A day in the life of two Railnovians: helping Railway organisations access data and act on predictive alerts

Story by Pierre Gérard, data scientist and Titouan Christophe, Core developer at Railnova
Nov 8, 2017

Since 2010, Railnova has been developing an end-to-end fleet management and diagnostics platform for railway fleets. But how exactly do people at Railnova spend their time?

What better way to give you an insider view on what we do, than having two new members of the team (Pierre and Titouan) share how they are contributing to the process of accessing data on trains and translating that data into actionable insights and predictive alerts?

I decided to join Railnova because…

Titou — Being passionate about trains, computers and technology since my early childhood, joining Railnova was a natural move for me. The company allows me to immerse myself in everything I love on a daily basis, what more could I ask for? ?

Pierre — I decided to join Railnova because it is a great place to work: a lot of talented people are working there, and there’s so much I can learn from them. Working for railway provides plenty of challenges: there’s a great deal to be done and to be explored, and everything moves fast at Railnova so there’s never a dull moment. On top of that there’s also a great flexibility at the company, plenty of young and passionate people, and a cool startup vibe.

What do I do at Railnova?

Titou — Saying that I’m new at Railnova is not entirely true, as I have been around since the summer of 2013, working previously as an intern and a student in different teams at the company. During that period I was mostly involved in train interfaces development. This means that I worked on extracting as much data as I could from train digital controllers, and integrating this data into the Railfleet platform so our clients can use the data to boost their operations.

I permanently joined Railnova in the Hardware team as Core Developer in August, where I am now in charge of the development of our next generation telematics platform.

Pierre — Just like Titouan I also started as a student: it’s now been a year since I first joined the team and I officially began working here in August as a Data Scientist.

As we have a huge amount of structured quality data about the condition of trains that we have been collecting for years, I believe that Railnova is a true paradise for data scientists. New ideas on how this data can be exploited to deliver actionable predictions to the client spring everyday. Trying to make those ideas a reality is part of my everyday work.

A day in the life of two Railnovians: developing an end-to-end IoT solution for railway

9am — Coffee, please!

Pierre — Most people arrive between 9 and 10 and head straight to the coffee machine for a coffee and a chat. Others work from home, meet with clients at their office or in the field.

Once we’re fuelled up on caffeine, we get back to the projects we’re working on at that moment.

As data scientists at Railnova we can divide our work into two parts:

We first make an offline analysis of a typical issue our clients might encounter, and for which we’d be able to come up with a solution and deliver value to the client.
Secondly we deliver our solution by building it into our real-time Railfleet platform. Usually the solutions consist of the implementation of new automatic & smart alerts, through which our clients are able to avoid failures and take action.
Of course it doesn’t end there, we continuously improve our solutions based on new data or new insights to best fit the client’s needs, and to deliver the most accurate alerts and insights.

Titou — If I’m working from the office I also get there between 9 and 10. The days we’re going in the field however, we’re already on site by then, mostly out of Belgium. This means that we’re on the earliest outbound train from Brussels, at least 3 hours (and 3 coffees) before the others arrive at the office!

By 10am, our hardware setup is ready, and connected to all the relevant components of the locomotive, ready to capture all the data for a testing session. Based on that data we then develop automatic alerts and provide actionable insights to our clients about the condition of their railway assets.

12pm — Food anyone?

Pierre — After a morning of hard work it is time for a healthy lunch!

We have meals delivered to the office, but we do not eat alone behind our desks: we usually sit down together and take the time to eat and discuss subjects that matter to us, both work-related and non-work-related.

Titou — Coffee or lunch time are indeed the perfect moments to talk about new technologies, tough problems we’re experiencing and how to solve them. I find these conversations highly stimulating!

From time to time we also eat out with the entire team, especially when there’s a reason to celebrate!

1pm — Teamwork makes the dream work

Titou — After lunch and another coffee, we’re ready to get back to work again.

Railnova offers plenty of room for experimentation: I can try something out for a moment and if it proves to be successful it can be integrated in our products. If the experiment was less successful, we build upon it to help us to design better features for our platform.

There are also tools that are not integrated in client-facing parts of our products, but that are used everyday by Railnovians, and a significant part of them were initially built as side projects. Railnova gives each of us a chance (and encourages us) to grow a project from the ground up and to have a significant impact on the product.

Pierre — Turning data into insights is a real team effort. I joined the cross-functional software team at Railnova, and as a team, we make the fleet management and diagnostics application evolve.

It is this collaboration and the mix of different domain knowledge that gives us an edge: as one team we are able to deliver a central tool to the user and to enable them to know everything about their fleet, from the position, the telematics data, the prediction of how the fleet is going to behave in the next following hours and much more.

It’s so rewarding to see a client being thrilled about what we have done, and to see the client taking actions based on the data-driven insights they receive from us. The best thing as a data scientist is to see your work having a real impact.

Titou — Railnovians truly stand as a united team, getting together across teams to get things done.

6pm — That’s a wrap!

Titou — Being a true tech and railway enthusiast I really enjoy trying new programming languages, paradigms and libraries, even in my free time. This helps me to bring fresh ideas to my fellow Railnovians and to solve the complex challenges we face in new and more efficient ways.

Pierre — There is a friendly atmosphere at work so it is not unusual for us to grab a beer after work, to play around with a new hype technology or even to go to climbing for the sporty ones among us.

Titou — Each day is different at Railnova, and thanks to this there’s no place for boredom. The highly dynamic working environment was one of the decisive factors for me. Challenging problems arise and we nail them down together every week!

If helping build a powerful Railway fleet management platform sounds like something you might enjoy, we’re always on the look-out for interns, students and full-time Railnovians. Keep an eye on our job page (we have some great new openings coming up!), or get in touch with us here.

Railnova develops a fleet management and predictive maintenance solution for Railway. We enable railway organisations to remotely access real-time data from their assets, to perform and confirm real-time and predictive diagnostics in the cloud, and to digitalise fleet management actions and maintenance workflow management on one unified IoT platform.

Want to learn more about what we do? Take a look at our website here: https://www.railnova.eu/

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