2021 – A year in review

2021 - A Year in Review

In a nutshell

This year has been a testament to what this amazing Incremental team is capable of. Throughout 2021 we saw existing relationships continue to grow, while developing new partnerships that through collaboration, have taken our products from strength to strength and improve the railway for everyone.

Crucial collaboration

2021 was a fantastic year for the us in terms of creating new partnerships, both in the UK and abroad.
At the end of October, our collaboration with fibre-optic sensing pioneer, Sensonic, saw us secure yet more funding from Innovate UK to bring our FORSE (Fibre Optic Railway Sensing Equipment) solution to fruition in the UK. We’re now venturing into global markets with other Fibre Optic projects in a number of countries, which is very exciting.

We also saw our OLErt (Overhead Line Equipment in Real Time) solution continue to be used by GWR 2021 saw GTR also come on board to use the product. Providing the TOCs and Network Rail with information and location data of emerging issues and faults to the overhead line equipment means they can be investigated as quickly as possible and prevent any future issues before they occur.Our real-time identification, movement and tracking expertise will be integrated with Sensonic’s fibre-optic acoustic sensing to create a new way to continually monitor the railway and detect track faults. The 12-month trial will showcase the solution’s ability to reduce the number of hours spent walking the track to detect, locate and rectify faults. Fusing our train tracking and location data with fibre-optic noise sensing enables FORSE to monitor the condition of fixed points and track individual trains dynamically and accurately as they move around the network, acting as virtual track inspectors.

 

Overhead Line Equipment in Real Time / OLErtThroughout 2021, OLErt continued to provide information so that dynamic inspections can be carried out, as OLE assets can be monitored and inspected remotely, compared to a ‘boots on ballast’ foot patrol. Not only is this a safer approach, it’s more efficient as more of the OLE can be monitored on board a moving train than on foot. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic this has become extremely important to the safe running of the railway and will continue way beyond those ‘temporary’ restrictions.

Only a couple of months later, we successfully partnered with Thales to develop our ‘Automated Rail Geospatial Observation System’ARGOS.

Using Thales’ Robust Train Positioning System and our user interface and threshold definition system, the solution is being trialled on an in-service GWR unit and the data transmitted to Thales will alert operators to track geometry irregularities such as twist or cyclic top faults. Successful deployment of the solution will reduce delays and risk of derailments by detecting and pinpointing the location of faults before they become serious risks to the network.

We worked with NOMAD digital to develop our first solution for the freight industry, TRACO (TRAnsition COnnectivity for trains and trucks). Thanks to funding from the First of a Kind competition run by the SBRI, TRACO will use its sophisticated GPS system to track goods across rail, road, and ports to provide the supply chain with the most accurate and credible intermodal data available.

These collaborations are just some of the key partnerships and relationships we have formed and nurtured over the last 12 months and we’re incredibly proud to be working alongside some of the biggest names in the industry on these fantastic solutions.

Funding success

Opportunities to receive funding from bodies such as Innovate UK are fantastic endorsements for a business like Incremental. We have the ideas, the knowhow and the skills to develop solutions, and with the support of agencies such as this, we have the opportunity to bring them to fruition.

This year we’ve won funding in several competitions, both in the UK and abroad. This is an unprecedented result for us and an amazing example of how our solutions are recognised for the improvements they bring to the rail industry.

Innovation is high on the agenda for UK rail and throughout the last 12 months, we’ve further demonstrated what our data driven solutions can do to improve rail travel, for Network Rail, TOCs, and the end customer.

Incremental abroad

It’s been a really exciting year for Incremental in terms of our introduction into several overseas markets. We’ve begun trials in both South America and Europe with Sensonic and we’re in talks to bring our solutions to the Canadian rail industry in 2022. For the last few years, we’ve proven our technology and its benefits in the UK and it’ll be wonderful to see these start to be adopted across the globe over the coming months and years.

