SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) — IBM on Thursday opened a Global Rail Innovation Center in China where industry leaders, researchers, and universities can collaborate on new railroad technologies.
IBM said the Beijing-based center's goal is to make "smarter" rail systems that are faster, safer, cheaper, and more environmentally friendly than those that exist today.
The US technology giant has been banking on the future of efficient, high-speed rail systems and China's growth makes it a lucrative market.
"Population growth and urbanization are driving an unprecedented demand for modernized rail systems," said IBM center director Keith Dierkx.
"Governments and businesses worldwide recognize that railroads play a critical role in supporting economic growth."
The center will be connected "virtually and physically" to IBM and the US technology titan's consultants and industry partners to create a "global virtual rail community" that can collectively address challenges, IBM said.
Innovations being eyed include electronic ticketing and computerized, flexible commuter train schedules that adapt to holiday or heavy commuter demands.
IBM said China is at "the epicenter of revolutionizing rail infrastructure and operations for the 21st century" and is introducing high speed trains and expanding its rail network at an unprecedented pace.
"As China's railway industry rapidly enters its golden era, it is expected to take the lead in new rounds of economic development," said Tsinghua University information technology research institute dean Jun Li.
"Building advanced railroad systems is a priority that demands a unique set of products, skills and services."
Tsinghua University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology are part of the center's advisory board, according to IBM.