Networked Mobility: Precision-fitting solutions of industry

Logistics, road traffic, rail and maritime transport, aviation as well as aerospace – all these spheres of mobility are changing. Digitization drives this evolution.


The modern IT environment enables the efficiency of logistical processes to be increased. For example, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) enables relevant data to be collected on an automated basis and synchronized over the whole supply chain. Information about the current location of shipments is transmitted in real time. Worldwide clear identification systems for shipments, carriers and products, coupled with RFID technology and high-performance data networks permit new forms of storage, ramp management, goods receipt and quality control. Better process transparency enables disruptions in the supply chain to be identified at an early stage and action to counter them to be taken. In addition, the data collected can be used to optimize in advance all processes from despatch to final delivery. Apart from the planning of capacity and routes, dynamic parameters such as the traffic situation or weather data can be included in the optimization. Today the bar codes of goods or their containers can be scanned by means of smartphones and tablets. The combination of inexpensive hand-held devices such as smartphones with data storage in the cloud can play a key role in the blanket application of transport control systems. Precondition: an efficient infrastructure.

Road traffic

Today modern driver assistance systems (DAS) are already making driving safer and more comfortable. They provide drivers with assistance in making turns, keeping in lane, emergency braking, driving at night or when fatigued. Modern navigation systems make use of information on traffic conditions in real time for adjusted route recommendations. The communication of the vehicle with other vehicles, the infrastructure and suppliers of information will also permit further safety and comfort functions.  

Thus in future vehicles will exchange information with traffic lights, dynamic road signs, traffic control centres and other road users. Vehicles will warn one another in real time of safety hazards, (black ice, tailbacks ahead, obstacles on the highway) so as to enable drivers to react in good time. Optimized information on traffic volumes, linked to forecasts, make it possible to make detours avoiding tailbacks more easily. That cuts journey times. Recommendations can guide drivers with sensible strategies through cities, for example in the search for a free parking spot.  

Moreover, the vehicle will increasingly be able to relieve the driver of the tasks involved in driving. Automated driving, for example, enables the use of a traffic jam pilot, which takes over the job of driving in stop-and-go traffic. Networked and automated driving can greatly increase the efficiency, safety and environmental compatibility of road traffic. Optimizing traffic flows significantly cuts emissions. This applies both to private transport and to freight transport. An additional economic benefit for Germany of 4.9 billion euros annually is expected (efficiency gains, lower environmental impact). And: in this way mobility can become even safer. Forecasts anticipate that new technology and networking can save up to 6.5 billion euros of the costs to the economy caused annually by road accidents.

Rail transport

Digital solutions such as internet applications, smartphone apps and services in real time are shaping to an increasing extent the daily life of more and more people, and consequently their individual mobility. This development also offers enormous opportunities and challenges for rail transport. In future customers will have at their disposal comprehensive information and intuitive digital real time services before during and after their journey. This will provide convenient access to the information required for planning travel via intermodal, neutral mobility platforms. Mobile ticketing and cashless payment are already common today and make booking and paying simpler for the customer. The ICE onboard portal is currently being tried out in the long-distance passenger services of Deutsche Bahn, uniting offers of information, services and entertainment. The same applies to making train reservations direct from the seat on the spot.  

At the same time the intelligence of the components will increasingly gain in importance in rail transport. While manufacturers use the digitization of their products for status detection and fault management by means of internal diagnosis technology, the rail system offers the opportunity to assess technology from the outside: sensors in vehicles make the state of infrastructure (rail, overhead lines) transparent, sensors in infrastructure checkpoints permit the recording and tracking of the state of rolling stock. Here there is great potential for raising efficiency through condition-based maintenance. In the process the data quality can be improved over the recording period. In addition, long-term monitoring grants deeper insights into load-dependent component wear. So there can be targeted optimization of products. This is beneficial for the economic viability of the rail system as a whole. The digitization of the production factors in operation and maintenance is an important precondition for automation in the rail sector. In turn, this makes an important contribution to the railway remaining competitive in the mobility and logistics sector which in future will increasingly function autonomously.  

Uniform technical standards are crucial for smooth travel by rail, especially across national borders. That is why the intelligence of the operational management is a central task for digitization. There are around 20 different train control systems in the EU. This technical fragmentation poses a massive obstacle for the further growth of rail transport in Europe. As things stand, the locomotives and rolling stock must have all the necessary safety systems on board or else they must be completely exchanged at national borders. In future this problem can be solved by the uniform European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS).

Maritime transport

An intelligent maritime transport chain presupposes an intermodal harmonised data base along the whole of the supply chain. Potentials are currently lying dormant in the tracking of freight and containers. The technical possibilities such as GPS or RFID are only being used to a limited extent. Yet information available in good time to the whole supply chain about delays could mean that in future transports could be better coordinated and unnecessary waiting times avoided. At the same time that would be a significant contribution to environmental protection. For example, timely information about the turnaround time of a ship can reduce both costs and emissions by the ship adapting its cruising speed to foreseeable waiting times and thus avoiding unnecessary fuel consumption.


In 1999 the European Commission launched a programme for a uniform European airspace under the title Single European Sky (SES). The goals of the programme are uniform high safety standards in Europe, more airspace capacity for air transport, and flight control organizations which will work more economically than in the past. A uniform European airspace would permit aviation-induced CO2 emissions and flight times to be cut by up to 12 percent. One building block of the SES is the SESAR programme (Single European Sky ATM Research). The outstanding digital developments in the framework of SESAR include the remote monitoring of airports (Remote Tower Operations) and the four-dimensional flight path monitoring (Initial 4D, I 4D). The I 4D system is based on computer-assisted time slot allocations in order to sequence the whole air traffic in the direction of an airport hub. Here time is understood as the fourth dimension.  

The new ground-based data management concept SWIM (System Wide Information Management) now undergoing development and the data link technology (air-ground based data exchange are also factors where digital data transmission processes play a major role. These elements make a major contribution to increasing airspace capacity and environmental protection. The new precision flight approach system GBAS (Ground Based Augmentation System), which could replace the present ILS (Instrument Landing System) based on the evaluation of analogue signals, is also based on the use of digital technology. Thus fuel consumption and noise emissions could be reduced in future.  

In order to improve the operational efficiency of aviation on the ground and to link airports up to the European flight management network, the EU has initiated the Airport Collaborative Decision Making (A-CDM) procedure. A harmonized data base along the whole of the air freight supply chain can enhance efficiency. The goal must be complete digitization of a secure information flow between all participants in the transport chain (from consignor to consignee). Thus the “eCargo” programme is currently aiming at creating seamless digital networking with all participants in the transport chain. The digitized process is scheduled to be standard by the year 2020.   At German airports digital solutions also contribute to improving information and comfort for customers. Apart from partly automated information terminals, such as in Munich, automated boarding card controls and recently completely automated parking systems are employed. Automation of safety checks can also contribute to raising passenger comfort and efficiency. Aerospace Aerospace technology also permits communication by means of language and data. A reliable navigation and tracking system is increasingly becoming a key element for the networking of modes of transport. With Galileo an independent European civil satellite positioning system is now coming into being for use throughout the world. As a so-called “beacon project” of the EU, Galileo constitutes a central element of the “Europe 2020” growth strategy and of European aerospace activity.

Rail transport. ©Plainpicture/FAN
International airport. ©Fotolia/06photo
Container shipping. ©Fotolia/kalafoto