand solutions

As a result, it is now looking to understand how solutions could enable it to work more effectively with its BIM resources, making them more accessible to a wider range of stakeholders.

It has indicated that possibilities include the use of immersive headsets, integration with tablets and smartphones, and integration with existing BIM systems.

Among the other data sources it highlights are 360 degree video feeds from sources such as drones, 2D video feeds from train cameras and smart devices, GPS positioning data and GIS information.

Image by Jeremy Segrott, CC BY 2.0 via Flickr

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