More bravery for digitization

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How does Deutsche Bahn deal with digitization? What do customers need? Deutsche Bahn CEO Rüdiger Grube and Timotheus Höttges answered these and other questions from trade fair visitors during the Telekom Transforum at CeBIT on Thursday morning.

Everything revolved around creating a new customer experience for railway passengers – an undertaking in which Deutsche Telekom is a key partner. Timotheus Höttges began the Transforum discussion at CeBIT with an appeal to German businesses: “We need to be braver in Germany,” he said. “Digitization brings with it disruptive societal changes and requires us to come out of our silos to develop cross-sectoral products and meet our customers’ needs more effectively.”

“If we don’t do it, others will”

Deutsche Bahn is a company on its way to a digital future. It has made the topic of digitization a priority for the last three years. “We see digitization as an opportunity, because if we don’t do it, others will,” explained Deutsche Bahn CEO Rüdiger Grube. A total of 260 projects were initiated for this purpose. From infrastructure, through mobility, logistics and all the way to work environments, Deutsche Bahn is overhauling its processes, business models and structures to prepare itself for the future.

From railway operator to mobility company

“We’re a railway operator that is evolving into a mobility company,” said Grube. To do so, Deutsche Bahn is leaving the silos previously mentioned by Höttges. For example, it is implementing one of the largest car-sharing fleets in Germany as well as a bicycle lending scheme. The priority, in this context, is the overall experience of approximately 7.5 million customers each day. By way of comparison, the major German airlines serve the same amount of travelers over an entire year.

DT supports Deutsche Bahn with digitization effort

The long-established company is leveraging the full range of digitization tools to achieve its goal. For instance, all of its 70,000 track switches, 2,000 locomotives and about 3,000 escalators and lifts across Germany are being equipped with sensor technology. This allows Deutsche Bahn to identify imminent outages in advance and thus minimize their occurrence.

Better customer service with real-time information

The topic of customer information is also being addressed as a priority. T-Systems supported this by developing an advanced data analytics solution that automates and provides real-time information about the departure times of long-distance trains and coaches. However, this is not the only area in which Deutsche Telekom is working in close collaboration with Deutsche Bahn.

“A huge challenge”

“Among other things, we are investing 500 million euros to put LTE masts along the railroad tracks and allow travelers to surf the Web undisturbed at super high speed,” Höttges explained, adding that, “It’s a huge challenge, because the signals have to be transmitted from one radio cell to another without interruption at 300 kilometers per hour, as well as being transmitted inside tunnels.”

Wi-Fi for all

Grube took this opportunity to announce that Deutsche Bahn plans to extend its free Wi-Fi service to second-class wagons by the end of 2016, and that in the medium term, it would also provide this service on regional lines and suburban railways. To date, this privilege is reserved to first-class passengers on ICE high-speed trains.