Events

Thanks to the easing of lockdown restrictions, it was great to get back out to events later in the 2021 and meet clients and new contacts at face-to-face events, both at home and abroad.
Also early September, we loved being part of the Railtex/Infrarail event at Birmingham’s NEC. It was brilliant to see so many familiar faces back to doing what we do best, in the same place, at the same time.In early September, we travelled to Berlin with Sensonic to showcase our product and introduce it to the European market. We had a fantastic time meeting new faces and making the most of being able to have in person conversations and interactions. COVID-19 has played such a huge part in the development of technological innovations, but has also made it challenging to build relationships in some ways, so attending Berlin’s 7th Railway Forum was a great way to ‘get back out there’.

We also really enjoyed the Rail Midlands Forum Annual Conference, where we presented to the attendees. We also took part in the RIA Northern Leaders event in Leeds where Kate delivered a fantastic presentation to the audience there.

It was a real thrill to feel like things were getting back to normal for events such as these, which are vital to so many industries and particularly to SMEs.

Award recognition

We’ve had a great year in terms of recognition from both industry and regional awards and were shortlisted in a number of events. From the Rail Industry Association’s RISE awards, to the York Press Business Awards, we were really proud to be shortlisted in some really competitive categories and look forward to seeing what more we can do in 2022 to make even more of an impression through award wins!

A look ahead to 2022

We’re really excited about the success we know this year will bring, following on from a fantastic 2021. We have hit the ground running with several projects and will share news and updates on our progress when we can. We hope we continue to see an improvement in the ways of living and working with the pandemic and that the last 18 or so months leaves a legacy for the technology industry and what it can achieve.

We’ve given our office in York city centre a face-lift and we’re growing our fabulous team with new and exciting roles. We’re constantly striving to improve our existing products and develop new solutions that will make the railway better for everyone.

Incremental and Sensonic join “FORSEs” with Network Rail

Teaming up for a future-proof railway in UK; Incremental and Sensonic join “FORSEs” with Network Rail

A combination of financial support and the possibility to jump right into practice are exactly what innovative ideas need to grow strong in the short time.

To prepare such ground, Network Rail, Incremental and Sensonic have agreed to work in collaboration to develop a new cutting-edge solution recognised by the jury of Innovate UK, who agreed to fund this shared project.

Shake hands with data

FORSE (Fibre Optic Railway Sensing Equipment) is a result of joint know-how: On the one hand there is Incremental’s existing and proven real-time train identification, movement and tracking solution AEGIS. The other part of this new system is based on data from Sensonic, who are deriving a broad range of information by creating and interpreting a digital twin of all vibrations along a railway track.

Network Rail has agreed to run a 12-month trial between Allington Junction and Skegness on the East Midland Poacher Line. This will focus on detecting the early signs of defective rail joints, currently only detectable through manual inspection. While degradation of joints can be detected via Sensonic’s solution, Incremental’s AEGIS provides data to track and identify all trains on the network. As an outcome, valuable information is instantly attainable to Network Rail via a bespoke dashboard that can be accessed remotely by all relevant stakeholders.

 High practical benefit

Deep Desai, CCO at Sensonic is convinced that “the deployment of FORSE will dramatically reduce the need for speculative track inspections, increasing productivity by freeing maintenance staff to solve problems, rather than look for them, while improving lineside safety by removing boots from ballast. We’re excited about this new collaboration with Incremental and Network Rail to fast-track a game-changing solution focused on customer usability, efficiency and safety with our solution being part of this. With every train movement, the vibrations caused all along the infrastructure contains a plethora of insights. We are the leading company in the industry and our sole focus is on using our industry knowledge to augment the railway passenger experience; at Sensonic we have seen the power of our SonicTwin and continue to learn how the insights from the vibration digital twin can be used for upskilling staff and increasing the efficiency of the current track maintenance ecosystem.”

