It was an experiment: When DB Systel started the innovation engine Skydeck, the hope of success was relatively high. Hardly anyone would have even dared to wish that the idea would assert itself in the company within such a brief period. But the creative way in which the Skydeck is taking digitalisation forward within the company and the Group is simply impressive.
At Skydeck (website in German only), unconventional methods are used to find solutions to improve processes. In the Silver Tower in Frankfurt, employees are testing new technologies such as VR glasses to determine possible use within the Group. The dreams of the future are not just being imagined but prepared. The innovative way in which such concepts have been formed has created a furore also outside of DB Systel: For “establishing the Skydeck as an innovation laboratory for digitalisation”, a silver medal in the “Empower People” category was awarded by the jury of the Digital Leader Award presented by specialist publication “Computerwoche”.
There is high demand for new IT solutions. Furthermore, customer proximity is important for short paths and fast decisions. This is why there is now also a Skydeck in Berlin and Erfurt, as well as in Frankfurt. And development is also expanding in terms of content. Since 1 August, Jörn Petereit is looking after the new IoT team of DB Systel.
Everything that can be connected is connected
The “Internet of Things”, also referred to as “IoT”, is becoming increasingly important for the Deutsche Bahn Group. Everything is now connected, whether the so-called smart home, modern cars or fitness equipment. Machines are learning to communicate with each other from any location and at any time (“M2M”), and fairly complicated processes are automated often in a surprisingly simple way. There are already many examples for successful IoT and M2M solutions that have been developed by DB Systel.
Last year, digital vehicle solutions (DVS) was launched as a digital solution platform for train IT . In turn, for a different pilot project where sensors detect the exact position and gradient of trains during the journey, DB Systel provides the complete IT ecosystem for measurements and analyses. And for providing lighting at stations, intelligent lighting control is helping to tap savings potential and save resources. Even the ADAM system, which allows escalators and lifts to be monitored in stations, can be considered part of the IoT landscape.
Focus on the business benefits of the solutions
“We are acting here like a start-up within the company,” says Jörn Petereit. He’s talking about a team of employees that focuses mainly on developing IoT and M2M solutions to resolve customer problems. The most important question is always what is to be achieved: a completely new business or optimisation of an existing area. As part of this, the IoT team supports customers in the consulting phase of digitalisation by providing potential digital solutions. The Internet of Things is hereby the connecting element that brings together different and often proprietary systems and makes digital innovations and process optimisation even possible.
In the validation phase, the IoT team uses proofs of concept to make acceptance of the digital business model tangible, before then working together with the customer to implement the matured solution in the implementation phase through to operational and scalable operation.
My advantage is that I’m new to the company, which means I can still view many processes like an external party. I’m now moving around the DB system with my eyes wide open.
Jörn Petereit wants to better understand where there is development potential. Here, too, the connection to the Skydeck offers the best conditions, as Skydeck – the digital innovation centre – along with the various teams, have created the basis for developing solutions in existing structures outside of daily procedures. Skydeck produces a number of ideas that the IoT team then turns into possible solutions. But first and foremost, he’d like to identify these solutions in customer talks – since nobody knows the relevant processes as well as the specialist staff on site do.
But processes can often be changed better from the outside. “Yet it is human nature for employees to carry out their daily work first, before considering ways to do it better and more efficiently.” And the IoT team wants to assist with this. Experience shows that everyone pulls together when it comes to improving processes, because it benefits the entire Group as well as each individual employee. That’s why Jörn Petereit is certain: “If we do our job well, our ideas will also be convincing.”
Thus Skydeck not only develops improvements and IT solutions, but serves as an incubator for completely new digital business fields. And looking at the projects that have been implemented successfully so far, the motto can only be: let’s continue on this path!