NS Takes Home Technology Innovation AwardsWritten by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor, Railway Age
Norfolk Southern (NS) late last month was presented with 2023 “Innovation-Driven Company” awards from the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) for its rail wear predictive analytics and digital train inspection programs.
The annual TAG Technology Awards “promote and celebrate the inclusive technology community” and are presented to “the best and brightest Georgia technology leaders and companies,” according to TAG. Applicants describe their accomplishments and innovations and undergo a review that results in finalists being named to 12 award categories. The categories include Tech Leader of the Year—Government/Education/Non-Profit, Tech Leader of the Year—Public, Tech Leader of the Year—Private, Emerging Leader of the Year, Innovation-Driven Company (Startup), Innovation-Driven Company (Small), Innovation-Driven Company (Mid-Market), Innovation-Driven Company (Enterprise-Public), Innovation-Driven Company (Enterprise-Private), Innovation-Driven Company (Government/Education/Non-Profit), Tech Evolution, and Tech for Good.
NS was selected as the overall winner and a finalist in the Innovation-Driven Company (Enterprise-Public) category, which recognizes Georgia companies that have “developed an innovative technology (hardware, software, etc.) solution or are using existing technology in an innovative way to make companies and organizations stand out in any industry in 2022.” Its rail wear predictive analytics program was the overall winner.
According to NS, the rail wear predictive analytics program uses artificial intelligence (AI) modeling to “identify the right rail at the right time, at the right location in need of replacement before any future issues arise,” improving safety and reliability and reducing costs.
Railcars equipped with sensors gather terabytes of data on tracks for every foot traveled, with AI models developed to consider variations from traffic, tonnage, weather, terrain and more, NS reported. “Using the data, NS’s Data Science and Engineering teams created a robust artificial intelligence model to accurately predict rail wear 5-10 years in the future and reveal trends across NS’ 28,000-mile system,” NS said.
AI model development began in 2017 using data from the Engineering team and required algorithms from the Data Science team, who NS said “worked in tandem to quickly produce iterative models of the technology, which continues to be optimized and expanded today.”
According to the railroad, the technology so far “is providing substantial levels of productivity and visibility across every foot of rail in the NS network.”
“We are so honored to be recognized by our peers for innovation in our home state of Georgia,” NS AVP Enterprise Data and Analytics Mabby Amouie said. “Our work in robust track maintenance is key to realizing our vision of safety above all else. Maintaining our tracks is a critical component of ensuring the safety of NS employees and the communities we serve.”