Smart Displays at Train Stations
How SBB, the Swiss Railway, connects different types of screens to provide consistent customer information
SBB, the Swiss Federal Railways
The SBB is the state-owned federal Swiss railway company that provides most of the railway service in Switzerland.
SBB drives a lot of traffic to their website, making it one of the most visited sites in Switzerland.
Together with One Inside, a comprehensive omnichannel solution was built, going beyond web channels: communication with customers happens on mobile and through digital signage as well.
One disruption, multiple communication points
SBB is known for its proverbial punctuality; normally, rail operations run without any major problems or delays. But from time to time, even SBB can experience operational disruptions or interruptions in rail traffic.
When this happens, fast, consistent, and reliable information is needed. Which lines are disrupted or delayed, how long will the inconvenience last, and what travel alternatives are available?
This task is not as easy as one could think. Literally dozens of different communication channels are available and need to be synchronized across different teams, divisions and regions, not to mention the technical differences of equipment sometimes decades old.
Together with One Inside, SBB created a central point for the preparation and distribution of customer information.
The “Content Management System Customer Information” (CMS KI), based on Adobe Experience Manager.
Fast, consistent, and reliable information across all channels
Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) has been used at SBB for many years as the CMS of choice for their website. It was natural to use AEM for customer information in case of malfunctions and to supplement it with AEM Screens functions for controlling displays (digital signage) as well.
As several different display types and backend systems are involved, specific solutions had to be implemented for each interface:
- VIA, the backend system that generates messages in the case of a service disruption, communicates with CMS KI through REST APIs, and pushes service disruption messages directly to the CMS;
- The Smart Information Displays, touch-based kiosks on smaller and medium train stations, request their content through a combination of the proprietary AEM Screens protocols and a REST API;
- The E-Panels, advertisement screens located in larger train stations, pull their content via HTTP requests;
- Finally, the Inspiration Desks, touch-based screens located in travel information centers are powered by AEM Screens and a touch-optimized Angular App.
Due to technological, organizational and other technological constraints, it was clear from the beginning of the project that a “one size fits all” solution was not possible.
However, a new display type is not much different from a new channel, and a basic omnichannel approach fit the bill.
Standardized interfaces and processes and the flexibility of Adobe Experience Manager’s hybrid CMS approach (a mixture between a headless and a traditional approach) are the cornerstones of the project’s success.
SBB is now able to add new screen types or new channels within a few months.
Plus, the use of the same system for the website and CMS KI has an additional, huge advantage: valuable content already available and curated for the website can be reused for other channels as well at minimum of additional costs.