Japan transport firms using big data to improve safety
More Japanese transportation firms are tapping into big data to enhance the safety of their services, analyzing the massive volumes of information they collect and detecting in advance small signs of mechanical problems.
Big data have been increasingly used in areas such as analyzing consumers' tastes or predicting people's movements when forced to evacuate at the time of a disaster. Experts say utilizing big data in the transportation sector is meaningful, and they propose developing a system to collect more data.
Japan Airlines Co. launched in December a new system it has developed with IBM Japan Ltd. that analyzes such things as engine temperature and the pressure on components in order to predict instrument anomalies.
The company previously held regular checks and additional maintenance of its aircraft when data were found exceeding the standard and it canceled about 200 flights annually due to mechanical problems.
The new system has allowed the airline to predict technical hitches by detecting "minor shifts" in big data, a JAL official said, adding that the carrier hopes this will help prevent flight cancellations and delays.
A similar move is seen in the maritime industry.
ClassNK, a non-profit organization for ship classification, set up a unit in April to collect thermometer and pressure indicator data from vessels at sea. It introduced a system to detect mechanical problems at an early stage by checking whether the data remain at normal levels.
"We used to depend on crews' experiences and instincts (to detect problems). But we are now able to quantify and analyze," ClassNK, known as Nippon Kaiji Kyokai in Japan, said.
It currently collects the data from a limited number of vessels but plans to increase the number and also utilize various other data.
In the railway business, East Japan Railway Co. has equipped its new carriages on the JR Yamanote Line in Tokyo with a system to monitor equipment as well as a device that uses lasers and sensors to check any misalignment and abrasions of the overhead power wire.
The operator will continue to collect data and is planning to develop a system to detect signs of abnormalities, in order to enable efficient maintenance.
"We hope to work towards the ultimate safety by uncovering risks that we cannot find with our experiences," said JR East President Tetsuro Tomita.
The use of big data has spread in the transportation field in recent years with advances in information and communication technologies to collect and analyze data, experts said. It was also aided by the development of sensors to detect various movements in each part of a complex structure such as an aircraft.
"Using big data has helped increase subjects that we can analyze and this will help us to prevent accidents better than before," said aviation critic Yoshitomo Aoki.
"In the aviation sector, for example, we should consider creating a system for further improving safety by gathering data held by each international organization or airline in one place and analyzing it," Aoki said.