Daniel Lee-Bursnall, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Incremental, agrees: “Every year around £2billion and more than one-million-man hours are spent walking the track to detect, locate and rectify faults. Fusing the train tracking and location data from AEGIS with data from Sensonic enables FORSE to monitor the condition of fixed points and track individual trains dynamically and accurately as they move around the network, acting as virtual track inspectors.”

Emphasizing the value

The massive potential of this solution to support the railway industry in reducing costs and increasing efficiency did well to impress the jury behind Innovate UK. This funding drives productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses to develop and realise the potential of new ideas. It connects businesses to the partners, customers and investors that can help them turn ideas into commercial products, services, and business growth.

“We’re thrilled that once again Innovate UK has recognised our proven track record of delivering pioneering and effective solutions that will benefit the performance of the rail network for everyone. FORSE is a perfect example of how individual companies, with their own areas of expertise, can work together to create one solution that is a game-changer for the rail industry and its customers”, Daniel Lee-Bursnall says, speaking for both, Incremental and Sensonic.

Train derailments and delays could be cut after trial of track fault detection system

Train derailments and delays could be cut after trial of track fault detection system

A data gathering system is being trialled which could make the UK’s rail network safer, reducing costs and delays, by identifying derailment-causing track geometry faults sooner.

After a successful feasibility study as part of Project ‘Automated Rail Geospatial Observation System’, Thales was awarded £500,000 from the Geospatial Commission via Innovate UK to trial equipment intended to detect and locate potential track faults.

Guilherme Beirao, who leads Thales’s technical delivery for the project, said:
“This is an opportunity to demonstrate an innovative use of technology with the aim of making our rail network safer and more efficient. That would be a big win for everyone involved in railways; Network Rail, the TOCs and passengers.”

The system uses Thales’s Robust Train Positioning System, originally designed to support train operations. RTPS takes data from a number of varied train-borne sensors and track map data, using an algorithm to combine this data to pinpoint its position on the network.

Next month the system will be fitted to an in-service GWR Class 150 cab and over the next five months data from RTPS, along with pitch, yaw and roll measurements from the sensors, will be transmitted to Thales’s data centre. There, it will be analysed, and assessment algorithms developed along with warning thresholds, to alert operators to track geometry faults.

Thales is working with York-based rail technology pioneer, Incremental, which is developing a user interface and threshold definition for the system, allowing Network Rail to define baselines and adjust warning threshold levels. This will also allow data collected from the system to be directly presented to track maintenance engineers and alert them of any abnormalities or developing faults.

Network Rail has an obligation to survey its track. However, its specialist measuring trains are tied to specific schedules, and while busy lines are regularly surveyed, those carrying fewer services, typically for freight, are checked less often. Freight trains account for more than half of UK derailments which have serious consequences, such as days of rail service disruption.

Fitting a survey system to even one in ten in-service trains would allow lines to be monitored more regularly. This would give early warning of potential problems which could be repaired before a derailment occurred or emergency speed restrictions had to be imposed, for which Network Rail has to compensate TOCs. Such a system could also verify finished repairs, allowing normal services to resume more quickly.

Daniel Lee-Burnsall, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Incremental, says:
“We’re delighted to be working alongside Thales on this fantastic project. Creating solutions for the railway that reduce delays and disruption to passengers is at the core of everything we do, and we’re committed to making the railway better for everyone.

“As an SME in the rail industry, it really is exciting to collaborate with large-scale businesses such as Thales. We’re a tried and tested partnership and we’re really looking forward to making a difference to the industry, once again, with this latest project.”

“Incremental works in a very agile way, exactly how our R&D projects are managed,” said Guilherme. “We enjoy working with the team, who are passionate and proactive and we’re collaborating on a number of other projects as well.”

Thales will present its findings to Network Rail, Innovate UK and the Geospatial Commission in a series of workshops in the new year.

OLErt Case Study: Stagger Exceedance

OLErt Case Study: Stagger Exceedance

A real issue for the rail industry, stagger exceedance (which is the longitudinal alignment of overhead lines) occurs when overhead wires run outside the normal contact area of the pantograph, increasing wear and tear on the wire. 

