Shenzhen Metro Group is integrating emerging technologies into construction to empower digital, intelligent metros. Cooperating with high-tech enterprises, the group is deploying Huawei's Urban Rail Cloud Solution adhering to the 'advanced smart construction concept,' which prioritizes full-lifecycle management.
In recent years, China's urban rail development has embarked on a digital journey via in-depth integration with emerging information technologies. A key milestone on that journey came in March 2020, when the China Association of Metros (CAMET) released the Program of Developing Smart Urban Rail in China. Then, in April, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) issued a 'new infrastructure' policy, which included urban rail transit. Meanwhile, the whole country is promoting the construction of smart cities and large city clusters.
Shenzhen Metro Group (Shenzhen Metro) was the first in the industry to fully adopt cloud computing, big data, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies. It has built a unique Construction Digitalization Management Center (CDMC) for multi-rail-line network operations, as well as centralized management and control of more than 700 construction sites. The aim is to improve intensive and Information and Communications Technology (ICT)-based management for construction resources.
Shenzhen Metro's urban rail development (data from 2020)
New Challenges for Urban Rail Development
In recent years, the Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of urban rail transit construction mileage in China has been about 19%.
By the end of 2020, Shenzhen had invested more than CNY490 billion (about US$75 billion) into building a total of 660 km of urban rail lines — including metros, inter-city railways, and co-constructed underground pipelines — across about 700 construction sites.
By supporting about 100 agent-construction projects for the city, Shenzhen Metro has accelerated urban development and helped the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area achieve its strategic goal of building city clusters.
Because of these achievements, the urban rail development in China has evolved from conventional, single-line to complex, multi-line, and diversified — including comprehensive transportation hubs such as metros, light rails, trams, commuter rails, and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). This trend has led to a sharp increase in the number of construction sites: The original 60 sites for single-line operations have quickly been expanded to 700 for multi-rail-line network projects, involving more than 100,000 personnel during monthly peak hours. Inevitably, this huge workforce complicates the management of urban rail construction.
Aiming to better manage the process and improve urban rail development services, China plans to reduce the conventional, labor-intensive construction mode with 'smart construction sites' that are ICT-based. A few enterprises have started to explore this concept — which means to integrate smart design, construction, Operations and Maintenance (O&M), and supervision in order to implement more efficient integrated management of the construction process.
In recent years, Shenzhen Metro has deployed an Office Automation (OA) system and a contract management system. It has also built video security, access control, and multi-line video networking systems, as well as security management and integrated engineering project management platforms, in compliance with the government-issued Smart Construction Site Standards. However, there is a major drawback in this approach: Data from the preceding information systems isn't shared efficiently. To make things worse, exhaustive — and sometimes ineffective — manual operations result in inefficient service handling. For example, the video security system still relies on manual inspection, and this can lead to missing risks or reporting risks when there are none.
By the end of 2019, Shenzhen Metro had done a great deal to eliminate obstacles and reform the systems to address these challenges. Starting from enterprise strategy planning and top-level design, it worked together with multiple high-tech enterprises — including Huawei — to delve into digital transformation solutions by signing strategic framework agreements and seeking management consulting and planning. Ultimately, Shenzhen Metro decided to deploy Huawei's Urban Rail Cloud Solution, referring to the advanced smart construction concept that prioritizes full-lifecycle management.
Smart Urban Rail: One Map for Urban Rail Construction
The smart urban rail project is deployed in three steps:
Step 1: Gradually implement document-free management by promoting online operations throughout the entire rail transport lifecycle.
Step 2: Monitor workforce, machines, materials, methods, environments, and measurement using real-time front-end Internet of Things (IoT) sensing systems —all based on standardized and normalized processes. Refine management of safety, quality, progress, investment, and plan, and ensure the construction process is controllable.
Step 3: Accumulate a multitude of data and apply digital technologies — such as big data and cloud computing — to turn data assets into a basis for decision-making, implementing digital and intelligent management and control of urban rail development, and promoting service transformation.
After intense efforts, Phase 1 of Shenzhen Metro's smart construction project — CDMC — went live as scheduled. It integrates data of various service systems and provides one rail construction map to comprehensively monitor more than 700 construction sites, as well as the investment, progress, the parties involved, safety, quality, personnel, equipment, and green construction status. The system also allows both horizontal and vertical comparisons of data in terms of time, construction unit, line, area, and site; makes core data visible and manageable; and supports auxiliary management and decision making of construction projects.
