The rail industry’s Enabling Innovation team held a Final Live Event last Tuesday, on London's South Bank, to announce winners of a £1 million prize-bearing competition for innovative solutions for passenger and freight customer experience in rail.
The EIT is hosted by RSSB and is funded initially by a grant from DfT. The 2012/13 grant of £16.7m will be used by EIT as a Rail Innovation Fund to support innovation demonstrator projects.
Sixteen finalists from 111 entries were involved in the Final Live Event, competing for a total purse of £300,000 in cash prizes, plus the opportunity to bid for funding from a total investment pool of £700,000.
In addition to a 10 minute pitch, each finalist had a private Q&A session with a panel of expert judges that provided the finalists with an opportunity to lay bare their business idea, identify its strengths and weaknesses, and take this knowledge gained to work and improve upon it. After careful deliberation, the winners were decided by the respective judging panels and announced at the evening’s award ceremony.
The Rail Passenger Challenge winner -‘Commuter Intelligent Passenger’
In the Regular Rail Passenger Challenge, which addressed the experience of regular rail passengers such as commuters, Caution Your Blast and Ayoupa won with their mobile app - ‘Commuter Intelligent Passenger’. This app that uses offers real-time journey monitoring on intermodal door-to-door journeys and personalised information, advice and alerts from its intelligent predictive capabilities. The app itself is free but charges a monthly fee for live data as "London Overground and UK Rail services attracts a licence fee from our provider National Rail Enquiries".
The two runner-ups in this Challenge were Jeppesen, for its Rail Journey Assistant a mobile app and API providing real time journey planning and multi-modal route alternatives, and Gerrit Boehm, who has designed Ambient Persuasive Guidance to provide more comprehensive information to passengers such as real-time updates on the availability of space in train carriages.
Discretionary Rail Passenger Challenge -'Station Master’ smartphone app
The Discretionary Rail Passenger Challenge, for occasional passengers’ experience, was won by 3Squared with their London Tube navigation smartphone app that is currently in development, that applies Google Maps technology to station layouts - enabling tourists and those with impairments to find platforms, amenities and access routes.
The app is named Station Master but is likely to be rebranded as an existing app that does the same job currently exists with the name Station Master.
The two runner-ups in this Challenge were Capito Systems, that has used free-form spoken language to request live information or purchase tickets, and 4ward Thinking for its SAMi Posters that combines traditional billboard posters with an interactive SAMi Card, utilising QR codes, NFC technology and SMS text so that customers can receive a portable record of the poster information directly to their internet enabled device.
Rail Freight Customer Challenge - ‘Stobart Express’
The Rail Freight Customer Challenge was won by the Stobart Group for their ‘Stobart Express’ innovation, involving high speed trains and/or small modular load units combined with low-emission road delivery vehicles, to enable fast and low-emission door-to-door distribution of multiple small-volume loads, to local stores, other business premises and residential properties.
The runner-up in this Challenge was FreightArranger, a cloud-based decision support tool to make intermodal freight services using rail more visible and accessible, enabling modal shift and higher train fill rates.
‘Cross-over Prize’ - routeRANK
The ‘Cross-over Prize’, rewarding exceptional proposals that transferred innovations developed for another application to the rail industry, was awarded to routeRANK, a software solution for freight transport planning. Incorporating road, sea and air transport data, their ‘Integrated Rail Freight Planner’ helps compute multi-modal shipment route options and propose real-time alternatives in the case of disruption.
Barriers to innovation in achieving a seamless end-to-end journey
In addition to the pitches, there was a discussion panel on the barriers to innovation in achieving a seamless end-to-end journey, featuring David Clarke from EIT, John Boon from Network Rail, Richard Kemp-Harper from the Technology Strategy Board, Sharon Hedges from Passenger Focus, Geoff Inskip from Centro and chaired by InnoCentive’s Jonathan Slater. David Simoes-Brown, Founder and Strategy Partner at 100% Open, and Ian Downey, the UK Ambassador for ESA's Integrated Applications Promotion programme, joined as the keynote speakers.
Clarke, Director of EIT, said, "there is no one-size fits all for rail customers and I was particularly pleased to see a number of truly cross-modal proposals which recognise that rail customers are in fact transport customers. This has been a really successful competition and it’s a great case study for any doubter out there that wonders whether we’ve really got any innovation waiting in the wings worth discovering."