© Dr. Werner Clas

Shared basis, individual solutions

Digital Vehicle Solutions: a solution platform for train IT

11/2015 - If everyone potters away individually, collaboration becomes difficult. Digital Vehicle Solutions brings all data onto the same basis.

Collaboration is one of the most successful concepts of all, as it makes targets attainable that would be out of reach to an individual. The basis for successful collaboration these days is information. Mutual support is only really possible when every person has the necessary knowledge at their disposal. In order to pool this knowledge, you must continuously exchange intelligence and adapt the solutions thus developed so that they fit in with one another. Or you must collaborate from the very start – developing solutions on a shared basis to suit individual needs. It is on precisely this principle that the DB Digital Vehicle Solutions (DVS) platform is based.

In a joint venture, four rail companies have pooled their expertise in the development of a shared product platform for the train IT system. DB Systel, DB Systemtechnik, DB Kommunikationstechnik and DB Fahrzeuginstandhaltung have drawn up a solution that enables the condition of a component to be assessed.

Small box, big effect

The DVS box is at the heart of the platform.
The DVS box is at the heart of the platform.
© Carolin Kallenbach

At the heart of this solution is a small box. It goes by the simple name of DVS box and is installed in locomotives, multiple units and carriages, where it always offers the same standard services, regardless of the vehicle type. It collects data on the condition of the train and its components: Are the motor sensors indicating possible problems? Is the air conditioning system functioning properly? Where necessary, the DVS box processes this data and uploads it to the Cloud on request. But, of course, that is not all. Because, as an open platform, the DVS box also allows attractive, individual vehicle applications to be provided through a host of application program interfaces (APIs). These may originate from the customers themselves, or from third-party suppliers – or may be developed individually by DB Systel for each individual customer.

There are two main purposes for this approach: on the one hand, it should in future permit very effective optimisation of railway operations and of fleet maintenance. The large quantity of vehicle data collected, in connection with additional data about the route and weather conditions etc., should enable accurate forecasts to be made of when a vehicle component could possibly fail – long before any damage actually occurs. For example, if a door takes just one millisecond longer than usual to close, this could be an indication that it will soon fail. Parts can then be replaced more effectively, vehicles fail less often and stay in service longer. In order that these benefits can be exploited in the near future, DVS is currently in trial operation and starting to collect train data. The analysis of this data is the prerequisite for subsequent action concerning preventive maintenance. In addition, by recommending immediate courses of action, it is possible to optimise energy consumption.

The transmitted data is visualised on dashboards; this example shows the seating occupancy.
The transmitted data is visualised on dashboards; this example shows the seating occupancy.
© Dr. Werner Clas

In future, passengers could also benefit from the data acquired in this way because, theoretically, the DVS should also enable more effective passenger guidance. For example, DVS could reduce crowding for passengers boarding or alighting from a train and help them to find a vacant seat much more quickly. For this purpose, the seats automatically send a signal when they are occupied. Waiting passengers could then use an app to find out where the nearest available seats are – and then board the appropriate carriage. The DVS team is actively researching such ideas on a daily basis, because the system will offer so many different possibilities in future.