Tuesday 7 February 2017
Digital Developments

Germany: Digital progress for customers

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DB is promoting digitalisation in three areas: at the interface with customers, in supporting processes and through new data-driven business models - Some EUR 1 billion earmarked for digitalisation projects.

As far back as eight years ago train arrivals and departures could be looked up on mobile phones using a Deutsche Bahn app. At that time only around five million people in Germany had a smartphone. Today some four million pieces of travel information are provided by DB Navigator each day. In 2016, customers purchased well over 10 million mobile phone tickets, a year-on-year increase of some 60%. The app is not only the fastest-growing method for buying tickets; it now also provides nearly all conceivable services relating to train travel. Real-time train car sequence information for ICE trains was added in January.

Seizing the opportunities of digitalisation in all dimensions at DB

Digitalisation has since taken on many facets at DB, with new ones being added all the time. Electronic newspapers and sightseeing tips on the ICE Portal provide entertainment for passengers on long train journeys, complete with personalised travel information. TV series and movies will be available on the portal beginning in spring 2017. Flinkster carsharing customers will also have access to both cars and electric scooters starting in the spring. Industrial customers already have the option of tracking freight transport services in real time, including information such as temperature fluctuations and vibration in containers. The first fully automated rail vehicles are being tested. Driverless shuttle buses are already offering scheduled service on the roads, and platoons of self-driving trucks will follow.

Door-to-door mobility on demand is the future

DB is facing a momentous transformation in the mobility sector. Its customers’ daily journeys are becoming increasingly flexible and personalised thanks to digital technologies such as autonomous driving and thanks to new living and working environments in the digital age. In the future, the lines between private motorised transport and public transport will blur to create public transport on demand. Door-to-door mobility on demand is the future. The same is true for logistics. DB already combines modes of transport, offers seamless travel and transport chains, and is systematically building its digital expertise.

Customer interface

The purpose of digitalisation projects that address the interface with customers is first and foremost to make access to mobility and logistics as straightforward and convenient as possible. The aim is to show all routes from A to B digitally to offer the right solution to every customer – commuters, business travelers and vacationers, as well as industrial customers needing to transport their freight. Instead of being informed only once, customers will receive dynamic information throughout their journey or along their products’ entire transport route. This approach is crucial. In the future, these platforms will also include autonomous cars, buses and trucks.

Supporting processes

One of the high-priority processes is predictive maintenance for rail operations. Switches, elevators and escalators at stations, locomotives, and freight cars are increasingly equipped with modern sensor technology, which allows potential problems to be detected at an early stage and resolved before they can disrupt operations. Digitalization improves trains’ on-time rate and increases rail capacity. Innovative warehouse solutions and 3D printing play an important role in logistics. Even talent acquisition is going digital. Virtual reality glasses give applicants a 360° view of vocational training programs at Deutsche Bahn.

New data-driven business models

In the third area, the development of new data-driven business models, DB wants to enable better use of its treasure trove of data and take advantage of the opportunities made possible by digitalisation beyond its core business. To this end, DB has established Deutsche Bahn Digital Ventures GmbH. It will make it possible to provide start-ups with stronger and faster support and simplify the acquisition of interests in companies.

Appealing to start-ups: DB Accelerator

DB Accelerator at DB mindbox in Berlin is at the centre of DB’s collaboration with start-ups. DB Accelerator fosters young entrepreneurs by providing three-month workshops, mentoring, jobs at DB mindbox and EUR 25,000 in start-up funding. The four accelerator rounds completed so far have led to contact with over 400 German and international start-ups. Concrete products are being initiated or developed for market launch or series production with around 20 start-ups.

DB’s new partnership with Plug and Play, one of the world’s largest and most experienced innovation platforms, offers access to Silicon Valley and other international technology and innovation centers. DB will work with
Plug and Play to initiate an additional start-up program to support new digital business models in the mobility sector and develop expanded services for DB customers that go beyond rail transport.

(Source: Deutsche Bahn)

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