IIT-Kharagpur develops tamper-proof signaling system for railways

The Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, is developing a tamper-proof signaling system based on blockchain technology for the Indian Railways. The new system is equipped with improved safety measures and would complement the existing data logger, which is considered the “black box” among rail vehicles.

At the request of Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, Electrical and Electronic Engineering (EEE) researchers are working on a robust system that would enable a mechanism to ensure the safety, communication and control of train operations.

According to Professor Aurobinda Routray of IIT-Kharagpur, blockchain is a system of recording information that cannot be tampered with, hacked or manipulated. The technology has been widely used in cryptocurrencies and banking transactions.

“After Mr. Vaishnaw solicited a proposal for a blockchain-based foolproof signaling system, I am writing the program together with some colleagues at IIT-Bhubaneshwar. Blockchain is being deployed in many developing countries and I think the technology can immensely benefit Indian railways in terms of safety of train operations,” he said.

Prof Routray said the focus is to make the live movement of trains available to station managers, section managers, signal engineers and others with all protocols. On the differences between the initiative and the existing data logger, he said the new system would offer improved data integrity, transparency and security. It would enable secure data sharing between stakeholders, automate processes with smart contracts, and create tamper-proof audit trails.

The system would complement the data logger, which was limited by its centralized storage facility, lack of tamper-proof data, and limited access control. The new blockchain system would remove these limitations by storing data in a distributed ledger, using cryptography to ensure data integrity, and making data accessible to all stakeholders. This would make the new system safer, more transparent and more efficient than the current system.

In addition, according to Prof. Routray, the blockchain system would offer several advantages, such as increased accountability, security and efficiency. Overall, the new blockchain system would be a significant improvement over the current system. “All events on the train and in the control room would be securely recorded and nobody can tamper with or circumvent them.”

The proposed blockchain-enabled tamper-proof signaling system gains prominence in light of the devastating train crash at Bahanaga Bazar station of Kharagpur division in South Eastern Railway on June 2, 2023, which killed 291 passengers and injured over 900 others

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