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17.03.2017 13:45 Uhr Berlin

Digital progress for customers

DB is promoting digitalization in three areas: at the interface with customers, in supporting processes and through new data-driven business models • Some EUR 1 billion earmarked for digitalization 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.  DB Navigator is installed on millions of smartphones, where it is just as much a daily companion as alarm clocks, weather apps and WhatsApp, and it has been available on Apple Watch since the very beginning. Customers can now retrieve voice-activated travel information on Amazon Echo – and we've been there since day one, too.

Seizing the opportunities of digitalization in all dimensions at DB     

Digitalization is an important basis for Deutsche Bahn to achieve the objectives of the quality program ZukunftBahn. In addition, digital technologies enable new offers for the customer, which complement the core business and network the rail with other forms of mobility.

Digitalization 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 personalized 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 personalized 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 motorized 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.

2017–18: EUR 1 billion for digitalization plus venture capital

Deutsche Bahn is addressing digitalization in three areas: with new products at the interface with customers, operational and administrative processes, and the development of new data-driven business models.

To this end, the company will invest some EUR 1 billion in digitalization projects alone by 2018 and will set aside an additional EUR 100 million in venture capital to provide targeted support for activities with start-ups and entrepreneurs between now and 2019.  

Customer interface

The purpose of digitalization 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 digitalization 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.

Deutsche Bahn also intends to encourage in-house entrepreneurship, or "intrapreneurship." In the future, employees could be given the chance to realize their own business ideas under ideal conditions.

The new company's portfolio includes the car-pool service CleverShuttle, a Berlin start-up in which DB has had an interest since 2015. The multimodal comparison platform Qixxit also enjoys a great deal of freedom as a spin-off under the umbrella of Deutsche Bahn Digital Ventures GmbH.

Appealing to start-ups: DB Accelerator and Beyond1435

DB Accelerator at DB mindbox in Berlin is at the center 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.

Together with Plug and Play, DB has launched the Beyond1435 start-up program to promote new digital business models in the mobility sector and to develop additional offers for DB's customers beyond the rail sector. The first Accelerator round of Beyond1435 is looking for start-ups for SmartCity-Tech solutions.

The new, joint funding program combines the attractiveness of both companies: start-ups gain access both to the data diversity, the network and the customer range of Deutsche Bahn, as well as to the expertise and resources of Plug and Play. The 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.

Start-ups and entrepreneurs also have access to Deutsche Bahn's open data portal, which the DB mindbox team frequently uses for hackathons. Programmers, hackers and developers who are interested in participating are given access to extensive infrastructure and timetable data at data.deutschebahn.com, which they can use to develop new products and services for DB customers.

"Our new digital ecosystem is planting the seeds for even greater innovation and new company values, which will ultimately benefit our core business," says Manuel Gerres, Managing Director of Deutsche Bahn Digital Ventures GmbH. "Digitalization is only an indirect route to technical progress. It means progress for customers, which makes it crucial for the sustainable business success that we will continue to pursue through our DB2020+ strategy, even in the digital age."