Dutch startup on track to end train delays by predicting technical failures

Dutch startup on track to end train delays by predicting technical failures

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Precisely on the day that you have an important meeting with your company, the train you are in gets stuck on the track due to some ‘technical issues’. Karma is a bitch… But maybe not forever. Strukton Rail and Semiotic Labs have joined forces to develop software that will tell us beforehand when machines and systems will fail.


The software is called smart condition monitoring services. It supplies instructions in the form of algorithms to convert data into information about when and why a system fails. Then the experts come into play: they analyze the data and determine which failure or breakdown is about to occur. With this information they can determine which actions we have to take to prevent or to solve the problem.

Award nominations

Who are the experts behind this new software? Strukton Rail is an international organization focusing on the improvement of train trails and is in the Netherlands responsible for maintenance of 40% of the railroad tracks . Semiotic Labs is a company in Amsterdam developing software that predicts technical failures. Although it is a small company with no more than six employees, it is nominated for the Innovation top 100 of the Dutch Chamber of Commerce, as well as for the Accenture Innovation Award.  The cooperation between the two companies emerged from the CAMINO-project, an initiative of the World Class Maintenance to improve the maintenance of infrastructure.

Minimizing technical failures

The aim of the smart condition monitoring services is to minimize technical failures. According to Semiotic Labs’ website, the software “predicts when and why equipment fails”. This will allow systems to run more smoothly, and should prevent a lot of inconvenience that unexpected technical problems cause. The service will focus on systems and machines that are driven by an electromotor. Think about train rails, but also public services on train stations, such as elevators and escalators. Everyone using these public services will therefore benefit from the service.

New Style Maintenance

When your shoes don’t look too bad after two years, you probably won’t get rid of them. The way maintenance is done for many systems that run in the public sphere, does not follow this logic. Instead, we replace systems after a predetermined period of time, even when they are still working fine. Semiotic Labs’ smart conditioning monitoring would offer a more efficient way of maintenance. Exactly because it predicts when a breakdown is about to happen, maintenance can take place accordingly.

Identity crisis

Ever since the NS Dutch Railways became a privatized company they have become synonymous with breakdowns and delays. Experiencing delay caused by technical problems on the track have become an integral part of Dutch identity. All Dutch people claim to genuinely hate it, but it is in this shared experience where we truly connect with our fellow-Dutchies.

Free coffee

Especially when the technical failure is so big that hundreds or thousands of people are stranded on the train station, drinking free coffee served by the NS as a compensation. With the software that Strukton Rail and Semiotic Labs have developed, this may now become a thing of the past. Dutch trains without extensive delays? It would truly be the end of an era.

Image: Marc Maathuis, manager Strukton Rail Netherlands (l) and Gerben Gooijers, founder Semiotic Labs (r). Photo provided by Strukton.



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