Archive for the ‘Innovation’ Category

Innovative Ideas 6, 7, 8 and 9

May 2, 2018

Ideas for Indian Railways

In my earlier write-up under “Innovative Ideas”, I have proposed how Electric cars can be made affordable by making Batteries as replaceable like Gas cylinders for domestic use. Then in the 2nd write-up I have proposed an Elevator System with helical rails, a Number Lock  with increased security, a Room Air Conditioner with a cool box and lastly, a Gym Charger. You may see these ideas elsewhere in my Blogs. In the present write-up, the third in the series, I am giving my innovative ideas for the improvement of passenger convenience in our vast Railways network in India. I hope to send this to our efficient Railway Minister Mr. Piyush Goel.

6.0 Railway Reservation

In India, Railways is one of the most preferred and popular mode of travel between cities and towns. Since it is the most energy efficient mode of mass transport, the Indian Government is rightly giving high importance to this and offering a lot of incentives to promote its use. For the last few years I am observing a very disturbing trend which results in considerable inconvenience to genuine travelers and a loss of revenue for Railways. The amount of last-day-cancellations is on the increase. For example, last December I was travelling from Bengaluru to Chennai by morning Shatabdi express. I was wait-listed and my reservation was confirmed only late on the previous day of my travel. When I came to the train, I found our carriage was almost 2/3rd empty. I thought it may get filled up at the next Bengaluru Cantonment Station. But it still remained half-empty. When I enquired with a co-passenger, he said this is the normal occupancy or slightly less on the particular day. It is apparently due to multiple bookings or safety bookings, mainly by software engineers travelling very frequently between Chennai and Bengaluru. They book multiple tickets 3 months in advance by default, and as the travel day approaches they review their need to travel and cancel the trip with minimum loss. Since the seats become vacant in the last moments, there are no takers, who are ready to travel at such short notice. This happens almost in all express trains between cities causing, as told earlier, considerable inconvenience to genuine travelers and a loss of revenue for Railways. There is very simple solution as suggested below:

Booking Window:

  • Open only 30% of seats for reservation 3 months or 90 days, in advance of travel date
  • Open the next 30% of seats (+ unsold tickets of earlier quota) for reservation 60 days in advance of travel date
  • Open the next 30% of seats (+ unsold tickets of earlier quotas) for reservation 30 days in advance of travel date
  • Last 10% will be the Tatkal quota to be opened only 3 days in advance of travel date

You may compare this with the present practice of opening all the 90% at one stroke 90 days in advance. On very popular and crowded routes the 90% quota will be exhausted in the first 2 or 3 days. Any genuine traveler, who plans his journey, even 8o days in advance, will have to wait for 77 days before going for Tatkal booking. This will force him to think of other modes of transport.

Cancelling Window:

  • Anyone who cancels his reservation within 30 days of his booking, or 30 days in advance of his travel date, whichever is earlier, will get 100% refund including reservation charges. Only a nominal service charge of Rs 10 or so could be billed to him.
  • Anyone who cancels his reservation, between 29 days and 15 days in advance of his travel date will get 100% refund excluding reservation charges plus a nominal service charge.
  • Anyone who cancels his reservation, between 14 days and 5 days in advance of his travel date will get 75% refund excluding reservation charges plus a nominal service charge.
  • Anyone who cancels his reservation, between 4 days and 3 hours in advance of his travel date/time will get 50% refund excluding reservation charges plus a nominal service charge.
  • Anyone who cancels his reservation, between 3 hours in advance of his travel date or a few minutes after departure of train, will get only 25% refund excluding reservation charges plus a nominal service charge.
  • Any cancellation later than the above windows will get refunds at the discretion of Railway Superintendent of the respective stations.
  • After such cancellations as above, the vacated bookings should be allotted to the next passengers in the waiting list immediately at every stage, so that they have adequate time to prepare for their travel.

You may again compare this with present practice. Now even if somebody knows well enough that he will not be travelling on the booked date, he waits upto72 hours before departure of the train before cancelling the tickets. Resale of this ticket in such a short notice will not happen and eventually Railway loses a customer. With computerized booking, such intelligent choices are very easy and efficient to implement.

Hope Indian Railways considers my suggestion as above.

