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New mobile terminal

How a modern tablet offers passengers improved service

03/2016 - In comparison with its predecessor, the new MTx mobile terminal has made a quantum leap. The terminal is the result of the close collaboration within the project and is impressing not only the ordering authority, DB Vertrieb, but also the users and travelling public.

The new mobile Terminal MTx
Deutsche Bahn AG

Until a few months ago, Annette Etschmaier was used to receiving pitying looks from passengers. Until then, the service representative in local transport was using the MT2 mobile terminal to check or sell tickets. But this device, dating from 2006, was no longer capable of meeting the latest demands of the users and of technology. When she was standing in front of customers it often felt like an eternity until an online ticket could be scanned. “The public sometimes reacted with great impatience,” says Etschmaier. Sometimes the battery just could not keep pace, even though it had been on charge all night.

, service representative in local transport
Annette Etschmaier, service representative in local transport
Deutsche Bahn AG

Fortunately, these times are now over. For some time now, Etschmaier, like most of her colleagues, has been using the new mobile terminal (MTx). “Everything is really fast now,” says the customer advisor. With the new device, she can scan tickets faster and provide information to customers in real time. The integrated multi-app allows the customer advisor to gain faster access to individual work areas. Tickets can now be checked or sold in a flash. In addition, this multifunctional device allows simple queries to be made and information to be forwarded to the passenger in real time, thanks to its online capability and its integral DB Navigator. Questions about connecting trains, or the updated provision of personal itineraries can thus be answered immediately, ensuring a higher level of customer satisfaction.

“Some customers have noticed that we are using new devices and have reacted very positively,” she says. Not only because of the attractive design, but also due to the many new functions. “Now I can easily use the application to issue up-to-date timetable information,” says Etschmaier. Previously, she always had to struggle with the schedule or timetable.

From Beetle to Golf GTi

A further advantage of the new device: previously, employees had to travel to an accounting office for software updates or invoicing. At the end of each shift, it was obligatory to make the trip to the accounting office, where the device was updated and data was transferred. This is no longer necessary with the new MTx.

At any rate, Annette Etschmaier is happy with the new device. “It feels like I have switched from driving a VW Beetle to a Golf GTi,” she says. In its appearance, the new device also corresponds more with the image of an innovative, modern company. And that is something that customers recognise.

Knut Jäger is one of DB Systel’s IT experts in the MTx project team who have made life easier for Annette Etschmaier and her fellow train attendants and customer advisors. “The development was hard work,” recalls the senior project manager. For such specific requirements, no off-the-shelf device could be used. Instead, the hardware and software had to be laboriously coordinated with one another.

During this development, there was also collaboration with external partners. “Right up until the launch, we were also in close contact with the manufacturer,” says Jäger. When designing the user interface, the project team focussed strongly on the requirements and wishes of the users. “We obtained a great deal of feedback,” says Jäger. The ideas of the train attendants and customer advisors were also incorporated into the ongoing development process.

 State of the art

“As far as the hardware specifications were concerned, we made sure that the device was state of the art,” says Jäger. The effort has certainly been worthwhile. The tablet with its seven-inch display incorporates the latest LTE mobile radio technology. In addition, the new mobile terminal has integrated W-LAN and Bluetooth. It also has a scanner for checking the validity of tickets using barcodes and an NFC chip for checking e-tickets. There is also a conventional slot for debit and credit cards.

And one other annoyance has been eliminated: the battery now lasts considerably longer, which means it is no longer necessary to lug a spare set around all the time. Measures to extend the operating time include the prohibition of unnecessary background processes.

Generally, the project followed new paths in terms of the software. “The developers have come up with an Android-based solution that may well be unique throughout Germany,” says Jäger. Although the software appears to the user to be a single application, there are actually several smaller apps running within it. This multi-app approach was necessary, as the individual apps were subject to technical limitations, and to make maximum use of the hardware performance.

The great advantage of this procedure is that further apps can easily be integrated whenever the need arises. At present, work is being carried out on the integration of “third-party apps”. Even existing apps can be integrated without any great effort.

With the integration of the DB Navigator, for example, the latest timetable information is available at all times. This means that customer queries can be answered quickly in real time without any complications.

By the end of March, 12,400 MTx devices will have been rolled out, by which time all the old devices will have disappeared from the trains and the train attendants and customer advisors will be able to bask in the positive reactions of the passengers.

The evolution of the mobile terminal