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How digital technology is making cable transportation more efficient

How the secure collection, transport, storage and valuation of data is making cable transportation smarter. 


The Teleférico de Santo Domingo is an aerial cable car transit system that has really opened up the capital city of the Dominican Republic. Running for five kilometres and serving four stations, its 195 vehicles carry up to 3,000 people an hour in a continuous flow, with each vehicle covering a distance of 324 kilometres every day.

POMA is the global leader in cable transport systems. The French company has installed around 8,000 systems for customers in 80 countries, from aerial tramways to gondola lifts, funiculars to mini-metros. Building on decades of expertise in chairlifts for ski resorts, the company has now diversified into cable-drawn systems for urban transportation and tourism.

This form of transport has many advantages, especially in cities with steep inclines and congested streets. The systems are relatively inexpensive to install and their environmental impact is low.

It’s an alternative that has been adopted by numerous cities around the globe, from New York to Rio de Janeiro and Medellín in Colombia. In Santo Domingo, huge traffic jams form during peak periods at the entrances to the bridges straddling the meandering Ozama River, which many commuters have to cross twice.

At night, the city’s maintenance technicians are busy inspecting equipment on the cable car system, making adjustments and replacing worn parts.

And while no price can be put on safety, it does come at a significant cost. As part of its digital transformation, POMA is constantly striving to improve the safety and availability of its installations at every level. More cost-effective, predictive maintenance makes a lot of business sense for the company and could be a powerful driver of growth.

Data collection and value creation

Until 2017, system status information was made available to local operators, but it could only be accessed in the plant room at the stations on each cable car system. And it was mainly focused on how the equipment was functioning: passenger numbers, cable speed, acceleration, motor output power, etc.

Everything changed when POMA discovered the IoTalk solution from Thales, which lets operators capture, transmit, store, display and monetise all kinds of data.

IoTalk gives operators secure access to all the data in their systems from anywhere in the world.

The huge amount of data gathered by IoTalk has taken POMA into the era of Big Data.

The data collected is a valuable primary resource, and POMA can rely on Thales’s expertise in data science and analytics to make that data talk. By identifying correlations between data sets, Thales engineers are able to anticipate failures and reduce maintenance costs for operators. It's what we call predictive maintenance.

With IoTalk, POMA offers new services

After conclusive tests on two ski lifts in the Alps in late 2017, some 50 IoTalk-equipped lines have now been installed, and many new lines are expected to adopt IoTalk in countries around the world in the coming years.

The collaboration between POMA and Thales has been a resounding success. In R&D, for example, POMA engineers are drawing on Thales’s expertise to improve manufacturing processes and optimise equipment design.

The IoTalk business model creates value in various ways, depending on the services used, helping POMA to control the cost of system supervision and adjust usage to the value of the services it offers to customers.

With IoTalk, POMA is delivering smarter equipment that’s more dependable and more robust. It gives the company a significant advantage in a growing market for solutions that improve the quality of life of people living in today’s increasingly busy cities.

How does IoTalk work?

IoTalk is a set of services spanning the entire data chain, from acquisition to analysis and monetisation.

IoTalk Cloud Services is designed to store and visualise data via dashboards. Data can be raw or enriched by machine learning and artificial intelligence. Solutions are available as a service (hosted in the cloud) or on-premise under licence.

Data can be posted directly on IoTalk Cloud Services or collected and transmitted via IoTalk Edge Services — a smart box which is cybersecured in line with the recommendations of the French national agency for information system security (ANSSI). The smart box is installed right next to the industrial system being monitored. It connects to it, captures the operational data it needs and processes it directly so that any issues can be resolved without delay. It can also serve as a gateway and communicate with IoT sensors.

On a ski lift, for example, IoTalk Edge Services boxes collect data from the various parts of the lift and also use LoRa technology to gather information from IoT sensors on other ski lifts in the area. They then transmit all this data securely to IoTalk Cloud Services, where it is processed and fed into the IoTalk dashboards and the various third-party applications in POMA’s ecosystem.