Should this continue to move towards the outside (or is blown there by the wind), there is an increased risk of dewirement from the pantograph ‘hooking over’ the overhead line and impacting rail services. Innovation and technology comes to the fore when resolving such issues, which we will explore further in this case study.

Background

The overhead line near Hanwell delivers electricity for the busy rail network transporting trains from London out towards Reading, a key commuter route on Great Western Railway’s (GWR’s) network. The Network Rail Mentor system (NR’s overhead line test train) had run in the area the week before and detected several potential faults. The wire was found to be exceeding stagger, which would only worsen if left unattended and could potentially result in huge disruption and significant delays.

Harnessing OLErt

OLErt (Overhead Line Equipment in real-time) aims to provide an innovative, low-cost technology solution that will dramatically reduce the incidence of failures to electrified infrastructure and fleets through continuous and dynamic computer vision monitoring and alerting on service trains.

A tried and tested system, OLErt has been adopted across the industry to tackle a wide range of issues, including the stagger incident at Hanwell. Created with efficiency in mind, the OLErt system was deployed on the same route immediately following the receipt of the Mentor’s data regarding the incident that occurred at Hanwell. Within one week, the OLErt system was able to use its on-train forward facing camera, combined with its location tracking device to establish the faults and confirm the actions that were needed to be taken to rectify the problem, in advance of any incidents occurring.

Thanks to OLErt’s ground-breaking GPS capabilities, the exact location of the exceedance was easily identified, enabling a maintenance team to be deployed to the specific point of fault. This not only meant that rectifying the fault was easy to locate and therefore fix, but that the risk of a complete dewirement was avoided.

The value of OLErt

In this case, the deployment of OLErt allowed follow up monitoring of the potential issue straight away, following the running of Mentor on the route. As NR’s Mentor train only runs once every year, the use of OLErt on service trains operating the route meant that further monitoring of the situation could be completed straightaway. Not only does this allow for immediate confirmation of faults, but thanks to OLErt’s in-built GPS capabilities, more precise data could be supplied to the maintenance to team to rectify the fault much more efficiently and any potential further impacts across the route, were averted.

‘First of a kind’ funding win for rail tech pioneer, Incremental

'First of a kind' funding win for rail tech pioneer, Incremental

Established supplier of data-driven solutions to the rail industry, Incremental, is once again celebrating success this week as a winner in the government-backed funding competition ‘First of a Kind’.

TRACO new first of a kind app from Incremental

As one of the successful applicants, Incremental will now see its ground-breaking freight train location tracking solution, ‘TRACO’ (TRAnsition COnnectivity for trains and trucks), brought to fruition to facilitate the UK’s commitment to providing a more reliable, efficient and greener railway.

The ‘First of a Kind’ competition was launched in 2018 and is delivered by the ‘Small Business Research Initiative’, a collaboration between the Department for Transport and Innovate UK. The partnership runs several competitions each year and is committed to providing tremendous financial support for innovative and ambitious projects it believes will modernise and transform the rail industry.

With 160 competitive applications for the funding, Incremental has once again demonstrated its trusted capability to deliver data-driven solutions to the rail industry, as one of only 30 winners across the UK and European Economic Area.

This is the third time York-based Incremental has been recognised by the partnership and awarded funding support to help accelerate the delivery of its cutting-edge solutions. ‘TRACO’ will follow in the footsteps of previous competition winning solutions, ‘OLErt’ and ‘RAPPORT’. Both of these systems provide essential real-time monitoring and instant location information and are now deployed across the UK rail network.

Designed to meet common challenges faced by UK rail freight operators, Incremental’s ‘TRACO’ will use its sophisticated GPS system to provide intermodal tracking of freight across rail, road and at ports to provide the most accurate location information and intermodal freight tracking capabilities of its kind.

