Digitalisation sets the pace
The internet and mobile devices are taking the market by storm and no industry sector remains unaffected by this phenomenon. Companies that do not adapt will soon lose their competitive advantage. Deutsche Bahn sees digitalisation as an opportunity.
With its Group-wide digitalisation campaign Deutsche Bahn intends to bring about long-term improvement in its processes and in the services it offers with the customer in mind. DB is working on more than 150 projects related to this topic in all areas, from passenger transport to freight transport and logistics to infrastructure, operations and IT. These initiatives aim to make Deutsche Bahn's services even more attractive and its processes even more efficient and cost-effective. Rüdiger Grube, head of DB, says "We wish to provide our customers with even better information and get them to their destinations more conveniently and in more comfort."
Mobility 4.0 – Travel for today and tomorrow
Digitalisation in rail travel is advancing apace. DB customers can already book train tickets and make seat reservations online and via apps, and receive a text message on their smartphone if their train is delayed. Wireless internet is available on board most ICE trains, and this facility is being expanded all the time. That, however, is just the beginning.
Deutsche Bahn is working on making future train travel even more convenient for its passengers thanks to digital technology. Mobility 4.0 is the name given to the vision of fully connected door-to-door travel. Digital systems are already capable of showing train passengers the quickest way to the station and listing the suitable means of transport. In the future, they will also help passengers to find the correct seat in the correct carriage. During the journey, business travellers will be able to stay in contact with customers and colleagues, having even more scope for using their journey time productively. Other passengers will simply relax and enjoy the infotainment available on state-of-the-art portals.
Logistics 4.0 – Here today, there tomorrow
The world's leading logistics provider DB Schenker develops solutions that use digitalisation to simplify the transportation of goods. Here are some innovations that already exist today – and some that the future promises:
When handling containers and articulated vehicles, DB Schenker relies on GPS satellite positioning and the monitoring of conditions such as temperature and humidity, for example in the DB Schenker Smartbox. Customers can track their consignments using an app. The container of the future will find its own way from A to B. It will be network-enabled and be automatically assigned to an available spot.
Mixing it up
DB Schenker develops big-data solutions to analyse real-time information on the transport times and costs of its freight trains and heavy goods vehicles, for instance, and to permanently optimise its networks' efficiency.
Shelves on wheels
In the warehouse of the future self-driving transporters will bring the goods to the employees. DB Schenker in Sweden intends to operate a system like this.
Locomotives equipped with the Tech-Lok system send out proactive reports on where they are located and how they are doing. This helps employees to decide when it is time for a locomotive to be brought in for maintenance, for example. A number of freight wagons are already fitted with sensors that allow the freight to be tracked, among other things.
The automated driving of trains is being considered ever more seriously to follow on from assisted driving. In the initial step, technical demonstrators are being used. Testing will gradually reveal what the most sensible and feasible approach is. A freight train that operates without a driver is, however, not yet a reality.
A quiet last mile
Logistics companies will in the future make increasing use of electric vehicles and bike couriers when delivering to retailers and households in cities. These are not only eco-friendly but also quiet.
Working Environments 4.0 – New requirements
Digitalisation also has an impact on work, communication and study. Jobs are changing as new activities accompanied by different skills are added to the qualifications currently needed. Many employees will be able to pursue their work in a more flexible and personalised way in the coming years.
Furthermore, there are new forms of working and demands on teamwork are growing. DB is preparing: employees are being given smartphones or tablets – 14,000 train drivers and on-board staff members already use tablets in their jobs. A social intranet with a news portal, blogs, wiki and project groups, is running as a pilot and will make it even easier for employees to communicate with one another.
Infrastructure 4.0 – Flexible planning
Sensors record constant data that shows where a train is located. Smart measurement tools provide an early warning of when points or lifts, for example, are likely to fail. This makes predictive maintenance possible.
More and more of this type of data will be making its way into Deutsche Bahn's computer networks in the years to come. Big-data facilities are opening up new options in forecasting punctuality for use in monitoring rail operations. Timetable preparation is also being digitalised in order to meet customer requests with more flexibility and to better utilise capacity. Our stations will become mobility hubs and interlink diverse modes of transport. Thanks to indoor navigation, customers will find their way around the station better and reach their connecting train right on time.
IT 4.0 – Intelligent control
Deutsche Bahn's computer systems, also known collectively as information technology or IT, will in the future record, store and analyse ever larger amounts of information from a wide variety of sources. This data could be about passenger numbers, the condition of lines or current train positions.
Modern big-data systems can identify useful patterns in the mass of unstructured data and draw intelligent conclusions. Using cloud technologies, innovations for customers and employees can be turned around more quickly and more flexibly. The Internet of Things will enable vehicles, infrastructure, employees and customers to be networked with one another.
Production 4.0 – Arriving safely
Inside the driver's cab of the 407 017 on the high-speed line from Frankfurt am Main to Cologne. For Deutsche Bahn, digitalisation is ultimately a means to an end, being used to help get people and freight to their destinations even more conveniently and safely than today. DB collects data on repairs and defects on locomotives and wagons and calculates how likely it is that failures will occur.
Sensors in wheels and couplers monitor wear and transmit an automatic report when a part needs to be replaced. Smart, IT-supported planning helps to make trains even more punctual. And as the most important pieces of information from all systems ultimately end up on the trains' on-board computers and on the train crew's tablets, employees have everything they need to help passengers on their journey.