CREATIVE businesses from around the UK pitched their ideas for improving customer experience on the Transport for Wales network this week.
The eight start-ups had been working with Transport for Wales in its Innovation Lab to develop their ideas into products to benefit the rail network.
The “virtual demo day” saw three companies awarded a share of £30,000 to develop their ideas further.
Transport for Wales Rail Services is also planning to take another two ideas forward with further development.
Winning ideas included a new app designed to help customers navigate stations with real-time information about facilities and crowds, a personal passenger information system and a state-of-the-art smart parking solution which aims to minimise congestion and emissions within cities.
Transport for Wales Rail Services Chief Executive Kevin Thomas opened the event and said he was “passionate about nurturing talent and giving people the chance to show there was a better way of doing things”.
He said: “As we navigate these strange times of Covid-19, innovation and new ideas have never been more important.
“To have worked with eight new organisations and see them develop has been inspiring. Now having three projects we will continue developing further to create a product for our customers shows the success of our Labs initiative.
“We’re here to serve our customers and we won’t do that well by just repeating what we did yesterday. We need to challenge the norms, disrupt the thinking and deliver something better.”
The Lab is designed as an accelerator programme for start-up companies to develop a service that can enhance innovation within the railway industry in Wales.
The 12-week programme saw eight start-up companies working with development experts Alt Labs and TfW’s own innovation team on a mission to improve a customer’s experience.
Adam Foster of Alt Labs said The Lab was “a genuine help for both TfW and the start-ups taking part”.
“Over the course of the 12 week programme, 5 start-ups have been able to develop their ideas into final solutions that TfW Rail Services are now looking to implement across the business. The opportunities that the Lab provides for innovative companies are very real and this is evident by the great work that Cohort One has achieved.”
Some of the products developed included passenger information systems, app integration for greener travel, smart benches and more.
As many great services were developed, judging Cohort One proved to be a tough task. After all of the start-ups pitched their ideas, Michael Davies, Innovation and Insight Manager, confirmed the winners:
Brite Yellow Ltd were awarded £5000 to develop their app that improves passenger experience for all. The app is designed to help customers navigate our stations and provides real-time information about facilities and potential crowds. It features the exciting capability of a virtual tour as well as visual, voice and haptic guides to check accessibility points, to guide customers around the station environment and to help identify a passenger assist request.
Fredi Nonyelu from Brite Yellow Ltd said the programme had been “brilliant” and an excellent platform to showcase their innovation.
He said: “We are delighted to win and we share a passion with Transport for Wales to improve customer experiences from before and during their journeys.
“We look forward to the opportunity to provide enhanced information for passengers and railway station staff.”
Passage Way were awarded £10,000 to support their personal passenger information system, My Journey. The system aims to provide customers with up-to-date real time information that includes delays, disruption, parking and bus availability. It does not require download data or any form of registration, making it a swift process for customers to get information at their fingertips through a short URL and QR code.
Chris Johns from Passage Way described the Lab and Accelerator Programme as a “catalyst for innovation”.
He said: “The idea for the My Journey PPIS was ignited by brainstorming sessions with the TfW team. Having an open, honest discussion about the biggest challenges facing their organisation enabled us to look deeper into our own work and how it could be innovated to meet the needs of TfW customers.
“We’re looking forward to building on our conceptual work, to develop truly innovative tech with the flexibility to meet both existing and emerging customer experience challenges.”
CleverCiti were awarded £15,000 to implement their state-of-the-art smart parking solution which aims to minimise congestion and emissions within cities. Part of CleverCiti’s research discovered that 85% of the public agreed that they would be more likely to use the train if they could see unoccupied car parking spaces digitally. Therefore, CleverCiti are looking to use artificial intelligence (AI) in overhead sensors that provides local parking guidance and parking management analytics. Through an app, customers and colleagues will be able to digitally check if spaces are available and where to find them.
Chris Heddle of CleverCiti described the Lab as “a rare opportunity” to gain insight into railway operations.
He said: “The Transport for Wales Lab was a great opportunity to get within an organisation and discover areas of pain that we could potential solve. The programme allowed us to think and innovate in a much more focused way as we had access not only to all of TfW staff but their customers. This is key to understanding why there is pain and meant we could adapt our offering to meet the exact needs of TfW and their customers. It was great to pitch as part of the Demo Day all be it virtually, but it is always great to promote Cleverciti’s products to a large audience. We are absolutely thrilled to be selected as winners and we can’t wait to get started and continue our partnership with Transport for Wales.”
To watch the demo day back in full click here.