JR West’s neo-futuristic smart station on Horizon
Japanese stations that depend on humans to help wheelchair users board trains and guide passengers are heading to more convenient “smart stations,” which are automated by modern technology.
JR West, who is working hard on developing high-tech stations, plans to open Umekita Subway Station (Kita Ward, Osaka City) in spring 2023 in an area north of Osaka Station under redevelopment.
Collaboration with emerging companies
The company uses technology and know-how from outside, with the aim of creating a “neo-futuristic station”.
In 2018, JR West announced its technological vision in an ambitious twenty-year plan. The project involves the cooperation of small and medium-sized enterprises, outside the JR West group, and the results are already starting to be felt.
One of the features they are working on is the world’s first “full screen platform door”, which is part of a collaboration with Nabtesco, a company specializing in hydraulic equipment and automatic doors.
One of the distinguishing features of the full screen is that the door component moves freely depending on the position of the car doors, much like a shoji screen.
“Currently, fixed platform doors cannot be used if they do not match the length, number of doors or number of cars on the train. Therefore, they are not very useful at stations that have a range of incoming and outgoing trains. Our platform doors will solve this problem, ”says a JR West manager.
At JR West’s Umekita subway station, they are planning to have express trains and local trains, and maybe even those of other companies. That’s why they’re planning to introduce the full screen platform gate here.
Pay attention to the gap
Inevitably, there are gaps and differences in level between the platforms and the wagons. In order to solve this problem, West Japan Railway Techsia and Komatsu Seisakusho, a machine development company based in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, are working on machines that eliminate these shortcomings.
Komatsu Seisakusho’s proposal was selected after participating in a robot competition organized by Kanto’s Bureau of Economics, Trade and Industry.
The gap elimination machinery mainly consists of a movable plate which extends from the platform. The plate automatically covers the space between the train and the platform once the train arrives and the doors open.
“Wheelchair users had to ask station staff for help getting on and off trains. Therefore, the gap elimination machines will make things more convenient for wheelchairs and strollers, ”explains the director of JR West.
New spaces in the station
The railway company is also working with Osaka University of the Arts on map projection – to provide relaxation areas within the station.
By combining the features mentioned above, JR West hopes to launch the Umekita metro station as a “neo-futuristic station”.
The company is also looking to use technology that it has developed in-house outside of the company.
For example, he developed an outage prediction AI model for ATMs. This led to a reduction of approximately 30% in maintenance costs for JR West.
For the future, JR West is looking to develop such condition-maintenance technology, with a view to eventually supplying it to other rail companies.
Smart stations now in Japan
Regarding Smart Stations elsewhere in Japan, JR East owns Saitama Shintoshin Station (Omiya Ward, Saitama City) and Takanawa Gateway Station (Minato Ward, Tokyo). RELATED: Cashless Kiosk, AI Guides: What to Expect When JR Takanawa Gateway Station Opens
At these stations, JR East tested autonomous mobile robots capable of performing tasks such as security, cleaning and disinfection.
Mass-Trans Innovation Japan 2021
What it is: International Railway Technology Fair
Appointment: Wednesday November 24 to Friday November 26, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Place: Makuhari Messe, rooms 5-8
Address: 2-1, Nakase, Mihama-ku, Chiba-shi, Chiba 261-0023
Access: The venue is accessible from Tokyo area airports and the JR Keiyo Railway Line from Tokyo Station. More information on access can be found at this link.
Organizer: The Sankei Shimbun
Sponsors: Ministry of Territory, Infrastructures, Transport and Tourism, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Prefecture of Chiba, City of Chiba, others.
Find the official homepage of Mass-Trans Innovation Japan 2021, here in English and here in Japanese.
(Read it Sankei Shimbun report in Japanese on this link.)
Author: Hiromi Aoyama