Due to the practice of freight trains spending idle time in depots and sidings, they are often situated in ‘blind spots’ on the network. This solution will be the first of its kind within the rail freight industry to track the unit anywhere, in real-time. This enables everyone in the logistical supply chain to be aware of its progress, respond to any delays or disruption and predict the train’s arrival at its end destination. Additionally by further tracking freight across onward modal transitions such as road haulage, end-to-end freight journeys can be tracked and efficiencies optimised.

‘TRACO’ will provide real-time location monitoring of intermodal freight pathways down to a container-level. This will give all parties involved reliable arrival prediction tools in order to facilitate optimised intermodal connectivity between road, rail and port. ‘TRACO’ will provide the integration of previously disparate data sets, through accurate location information and real-time delay prediction algorithms, which will reduce transition times and create efficiencies and benefits for all.

Daniel Lee-Bursnall, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Incremental, says:

“Our fantastic team has made us proud once again. Becoming one of the winners of this competition, is further testament that we’re a company that conceives, designs and delivers innovative solutions that benefit the rail industry and the wider UK economy. At Incremental, we focus our efforts on creating products that make the railway better for everyone and help solve the challenges the industry faces. We’re thrilled that the SBRI has acknowledged this once again.

“The modal shift of transporting freight from road to rail is an effort we are proud to support in the UK Government’s effort towards a more sustainable future. ‘TRACO’ will give all parties in the supply chain access to essential and credible location data at any given time. This will reduce paper-based systems and provide the tools to better plan, monitor and deliver goods to customers around the UK and we can’t wait to get started.”

Incremental will now, upon achieving success in the competition, receive the funding it needs to bring ‘TRACO’ to market to better our essential rail freight industry, which is set to grow substantially over the coming years. The further development process of ‘TRACO’ will begin on 1 July 2021 and be complete by March 2022.

Northern and Incremental care for Unwell Passengers with new app

Northern is trialling a new innovative app that will help customers get speedier care if they become ill on board any of the rail operators’ trains.  

Unwell Passengers App

The Unwell Passenger app, developed by York-based rail technology specialists, Incremental Solutions, gives step-by-step instructions to support staff on trains to help passengers who become ill or are injured.  

Currently in the first phase of testing, the app uses mobile technology (GSM) for communication, satellite technology for position accuracy and a digital interface which allows colleagues, control teams and operational staff to simultaneously liaise with each other and if required, the emergency services. 

Tricia Williams, Chief Operating Officer at Northern, said: “When a customer is unwell on one of our trains, the on-board member of staff currently has to remember, in a stressful situation, all the policies and procedures that relate to helping the customer, as well as coordinate with colleagues in control and emergency services.  

“The app will mean improved management of incidents on board trains as customers who become unwell can be transported more quickly to a suitable location to receive the best care.  

“Other customers also benefit from issues being resolved more quickly, meaning journeys will be back on track in less time.” 

Daniel Lee-Bursnall, Co-Founder and Commercial Director at Incremental Solutions, added: “Technology gives us so many opportunities to improve the customer experience on our rail networks, and in this instance, can really help people with immediate and unexpected needs. By digitising the alert and subsequent care process for unwell passengers, we can become much more effective and proactive too. 

The trial was funded by Innovate UK and will be developed further to provide even more benefits for Northern customers 

A second phase will look at automating the app further – including tracking which train the user is on, as well as the exact location of the train on Northern’s network which will make it easier for emergency services to attend to a passenger. Additionally, it will be integrated with the train’s communications – meaning the customer information system can updated with delays or other messages.  

To see how we transform communications to benefit the customer experience, see our MApps solution here.

Visit us at the Rail Innovation Exhibition, 2021

Come and find us, in a virtual sense, at this year’s Rail Innovation Exhibition. which runs from 9th-12th February.

This event will be a showcase of the best in rail innovation brought to you by Innovate UK, KTN, the Department for Transport (DfT), and the Railway Industry Association (RIA), in partnership with UKRRIN and Network Rail. It’s bringing together a fantastic line-up to showcase some of the most exciting innovations and projects the rail sector has to offer.  Including, of course, Incremental Solutions.