Complex offline document-based processes: Shenzhen Metro integrates the industry's best practices to build a comprehensive engineering project management system that helps prevent wasted expenditure and features cloud-based planning, interworked electromechanical systems, safety and quality assurance, Metro-Common Information Management (M-CIM), Digitalization-Engineering Project Management (D-EPM), and question pool coordination. The group accelerates ICT-based management for the entire lifecycle of urban rail transit — including planning, design, construction, acceptance, and handover — and promotes document-free services. This minimizes and mitigates information-sharing difficulties during metro construction.
On-site safety control: Shenzhen Metro uses information technologies to implement integrated management of safety risks, hazard checks and handling, and Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs)-based construction. It aims to enable hierarchical management and control, dynamic monitoring, as well as risk and hazard prevention by prioritizing earlier control, precise management, source governance, and scientific prevention. Through collaboration with several other parties, Shenzhen Metro has achieved standardized, normalized, and ICT-based construction.
Construction technology standardization: Shenzhen Metro develops feasible and operable outlines for major operational methods to standardize the management functions of all parties involved and define specific management requirements. It also uses ICT tools for standardized and quantifiable management.
Mechanical equipment management: Shenzhen Metro uses front-end monitoring devices, sensors, and collection software to monitor the running status of gantry cranes, tower cranes, Power Distribution Boxes (PDBs), and TBMs in real time. Details include the load, torque, wind speed, amplitude, angle, and hoisting height of tower cranes; excavation earth pressure, main thrust force, torque, and posture of TBMs; and current and temperature of PDBs. The data obtained is transmitted to the information platform in real time for summarization and processing. When an exception occurs, a warning signal is sent to remind management personnel to deal with it.
Material management: Shenzhen Metro dynamically tracks material-related processes — such as supplier selection, material bidding, application, usage, and inspection, as well as unqualified material withdrawal — on an information platform. The platform carefully monitors the entire material lifecycle to ensure early prevention, in-event tracking, and post-event tracing, avoiding quality accidents.
Environment monitoring: Shenzhen Metro installed environmental-monitoring devices to detect on-site particle mass concentrations, dust, noise, temperature, humidity, and wind direction and force. The data is sent to the monitoring platform in real time for statistical analysis, warning, and on-site construction guidance — reducing the negative impact of rail construction on city life and transforming the extensive management mode.
Shenzhen Metro has also set up an ICT-based dispatch, command, and control system for track areas. The system generates warnings when trains are approaching or are speeding, through proper shifting and scheduling of work vehicles and personnel, reducing safety accidents in the track area by 85%. It streamlines the entire process — from incident response, to reception, to handling. If there's a safety incident, PCs, large screens, and cellphones are linked in real time for efficient response. Shenzhen Metro uses VR glasses with on-site video backhaul function for the command center to monitor on-site situations, facilitating more efficient handling.
In the future, the rail transport industry will use big data and AI to enhance the safety quality control of TBMs. Shenzhen Metro integrates AI into TBM safety management services. It has independently developed a smart big data platform for TBM construction, and created various predictive models concerning TBM safety — such as TBM selection, ground subsidence, excavation parameters, fault diagnosis, and posture correction. The platform warns about potential accidents in the subsequent construction based on the prediction results, monitors the work environment of TBMs, and supports TBM drivers' operations — effectively ensuring the safety of construction personnel and the quality of tunnels.
The smart construction project also supports multi-dimensional statistics and display of metro construction and government supervision data, as well as associated invoking and analysis of event-related data, to provide auxiliary management and decision-making support for metro construction at the macro level. For example, the overall construction situation as well as warning analysis is available, including various indicators, such as investment trends, engineering process, and statistics of all parties, safety alarms, and rankings.
Through years of exploration and the implementation of the CDMC, Shenzhen Metro has changed its extensive, conventional management mode; worked toward achieving refined and ICT-based management of urban rail development services; eliminated data sharing obstacles during construction; and promoted in-depth application of big data in the service field — leading intelligent innovative applications in urban rail construction.
Shenzhen Metro has actively engaged in the city governance system and in Digital Shenzhen's industry ecosystem. This has aided the process of constructing (smart) metros for (smart) city development, and Shenzhen Metro is becoming a leading platform-based company in the digital rail transit industry — greatly contributing to new infrastructure construction in China.
Shenzhen Metro was the first in the industry to fully use cloud computing, big data, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies. It has built a unique Construction Digitalization Management Center (CDMC) for multi-rail-line network operations, as well as centralized management and control of more than 700 construction sites.
— Lei Jiangsong, Deputy General Manager of Shenzhen Metro Group