SMEs demo co-innovation on Cisco's Stations as Service Enabling the Digital Railway project

On Friday 20 March Cisco hosted a demo day for the winning SMEs selected last October for its StaaS (Stations as a Service) Connected Transport Challenge.

StaaS is a two-year, £2 million, collaborative innovation project co-funded by Innovate UK and RSSB under the second Accelerating innovation in Rail Enabling the Digital Railway competition, with the goal of creating a new technical, operational and commercial model for future stations.

Up to 72 people are involved in working on this project, that has as an objective the next generation of station management for improved security, operations, retail and passenger experience.

The project aimed to create a single IP infrastructure, based on the 802.11AC standard, to develop and test an architecture called Stations as a Service (StaaS), designed to be open to allow others to ‘co-innovate’ on the platform.

To test the feasibility of this platform, the three SMEs and startups - Alchera, Davra Networks and Omnifi - were given just a two month “incubation period” to implement and demonstrate their software ideas at a selection of railway stations on the Abellio Greater Anglia network.

On Friday 20 March at RSSB offices in front of 60 interested rail industry executives attended the demo.


Two-month incubation period

The demos from Alchera, Davra Networks and Omnifi were the culmination of an intensive two-month incubation period. Their demonstrations for security, retail and passenger applications in train stations leveraged the Stations-as-a-Service technology platform, developed by CISCO in partnership with Telent and Abellio, and co-funded by Network Rail and RSSB.

Also deploying to these live locations will be Bronze Labs, the fourth project partner on StaaS. Richard Howells demonstrated a mobile application for station managers to respond to security use cases in the station environment. This used push notifications to alert managers to issues such as spillages or more urgent reporting issues, and for the public provides a method to report issues.


Alchera technologies

In his presentation for Alchera technologies, Mark Nicholson demonstrated the use intelligent cameras to track people movements at Colchester station where StaaS is in place under the projects.

Alchera, a Cambridge based company that’s also worked on the MK:Smart autonomous transport project offers rail solutions to assist station operators and franchise managers in managing stations by use of computer vision and machine learning devices, to generate real-time and predictive information about passenger flow.

The camera solution showed, tracked passenger density on the platform visually, something that would, quite reasonably, produce concerns about privacy, but Mark Nicholson claimed the solution was a “dumb camera, that sends no personal identifiable data outside the station environment”.


Omnify - “a big believer in mobile web” demonstrated its real-time journey information project, built on the Saas platform.

The mobile friendly website allows passengers to view their current travel itinerary, and/or obtain additional information related to their journey, the station facilities, the local vicinity or the on-board services.

It also allows passengers to reporting incidents and makers emergency calls, and provides operators a dashboard of passenger flow via a central dashboard.


Davra Networks

Luke Manuel, UK Sales Manager for Davra Networks showed a solution for remotely managing stations assets - such as CCTV, lifts, escalators etc. - using the ‘Internet of Things’.

The solution is installed at the small Ingatestone Station in Essex, that otherwise would require expensive and space hungry wiring and server equipment housing.


Third Accelerating Innovation in Rail competition closes for closes 22 April 2015 

Innovate UK and the FutureRailway programme are investing up to £6 million to support business innovation in digital technologies that improve the customer experience in UK and international rail markets - for the third in the series: the Enhancing customer experience in rail travel competition.

The closing date for registrations is 15 April and a week later for applications.

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