Our ‘stand’ will be looked after by different members of the Incremental team who’ll be talking about what we do, how it benefits the rail user and with some particular focusses on some of our products, such as overhead line Equipment monitoring solution OLErt .

Register for the event on the organiser’s website here.

Top Tech Awards rate Incremental ‘Highly Commended’

The Top Tech report, produced by UK law firm Mills & Reeve, celebrate and recognise the innovative and pioneering work that is happening in Yorkshire and the North West. Technology business across both regions are developing products and services that establish themselves as leaders in their field and boost the vibrant economy in the North. 

Mills & Reeve developed the Top Tech series bringing together like-minded businesses from across the regions to celebrate the ground-breaking technology being developed on your doorstep and give it the recognition it deserves.

In the latest report, Incremental were ‘Highly Commended’, after being reviewed under categories such as ‘Technical Innovation’, ‘Outstanding Client Service’ and ‘Culture and Workforce’.

For more information on the Top Tech report, visit the Mills & Reeve website here.

Incremental’s growth continues with senior level hires.

Gareth Biggins and Aurelie Butin

Incremental Solutions, the York-based smart transport technology provider, has announced two new senior-level appointments in the roles of Head of Product and Innovation Business Development Manager.

Both recruits come from within the rail industry and the appointments reflect Incremental’s growing list of rail sector clients across the UK and a continued growth trajectory of the organisation.

Aurelie Butin previously held roles at Rail Europe, Loco2, SNCF and Keolis and brings with her over a decade of industry knowledge and takes the newly formed role of Head of Product. The role will essentially help define Incremental’s product-USP and bridge the company’s offering between customers, business teams and delivery teams.

Gareth Biggins held roles with Arriva UK Trains, London Overground Rail Operations Ltd and MTR . He takes a new role of Innovation Business Development Manager. Gareth’s role at Incremental is to work with internal teams, clients, and partners to identify and secure new business opportunities for innovation, whether enhancements to existing products or the development of new solutions that address a specific customer need.

Commenting on her appointment, Aurelie says;

“It’s a truly exciting role which I’m relishing. I’m convinced that a product driven strategy associated with an agile delivery is the key to creating product differentiation, customer satisfaction and ultimately drive success. The Incremental product is disrupting the rail industry and that will have tremendous impacts of the everyday life of thousands of passengers.”  

Gareth adds;

Innovation will be a key factor in modernising the rail industry, and it’s agile organisations like Incremental which I believe will lead the charge. I’m looking forward to helping shape new ideas and opportunities so that they deliver tangible benefits to customers and transport users.”

The two appointments come during notably challenging times for the rail industry due to the Covid-19 pandemic, however Incremental are optimistic that the public and the business sector will soon return to this transport method.

Daniel Lee-Bursnall, Commercial Director and co-Founder, concludes;

We firmly believe that rail is the most sus­tainable mode of transport for travelling on short to medium distances and the outcome of what we do is a rail network which is managed in a much more effective and data-informed way leading to improvements in safety, timetable manage­ment, incident response time and ultimately – greater passenger satisfaction.

The appointment of Aurelie and Gareth, as well as other new team members, brings core industry experience to Incremental and helps us to continue to grow and add to these positive outcomes.”

Incremental are “one to watch”.

Although we work across the breadth of the UK, it’s always great to get acknowledgement from our local business sector.

The York Press business awards annually recognise and celebrate the city’s business sector’s ingenuity and successes. Released during York’s annual Business Week, the awards are published by The Press in conjunction with Make It York and York St. John University.

In the most recent awards, Incremental Solutions have been recognised in the “Ones to watch” category, with mentions of our successes within the rail industry.

It’s a pleasure to be there, alongside organisations such as Netsells and Biovale.

Have a read about us, and what else is going on in York’s business sector: here.