Today, passengers on metro, regional or high-speed trains don’t want their trip to interfere with their digital lives. While travelling quickly, safely and comfortably from A to B, they need to be able to work online, hold a video conference, update their status or stream digital media. Doing all that and more should be as easy and comfortable on a train as it is at home. “This is expected by both urban commuters and long-distance travellers who use various means of transport,” explains René Braun, head of the Connected Mobility initiative at Bombardier. Together with his team, he ensures that the trains can keep up with the current mobility trends, and that no tunnel or blind spot will interrupt data connections in future: this is a must because digitization is here to stay.
Today, travellers use large volumes of data. It can be expected that in the near future, even more bits and bytes will be exchanged at a faster and faster rate. Thus, trains will have to stay connected to a high-speed network during their whole journey. “Today, surfing is possible while on a train, thanks to Wi-Fi, but usually in low quality only,” says René Braun. “We use advanced network technology that allows for much higher speeds.”
Smart tools for travelling
Together with his colleagues, René Braun is working to promote the digitization of travel in all areas that promise true benefits. The team considers not only the train journey itself, but all stages from departure to arrival. This is because the trip already begins at home when it is being planned, as the digitization expert explains using the example of a short-term external business meeting: train and flight tickets need to be booked, as well as the taxi to get to the city centre. Even a rental bicycle might be an option for the afternoon off, to see more of the city. “In the future, digitally networked passengers will expect to be able to book their entire trip, door-to-door, online in one step, and this is service Bombardier is going to provide,” says René Braun.
Another interesting area of the digital future of travelling that Bombardier’s expert team is exploring is targeted publicizing on trains or at train stations. These types of online transactions offer travellers an immediate benefit by directing them, for example, via smartphone to a supermarket or a bakery where they can quickly buy something to eat while changing trains.
And if tomorrow’s passenger has forgotten to purchase an electronic ticket, that fact will be registered by a sensor located in the train door. Thanks to smart ticketing, travellers will automatically check in and buy, as well as pay for, their tickets online – no waiting in line, but a quick and uncomplicated process. “We want to create a platform that will make these services available in the future, and bring as many partners as possible on board. We are taking a closer look at these ‘ecosystems’ in order to get an integral picture of our customers’ needs and concerns. Satisfied passengers are the key factor in the digital environment of our times,” according to René Braun.
Security in data traffic
For a technology company like Bombardier and its internal processes, digitization means nothing less than a paradigm change. “This fast-moving topic forces us to act like an agile start-up that can quickly respond to customer requirements and satisfies them by working with external specialists, if necessary,” says René Braun. Data security is given top priority in this undertaking. Bombardier will clearly surpass all legally required standards pertaining to security. A company division based in Stockholm, Sweden, is tasked with implementing measures to achieve this objective. It has developed, for example, a certification that all cooperation partners have to undergo pre-emptively. “This way, we can ensure that all processes meet our high standards,” says René Braun, explaining Bombardier’s concept.
With its ideas and solutions, the company is taking into account the needs of both customers and travellers. This is because, if digital passengers can benefit from the networked infrastructure, they will rather travel by train. Accordingly, Bombardier’s customers stand to gain more passengers and see their revenue increase.