German railway company Deutsche Bahn (DB) gives high priority to keeping travellers informed. This explains why 220 million euros were invested in a single ‘Traveler Information System' project. The system is a technical and organisational platform that supplies consistent, reliable and up-to-date information about the current operating status to customers and employees alike.
Thanks to this system, on-board personnel can, for example, use text messaging technology to communicate with operations control and to quickly inform passengers about any irregularities. Since station announcers and service staff are likewise linked to the system, passengers waiting at stations can receive the same information.
Modern methods in Magdeburg
A 650,000-euro high-tech announcement centre has been operating in Magdeburg since the end of May 2004. In addition to the city's own central station, the centre also serves 20 other stations between Schönebeck/Elbe to the south and Genthin to the north east. Advanced but proven technology enables the 15 Magdeburg DB Station & Service employees to quickly assess the situation at three announcement points and to pass on the accurate information to travellers and visitors - and that means 40,000 people a day at Magdeburg central station alone.
The announcement service is assisted by MOBOTIX technology. The cameras from the Kaiserslautern-based manufacturer are not only used to track the movements of DB's trains, but increasingly, they are also expected to perform security functions. As such, they play an important part in Deutsche Bahn's "SST program" (Service, Security and Tidiness), which also includes Magdeburg central station.
"The central station in Magdeburg serves the regional capital, so the expectations on technology here are high," says Sabine Rothenberger, who is greatly concerned about quality. As director of Magdeburg station, she is not only responsible for 130 employees, but she must also ensure that the SST program is implemented at 200 active stations and at 313 stops with less traffic activity.
Accurate and reliable passenger information is one aspect of the first S ("Service"). When the new announcement centre was built, a camera technology was needed that would meet the station director's high expectations. Since the employees at the announcement points have no direct eye contact to the in and outgoing trains, they needed reliable images of the tracks at the central station, and at the nearby Magdeburg-Neustadt and Schönebeck/Elbe stations.
The new centre was planned and managed by DB Services Technische Dienste GmbH, a subsidiary of the German railway company. As the team leader of communication systems team in Magdeburg, Ronald Seidel was instrumental in finding the ideal camera technology. "It was extremely helpful," Seidel says, "to be working for a company with nationwide activities. All 32 team leaders around the country regularly pool their information about new technologies that are really well suited for our needs." Seidel says his colleagues gave him the lead he was looking for. "'Try MOBOTIX cameras', they told me. The technology is excellent and they provide good service. And the people are competent and always willing to help."
Ronald Seidel asked for the IP addresses of the MOBOTIX cameras at Saarbrücken station where a similar application has been in operation since 2003. He wanted to see for himself that this solution was really working. "I was also impressed that the technology had already been approved by Corporate Purchasing," he recalls. "Finally, I ordered one camera so I could test it thoroughly." The team leader gets excited when he talks about his findings. "The MOBOTIX camera is extremely versatile, delivers superb quality and offers excellent resolution."
Images around the clock
Today, 17 MOBOTIX cameras are installed at Magdeburg central station, three at Magdeburg-Neustadt and another two at Schönebeck/Elbe. All cameras record images of the tracks and platforms around the clock and employees can view them simultaneously or individually per mouse click. Additional stations are to be equipped with the same technology in 2005.
The cameras constitute an autonomous network within a free IP segment group. External sites are connected via DSL to ensure stable delivery and faster upload rates. The images are displayed on monitors at the announcement centre, where staff can see all camera angles simultaneously or - at the click of a mouse - zoom in on selected tracks.
The second 'S'
"We don't just use the cameras to monitor how long the trains are stationary, though," Sabine Rothenberger stresses referring to the SST program. "Station security is another important issue for me. Railway stations in large cities are busy places. Using cameras is one valuable way to guarantee the security of our customers, for whom we are responsible." Accordingly, the station director is already thinking of deploying the MOBOTIX technology to other key points this year.
Rothenberger can well imagine collaborating with the local government, the police and the Federal Border Control to install MOBOTIX cameras in the front-office area, in front of the station, at the central bus stop and at other critical points in the vicinity. "Security strategies always need security partnerships to work properly," she explains. "The primary purpose of camera surveillance is preventative, i.e. to stop potential threats before they occur. At the same time, the MOBOTIX cameras have such versatile and convenient recording functions that they are also perfectly suited even to investigating and prosecuting crime."
And the cost issue? "We are always looking for solutions that give us excellent return on invest. That goes without saying," Rothenberger adds. "This was one of the main reasons why we chose MOBOTIX. Besides, we don't want to be cheap when it comes to security!"