Cyber security image, via Istock

The Future of Rail Security: A Q&A with Jon Hill, Genetec

Cloud and analytics-based technology, along with the much-anticipated formation of Great British Railways, is creating new opportunities for rail security and operations. We sat down with Jon Hill of Genetec to find out more.

  1. You’re new to Genetec but not to the rail industry. Tell us a little bit about your background and experience.

I’ve just started looking after the transport and public space sectors for Genetec UK, helping integrators and end users to drive maximum value from our physical security software. However, some Rail Technology readers will know me from my eight years spent in a similar role at the security camera manufacturer Hanwha. I’m passionate about helping the rail industry to deploy smart technology to optimise public safety, improve operations and visualise the data that provides a greater understanding of their environment.

  1. Derby has just been announced as the headquarters for Great British Railways. Are you excited about its potential to improve rail technology for the better?

I think we’re all pleased to see Great British Railways finally moving forward, though we’d all appreciate more detail on timings. The rail industry generates huge amounts of data that can be put to good effect. It can help us enhance security, improve passenger flow and predict maintenance schedules, to give just a few examples.

To capitalise on this, Great British Railways will need to give careful thought to how it will unify different data streams. How it will approach matters of cybersecurity and privacy. And how to configure systems to maximise value for all parties.

  1. Many rail operators are undergoing digital transformation. How is Genetec helping its clients on this journey?

Our unified physical security software can be deployed on premise, as a hybrid-cloud set-up or fully in the cloud. This is based on each organisation and its individual requirements. Users therefore aren’t limited by the decisions they take today when it comes to evolving their system for the needs of tomorrow.

For most sites a cloud or hybrid cloud set up will be the best fit, helping to simplify cybersecurity processes and drive efficiencies in on-going operations and maintenance. For others, there may be secondary factors that mean an on-premises system continues to make more sense.

  1. Are there any particular solutions you want to highlight?

Genetec Clearance is a fantastic digital evidence management system that has widespread applications in rail. It enables operators to instantly collect, analyse, redact and securely share footage with external stakeholders such as local law enforcement.

It eliminates all of the problems associated with the traditional ways of collecting evidence such as copying it to USB sticks or burning it to DVDs. It massively streamlines the process, simplifies compliance with GDPR requirements and helps to tackle incidents such as vandalism, trespass and theft.

  1. How can IoT devices be used in rail to improve fault maintenance and reduce disruption and delays?

By using IoT devices, rail operators can predict faults before they occur, preventing costly maintenance fees and improving staff and passenger satisfaction. For example, Cisco's Meraki system is being trialled in the UK, which uses IoT devices to enable analytics and surveillance use cases. To interpret data, an analytics dashboard will be delivered to support multiple use cases, both trackside and in station.

Another example is the use of sensors to monitor the condition of railway tracks. These sensors can detect changes in the track's condition, such as cracks or misalignment, that could lead to potential derailments. This information can be used to schedule maintenance before the track becomes a safety hazard. This technology can be integrated with hybrid cloud solutions to provide a comprehensive approach to rail management and operations.

  1. How can video analytics help improve rail safety?

Automated Video analytics and alerts empower operators to act on real-time intelligence, taking decisions in the moment that prevent harm and improve the passenger experience. For example, in the event of somebody acting suspiciously or loitering too close to the tracks, a station employee can be dispatched to check on their welfare.  Instead of being a record of what happened after the fact, video becomes a proactive tool through which to manage situations before they have the potential to escalate.

It’s important to recognise that each video analytic must be configured carefully and with an understanding of the problem the operator is hoping to solve. But there are good examples of them being used to tackle everything from overcrowding and passenger flow, through to trespass, cable theft and vandalism incidents.

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