7.0 Bridging Platforms:

In Indian Railways, recently they have realized the tremendous advantages of double discharge platforms on either side of the train. Such double discharge platforms are being implemented in all major railway stations and terminuses. The idea of double discharge platforms relieves the passengers with the stress of deciding which side, to be ready with the luggage, to disembark from the train. Another stress for the travelling public is to crossover to the exit of the stations, or to another platform for catching a connecting train, using over bridges or under passes. With several luggages and along with family and kids it is always stressful. Here is my idea to improve this situation:

  • Provide retractable bridges between the platforms over the railway lines at three places across the length of the platform – at both ends and in the middle.
  • The bridges can be retracted as the train arrives at (or runs through) the particular track with required safety features like interlocked signaling, bells, lamps and whistles.
  • This may not be practicable in very busy stations with frequent arrival of trains. In such stations escalators and elevators are a must.

This will greatly avoid the risk of fatalities occurring during illegal line-crossing which happens too frequently in India.

8.0 Train Toilet – 1

There are many problems with toilets in train: Cleanliness, Wetness, convenience, washing facilities, safety grips etc. In addition when the trains are halted in a station, yard or on a loop-line, use of toilets makes the station more dirty, unhealthy and unsightly. Of course there is a notice of request to the passengers not to use the toilets when the train is halted at stations. But the rule is rarely adhered to. Here is a solution at least for the last mentioned problem.

  • Toilets should be prevented from usage when the train is not moving,
  • To do this we may use an intelligent movement sensor to be interlocked with the toilet latch
  • When the train slows down to a very low speed, preparatory to halting, the movement sensor will lock the latch to prevent opening from outside. Anyone using the toilet will be able to open the latch from inside to let himself out. But as he closes the door, the latch will again get interlocked with the movement sensor.
  • As the train picks up speed, the latch will get decoupled from the interlock and get released for opening from outside.
  • The maintenance staff can be provided with a special key to open the toilet even when interlocked, for cleaning and maintenance.

9.0 Train Toilet – 2

All 2-Tier, 3–Tier and Chair-car carriages have totally 4 toilets, 2 each at the respective two ends. It may be better to convert 2 of them (one each from either end, into one male and one female urinal). Urinals are more frequently used, easier to clean and require less space, by accommodating both urinals in the space of one toilet. It will make it easier to keep the toilets clean.

However one major problem is with the solid refuse of the toilets. In most of the trains these toilets discharge waste through an opening, onto the track area itself. This corrodes the track fittings and risks the hygiene of track workers and inspectors. Here is my solution to this problem:

  • It could be better to compact the solid refuse in the under carriage of the train itself.
  • These compacted solid refuse stored in exchangeable drums can be replaced as a part of train cleaning and maintenance process at the terminal stations, or even in a designated cleaning stopovers en-route.
  • These drums of solid refuse can be used as bio-fuel and fertilizer for various applications
  • For safety of conservancy workers, we may automate the process suitably, (eg) auto-sealing of the waste drums as they remove them, integrated cleaning sprays for the toilet discharge area etc.

I Hope these ideas get considered seriously enough. They may be suitably engineered to increase the passenger convenience and safety many fold.










Innovative Ideas 2,3,4 & 5

March 7, 2018

Innovative Ideas 2,3,4 & 5

Most of us are innovative in our own way in our own fields of interest. But only a few of us have time enough to crystallize these innovative ideas into workable ideas. And still few of us have the wherewithal to develop these innovative ideas into products or into patents to be developed by others. So, it is natural I have some ideas innovative enough to present in a few blogs to follow. I won’t know whether they are good enough to deserve patents. But, even if so, I make it clear here, these ideas will remain free of any patent rights and hence any developer may use this idea or modify them in any way to evolve a product useful to the humanity. However if somebody finds it economically viable only to produce under a patent, then they can apply for a patent, but only with my express permission and agreement.

In an earlier blog, I had given an innovative idea (No.1) for having Battery (Replacement) Stations for Electric Cars, along the highways and main roads. I am giving below four more ideas for future development. Anyone interested?

