Trends and Drivers in Fail-Safe Architectures for Rail Systems

The market for embedded computing technologies in rail applications is following a similar trend as has been seen in other embedded market spaces. A layer of the technology value chain becomes ‘table stakes’— delivering limited competitive advantage to a point that it makes sense for application providers to reallocate R&D resources to differentiating elements of the end product and buy the base technology from companies who are dedicated to that technology. We are witnessing this transition in the rail market for embedded computers that are certified to safety integrity level four (SIL4), the highest level. These embedded computers offer a certified, commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) generic fail-safe platform allowing rail application developers to focus their R&D resources on differentiating applications.

This trend is driven by a number of emerging trends in the global rail industry. 

In the past few years we have witnessed an explosive growth in global investments in public rail transportation, in particular high-speed rail and metro, caused mainly by the effort to reduce a nation’s carbon footprint by replacing inefficient automobile-based transport with efficient mass transportation. This is particularly evident in emerging economies such as China and India, as well as established economies in the Far East, Africa and South America. While less so in Europe and North America, we do witness growth in these markets due to other factors such as pan-European rail standardization as well as modernization of the rail infrastructure to enhance safety.  

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