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MARTA is turning to the Internet of Things to lower costs, reduce system hiccups

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Partnership with IBM could bring “a predictive maintenance solution”

A Marta train leaves downtown Atlanta headed east in this photo.
IBM will be tracking the data produced by MARTA assets.
Curbed Atlanta

Atlanta’s transit agency is partnering with global tech giant IBM to utilize the Internet of Things in an effort to improve intown transportation operations.

According to an IBM press release, “asset-intensive” companies, such as MARTA, produce a hefty amount of data that can be analyzed to help optimize the functions of an agency’s tech-based assets, such as MARTA’s trains, buses, and streetcars.

In theory, this partnership would lower costs and reduce the risk of operational failures by MARTA vehicles.

Perhaps such a program could have alerted MARTA officials to a potential train derailment, such as the one that occurred in January, just before Super Bowl LIII.

“[MARTA] is working with IBM to implement a predictive maintenance solution to improve reliability of assets, minimize costs, and create a Transit Asset Management [TAM] tool that provides asset inventory, condition assessment, performance measures, and decision support,” the release reads.

Essentially, business leaders will be able to rely on data mining, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to maintain a tight ship, since IBM’s systems can keep track of MARTA’s myriad equipment, officials said.

“Ultimately, the solution will allow MARTA to seamlessly move from tracking asset performance ... to predicting and preventing asset failures,” the release continues.

Without such failsafes, “unplanned downtime”—think a total MARTA system crash—can cost companies up to $260,000 per hour, according to analysis firm Aberdeen Group.

“MARTA is on track to become the first North American public transit agency to achieve ISO 55000 certification (an international asset management standard),” said Remy Saintil, director of facilities at MARTA, according to the release. “Collaborating with IBM provides MARTA with the innovation from a technology icon, which fortifies us as an industry leader in Transit Asset Management.”