Using Immersive Technologies to Engage with Network Rail’s Digital Assets Opportunity
Network Rail and the Connected Places Catapult are publishing this notice to explore the state of the market in relation to the business challenge on Immersive Railway Technologies.
The purpose of this notice is to provide potential suppliers with an overview of the challenge and seek responses that explain the capabilities of products and solutions available in the marketplace, or near-market prototypes. A variety of potential solutions are sought to this challenge, and there is no presumption that respondents will have previous experience operating in a rail environment. This request for information is purely for the purposes of creating a clear understanding of possible solutions, their capabilities and technical readiness. This information will be used to inform future development opportunities.
The challenge outlined in this request for information is complex, and it is not necessarily expected that a single company will possess the full suite of tools, software or capabilities to deliver a complete system. Therefore, if your company/product can deliver a part of the solution, Network Rail (NR) are interested to know about your capabilities.
Please respond by completing the template at the bottom of this page.
Building Information Modelling (BIM) for infrastructure developments are now part of infrastructure engineering development activities. Network Rail have a BIM (Level 2) model of a 200+ mile section of railway (Wales and Weston Region) that includes the track and surrounding infrastructure. BIM are created by design and construction companies and handed over to NR upon completion.
To record infrastructure changes (deterioration/modifications) over time the route is regularly scanned (Lidar- point cloud). Post construction, digital models of the current railway infrastructure may be used for activities such as driver training, exploring infrastructure enhancements and maintenance activities.
Network Rail’s BIM models are used in the planning, development and management of new and existing infrastructure, however they are generally only accessed by trained CAD technicians.
There are no existing (NR) solutions that enable a wide pool of potential users (stakeholders / key decision-makers), to collectively experience these environments, to appreciate and optimize the design, or to identify potential issues before commitments are made to the layout, design and construction.
Railway infrastructure and their associated BIM models are periodically updated as necessary. This updating activity can be time consuming and as a result digital models may be out of date compared to reality.
Assessing and understanding the infrastructure is especially important when an accident or incident occurs. Incidents can occur on remote parts of the network which are difficult to access. It is therefore critical for NR personnel to rapidly assess and gain a detailed understanding of the infrastructure and the environment where the incident has occurred.
NR believes that the value of these digital assets could be enhanced if they can be accessed by a wider range of users/stakeholders throughout the asset/infrastructure’s design, construction and operational lifecycle. NR believe that using immersive technologies to engage with 3D/BIM models, combined with other data sources, can add significant value to communication, collaboration and decision making.
Furthermore, key stakeholders who may need to experience the BIM models/immersive visualisation of the rail network may not be co-located, therefore enabling geographically distributed users to experience the same virtual environment is a key challenge, especially with the travel and social distancing restrictions imposed by Covid-19.
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. The integration of visual and data sources in real-time with existing digital models would enable real-time assessment and visualization of the infrastructure from a remote location in order to, for example, assess failure points or incident sites.
NR are looking to explore and understand the ways in which a solution or combination of solutions could enable Network Rail to work more effectively with BIM data sources. These solutions would support infrastructure development projects, through life management, maintenance and incident response activities. The aim is to make BIM more accessible and usable to a wider range of stakeholders and end users through a blend of immersive technology (hardware and software). Those who may need to experience the digitized rail network may not always be co-located, and so enabling geographically distributed users to experience the same virtual environment is a key priority.
A secondary aspiration, which ideally would integrate with the first, is the ability to incorporate external (and ideally live) data sources such as camera feeds, into existing virtual models. The integration of audio-visual feeds and a wide range of data sources with existing digital models would enable real-time assessment and visualization of the infrastructure from a remote location in order to, for example, assess failure points or incident sites.
Broadly, the solution may be expected to have the following attributes:
- A multi-user immersive visualisation facility (no headsets) to facilitate face to face discussions with senior NR stakeholders / organisations outside of NR.
- Immersive headset integration that enables geographically dispersed users to participate in collaborative discussions.
- Smart device integration (tablets and smart phones) to view and participate in collaborative discussions. (Stretch target)
- Integration with existing NR BIM Systems – Field Engineering and maintenance applications with Bentley Connect/ProjectWise (web browser-based fault reporting)
- Scalable user functionality and control via user account profiles.
- Integrates/uses existing NR owned and hosted BIM data assets (hosted in Azure).
- Integrates/has the potential to integrate with data sources (including but not limited to):
- 360 video feeds (emergency services drone footage (i.e. trespassers/thieves)
- 2D video feeds (train cameras, NR employees’ cameras/smart devices)
- GPS positioning data
- 3D assets and being able to accurately position/lock these assets into a digital environment
- Positioning digital assets onto real world assets/environments (AR/XR) (stretch target)
- GIS information
- Version control and persistence of additions/notes made by users.
- Appropriate security and end to end encryption of remote users.
Network Rail are keen to know more about your business/technologies and does not expect that a single organisation will necessarily deliver all of the above attributes.
It is anticipated that responses will include an overview of both the hardware and software requirements needed, how the users would interact with the proposed solution (for example whether any headset or portable devices need to be worn), and how the business challenge could be delivered a cohesive immersive technologies systems solution.
Appendix A provides more granular information of the capabilities and functionality desired. Specific questions on this challenge and the solution needs may be raised through the Proactis portal.
Request for Information
You are requested to submit a response to the challenge statement. All responses are required to be completed within the Word template provided with this request for information and should not exceed 20 pages (excluding any supporting materials).
All responses will be collated, and the information will be evaluated in order to provide Network Rail with a clear understanding of the technical readiness of possible solutions and potential development opportunities.
Closing time date and time for registrations is 12pm, 6th July 2020. The form below must be completed and posted on this link
Opportunity Support & Information Webinar
We held a Webinar on Tuesday 30th June 2020 regarding Immersive Railway Technologies during which further queries and requests for more detailed information were answered.
You can re-watch the Webinar by clicking the button below:
NR have proposed the following system concept. This should be used as a reference, however it is not a definitive/prescriptive approach. If you believe that you have a novel/alternative approach or an individual technology that would satisfy the challenge, or parts of the challenge, then NR are keen to know more about your business, technologies and proposed solution.
To view the appendix click here.