2. Number Locks

Number Locks are of several different types. Some of them have a single dial with numbers to be set in a sequence. These are generally known as Combination locks. There are other locks in which 3, 4 or more individual thumbwheels, a combination on them can be set to lock and open the locks. These locks are available as separate devices which can be used with any box or luggage having a padlock. Such locks are also fitted into the box or luggage as an integral part. The required combination of numbers is initially set to all 0s and it is left to the user to choose his combination. There are two problems which affect their convenience. Coming to these issues with the lock:

  1. We set the combination to open the lock. How many of us realize the importance of remembering to change the combination randomly immediately after opening? Almost None. This results in outsiders knowing the combination with a casual look at the open lock.
  2. Once a combination is chosen, it is required to set this combination even to lock the box. Not only this is inconvenient, it also affects safety, since even locking the box is required to be done in secrecy.
  3. After closing the box, we should always remember to change the wheels to a random number to lock the box.

To make these locks safer, convenient and free from above defects, I suggest the following design changes:

  1. Locking of the box should be enabled, irrespective of any existing combination, as in a push/press latching system.
  2. When one locks the box as above, the combination should automatically change to all 0s, (to ensure the combination is not inadvertently remaining set to open)
  3. The box should be enabled to open only by setting the chosen combination of numbers.
  4. The system should automatically re-set to all 0s again as the box is opened.
  5. This means the combination should automatically re-set to all 0s after both open and close operation to ensure safety and secracy.

Hope all number lock manufacturers will use this idea, and re-design their future number locks in this way. Luggage manufacturers may specify these requirements to the suppliers of number locks for their luggage.

3. Elevators on Helical rails.

Most of the cabin elevators for movement of people are designed as a single cabin per shaft, operating on a wire rope pulled by a motor on the top. It has a counterweight to make it energy efficient. But in a single vertical shaft, only one cabin is accommodated. In public places like malls and super markets the option of escalators are chosen to handle the heavy traffic. But in multi-storied tower complexes of corporate offices and government facilities, both the options do not work well. My idea, as below is to have a helical rail for several cabins together which will be lifted to different floors by rotation of the helix. A reverse rotation of another helical rail likewise, may bring the cabins down. On the roof and basement, the cabins can be exchanged from one helix to the other by a lateral movement. The schematic shown below explains the basic principle. The cabins sliding down on thier own operate as counter weights for cabins going up. As the cabins slide down the helix by gravity, this helix rotates and acts as a supplementary force for the other helix to rotate the other way to lift the cabins. The process thus becomes energy efficient. Each elevator cabin stops on all floors. But the continuous string of elevators will make it time-efficient also. In addition we may have normal high speed elevators, only serving the higher floors, if required.  I leave it to my co-innovators to design other control, instrumentation and safety features. They may even add other features like withdrawal of a few cabins and stopping at alternate floors etc.

Helical Rails

4. Air-conditioner with a cool box:

Every room air-conditioner can come fitted, with an option of a Cool-Box for domestic use. Many households in India cannot afford costly appliances like Refrigerator and Air-conditioner. Need for Air-conditioner is sometimes felt more than a refrigerator. For most of the lower middle class households in India and other 3rd world countries, especially the vegetarians, there is hardly a need for a refrigerator as they generally cook afresh everyday and sometimes even twice a day. What they need is only a cool place, to keep their left-over food, say, for about 8-hours till they can eat it again. They also need a device to keep water, milk, fresh vegetables and drinks cool enough. A cool box as in a car will mostly serve their purpose. AC manufacturers may think of a cool-box fit-out as an option along with their AC. The AC may circulate the cool air through a small box at the eye level which can be used to store such items as above. A two or three liter box will be sufficient for this. Is any techno start-up willing to try this?

5. Gym Charger:

The public Gymnasiums have now become common in many cities, in office complexes, shopping complexes and apartment complexes. It is possible to design exercise machines in such a way that it generates electricity out of man-power instead of consuming the same. A treadmill can be designed to rotate a wheel which could charge a battery. Same thing can be achieved with any exercise bi-cycle. We may even design a gym where all the machines are connected to a common flywheel which may generate enough power to operate several devices in the complex like water-pump, garden irrigation, washing machines, dryers etc.

I have a few more ideas which i will explore in my future blogs. Techno-preneurs of younger generation may try and develop these ideas further.

L V Nagarajan / 07 March 2018Entrepreneurs