One of the largest railway operators, Indian Railways, has set up an interactive train monitoring platform for commuters to track train movements around India almost in real time, which has helped people better plan their trips ahead of time.
The service, called RailRader, was jointly developed by the Centre for Railway Information Service (CRIS) and RailYatri.in and can be accessed on Web browsers on both traditional PCs and mobile phones. Sunil Baipai, group general manager at CRIS, shared that since the service was launched on Thursday, it has received over 200,000 hits and some 20 percent of the traffic was from mobile users.
The online service uses color codes to aid users: blue arrows on the screen indicate trains that are currently running on time, while red arrows refer to trains running late. The arrows also indicate the direction in which the train is heading toward, and to get more information about the train, users can just click or hover over the train icon using one's mouse, the railway company stated.
However, information on train location and status are typically delayed by about five minutes due to security and regulatory reasons, it added.
In order to monitor its train network, Indian Railways has installed monitoring points at more than 6,000 locations around the country. These outposts communicate updates--mostly automatically although some still rely on manual reporting--on train arrivals and departures to a central server, which then analyzes the large amounts of data in real time. Typically, about 10,000 trains run daily in India, the company noted.
Harpreet Singh, who manages operations at a startup and is a frequent traveler, told ZDNet Asia he was excited about RailRadar. He says the service comes in handy when he has to pick someone up from the train station or when he has to make one or several train connections to get to his location.
The ability to find out whether the train is on time to reach his intended destination using mobile Internet is another plus, Singh noted.
Indian Railways, which is a state-owned enterprise, is no stranger to technological innovation. Its catering, tourism and online ticketing subsidiary, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), pioneered the online booking service for train tickets and became one of the largest, fastest-growing e-commerce portals in the Asia-Pacific region in a short period of time.
Abhishek Baxi is a freelance IT writer based in India.