An interview with… Fabrice Simonin, Head of Rail Business Unit, GiSmartware
Posted: 6 August 2018 | Fabrice Simonin | No comments yet
As part of Global Railway Review’s Going Digital in Rail Week, Fabrice Simonin, Head of Rail Business Unit at GiSmartware, explains how the company’s NetGeo Rail solution is useful for infrastructure managers and how GiSmartware aim to build a brand-new platform for data processing and predictive maintenance.
What are the core values/foundations of GiSmartware and what solutions can you offer the rail industry?
GiSmartware was created 25 years ago by two utility companies to develop software that could help them improve the mapping of their respective networks: Water and sanitation networks for Veolia and power networks for Vinci Energies.
A lot has changed since then for GiSmartware and we have now been an independent company for the past five years. However, we are still driven by the belief that an up-to-date, comprehensive and reliable infrastructure repository is key to the performance of infrastructure managers.
All our solutions are based on the Netgeo platform offering a common core of features. But each product addresses the specificities of our client’s business line: Water, sanitation, telecoms, power and now rail networks. Our products help reduce the hassle of maintaining the infrastructure repository and keeping it up-to-date, guiding the user to ensure optimal data quality and help detect inconsistencies.
Who are GiSmartware’s customers in the rail sector and what level of feedback are they giving you?
Since 2014, SNCF Réseau – the French rail infrastructure manager – has been using GiSmartware’s Netgeo Telecom product to build and administrate a repository of its optical fibre network.
In 2016, when GiSmartware first visualised Netgeo Rail, a new product dedicated to the needs of rail infrastructure managers, SNCF Réseau agreed to provide input and feedback from its experts. This daily dialog is coherent with our way of building software: Through user groups, satisfaction surveys and constant exchange, we aim to meet our customers’ needs and bring them time-saving and user-friendly solutions.
The help from SNCF Réseau makes us confident that Netgeo Rail will meet the needs of any infrastructure manager, while Netgeo’s modular architecture enables it to be plugged into any RailTopoModel-compatible repository.
GiSmartware now seeks to gather input from metro and tram managers, as well as owners of private rail networks, to see how Netgeo Rail can adapt to their requirements.
In what ways do you expect GiSmartware will have to adapt to meet the changing digitalisation demands of the rail industry in the years to come?
The infrastructure repository is the focal point of all digitalisation trends.
On the one hand, an increasing amount of data is created daily: With the Internet of Things (IoT) revolution, sensors stream real-time data from key assets; measurement trains precisely record track geometry and power supply; and trains, helicopters and drones can now produce pictures, videos and LIDAR point clouds.
On the other hand, digitalisation enables exciting use-cases: Predictive maintenance promises to lower costs and improve service and reliability; ERTMS is one step toward the completion of an integrated European rail network; and train automation will increase line throughput while guaranteeing safety.
Among rich streams of data, promising use cases, and with the asset repository in between, automation is but a dream without a precise and topologically-correct description of the network, and raw data is useless when it cannot be processed or attached to functional assets.
GiSmartware has three projects to help make these changes happen. First, we aim to transform asset repositories into actual digital twins according to the principles of BIM. Then we will leverage the IoT experience of our ‘smart city’ department to help our customers with their projects. We will also build a brand-new platform for data processing and predictive maintenance.
What would you say are the main reasons why customers choose GiSmartware over your competitors?
As aforementioned, the links we build with our customers through user groups, surveys and dialogue are core to our way of working: We build software with users, for users.
A consequence of this is our search for simplicity. ‘Topology’, ‘BIM’ and ‘GIS’ are useful and essential concepts in infrastructure asset management, but they are IT-concepts which may hinder users’ efficiency. Our software handles the complexity for the user to focus on what matters most.
Another consequence is our quest for interoperability. We hear our customers when they express the fear of ‘vendor lock-in’. Moreover, the need for interoperability is ubiquitous in the rail industry. Infrastructure managers and operators, design offices and constructors, industrials and authorities, everyone exchanges data – and these flows must be as frictionless as possible. That’s why we have based Netgeo Rail on RailTopoModel, as standardised by the UIC.
As a software editor, GiSmartware strives for proximity, simplicity and interoperability. I think that’s what our customers seek in our services.
What’s next for GiSmartware? What can we expect your company to focus on concerning rail in the future?
In the future, GiSmartware will accelerate and strengthen its commitment to interoperability. We have just joined the French MINnD programme to take part in the standardisation process of IFC Rail by building the Smart International standard which will help the adoption of BIM principles in the rail industry. What’s more, even if we don’t take an active part in their development, we must follow closely the progress of other initiatives, especially RailTopoModel, RailML and EULYNX. Our objective is to offer our customers standardised solutions as soon as a relevant standard is ready.
For more than 10 years, Fabrice Simonin has been working in software development. As Head of GiSmartware’s Development Team, Fabrice has piloted the release of Smartgeo, Netgeo Telecom and Netgeo Water. In 2016, Fabrice became product-owner for a new software in the Netgeo family: Netgeo Rail. In this capacity, Fabrice works closely with experts at SNCF Réseau. At the end of 2017, Fabrice took the lead of GiSmartware’s newly-created Rail Business Unit to develop business opportunities based on Netgeo Rail.