Improve digital travelling experience
As a train traveler in Germany you might know the issue: You arrive at the train station and notice that the destination board shows a different departure time than what the app says. Have you also experienced that and wondered why the same information isn’t displayed everywhere? The answer: Up until now, DB’s multitude of data sources and their various information channels were not fully coordinated.
“Single point of Truth”
About four years ago, DB Passenger Information decided to develop a unified platform for passenger information. At the heart of the new system is Big Data technology, which is used to collect the various data from existing systems. The plan is to create a “Single Point of Truth” (SPOT), i.e. a central data platform. From there, the information gets distributed to all connected channels in order to provide railway customers with consistent information.
Tracking at least 60 million events per day
The biggest challenge of the project lies in DB’s highly complex, safety-critical environment. Every day in DB’s network around 60 million tracking incidents occur and are processed by the platform. In view of the enormous volume of data, the capacities required for near-real-time data processing and the need for access from different locations, it was clear from the outset that the new application would have to be developed and operated entirely in the cloud. The decision to do this in cooperation with AWS was made very early on, as their infrastructure and services optimally meet the requirements of Deutsche Bahn.
CI/CD pipe line helped on the way
The primary task was to implement the Single Point of Truth, which distributes the information consistently across all information channels and touchpoints. However, the initial situation had a few challenges. For example, the data had to be acquired from numerous different sources, some with very complex interfaces. Protocols and data formats from proprietary solutions were partly obsolete, which made consolidation even more difficult. At the same time, technological consistency also had to be implemented, thanks to an automated CI/CD pipeline (Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery), system interruptions or unavailability have now been virtually eliminated.
Where are the trains? – without GPS signals
Another challenge was that the trains are not clearly marked, a GPS signal is only available for a few models. It is also difficult to identify which physical wagon is located at which point. Due to this highly complicated business logic, it was extraordinarily time-consuming to connect the data to the SPOT.
Machine Learning for accuracy
In particular, the division and unification of trains is not easy to represent logically. For this reason, the project uses machine learning to identify, for example, in which direction a train travels, where it separates or merges.
The corresponding system architecture which is based on a timetable builder had to be developed. It generates a complete target timetable, combining the customer timetable and the so-called operating timetable. This target timetable is used to create short-term timetable changes as well as real-time data such as train position messages from the track sensors.
“For the first time, we were able to generate a consolidated view of data from completely independent systems,” explains Tobias Buser.
Microservices for consolidating data sources
Microservices are now used to consolidate data from various sources, evaluate it and then stream it consistently to information channels such as platform displays and kiosk systems at stations or the DB Navigator. One of the first customer-effective milestones: track changes are now recognized more reliably and measurably earlier with the help of the processed data.
About The unbelievable Machine Company a Basefarm group company:
The unbelievable Machine Company GmbH (*um) is the leading full-service provider for ambitious digital projects. The specialist for Big Data (Data Science and Data Engineering) and Cloud Services develops precise solutions for individual entrepreneurial challenges and delivers impact to the most renowned brands in automotive, retail, e-commerce, online services, media and many more industries. Gartner recognised *um as “Cool Vendor” in the category “Information Infrastructure & Big Data”. ISG/Experton has awarded *um as “Big Data Leader” and “Data Analytics Leader”. As a member of Basefarm Group (an Orange Business Services company), *um offers high-quality local services with a global Europe-based infrastructure. Founded in 2008, the team has grown to 150 Unbelievables in Berlin, Frankfurt and Vienna. www.unbelievable-machine.com