INNOVATION

New technology, engine of digital transformation

SNCB is experimenting with AI and chatbots and the provincial company Westtoer is using big data for the coastal crowd barometer. How do you seize the opportunities of the digital transformation? Innovation strategist Jo Caudron unveils his SUPER-change model.

SNCB is experimenting with AI and chatbots

SNCB establishes the Innovation Lab. The lab analyzes trends and tests IoT and data analytics through innovative projects. “Flexibility and connectivity are the challenges of the mobility sector,” says Stefan Costeur, Head of Innovation Lab. Focus on the passenger is the common theme in every Innovation Lab activity.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE PREDICTS CROWDS

Focus on the passenger is the common theme in every Innovation Lab activity. That was highlighted recently at the MoveSafe app launch. The app informs passengers about the expected train occupancy rate. MoveSafe relies on historical data and current variables to predict crowd density.

“What few passengers are aware of, is that train conductors forecast crowding for each journey and pass that information on. We collect these data in a huge data lake, enriched with current factors such as the weather forecast, infrastructure works, train composition, etc. Smart algorithms and artificial intelligence then take that data and generate an accurate estimate.”

MOBILE DATA ANALYSIS COUNTS PASSENGERS

The Innovation Lab is researching opportunities in the main Brussels stations for passenger counting. Sensors, IoT devices, Wi-Fi sensors, and Proximus mobile data provide the data for the passenger count. Measurements take place in the station, on trains, and throughout the entire journey. “Mapping passenger flows promotes safety on our trains and in our stations,” said Stefan.

At Brussels Midi station, the data is visualized in a retail dashboard. Thanks to the dashboard, the station department gains insight into the ratio between the number of station visitors and the number of people in the stores.

CHATBOTS FOR YOUNG PASSENGERS

“We launched a test project for the sale of Go Unlimited in 2018. It’s a flat-rate ticket that provides young people with access to unlimited travel for a set period. “We sold Go Unlimited directly via a chatbot on Facebook Messenger,” Stefan recalled. “In the meantime, the chatbot has evolved too. It answers frequently asked questions like “Can I take my bike on the train?” and provides real-time insight into our timetable.

STEFAN COSTEUR

is SNCB’s Digital Sales & Marketing Manager and Head of Innovation Lab. The Innovation Lab is a cross-cutting, autonomous department that focuses on innovation.


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The National Railway Company of Belgium SNCB is the national railway company of Belgium. SNCB transported more than 253 million passengers in 2019. The Belgian rail network covers 3,500 kilometers, of which 2,998 km are electrified.

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Coastal crowd barometer gets over 1.9 million clicks

When COVID-19 hit Belgium, the Westtoer provincial company took action. Liesbet Billiet, Coastal Regional Manager: “To make it possible for people to have a safe time at the coast, a real-time indication of crowd density was needed.”

PRECISION MEASUREMENTS

Proximus assisted Westtoer with defining all the relevant parameters. Together, they developed a precision crowd barometer. “We weren’t just interested in recording the real-time density per municipality, but also hoped to gain insight at the zonal level. It was essential for the graphic interface to be accessible to policymakers and tourists. The color-coded dashboards did the job perfectly,” says Darline Vandaele, Westtoer Knowledge Center Team Manager.

“WE MANAGED TO CONNECT POLICYMAKER AND TOURIST NEEDS WITH A SINGLE TOOL.”

LIESBET BILLIET

Coastal Regional Manager at Westtoer

HALF OF VACATION-GOERS CHECK THE BAROMETER

There were already more than 1.9 million barometer users by the end of August, with peak days of 70,000 to 80,000 clicks. “A VISITFLANDERS survey shows that half of Belgians who regularly go on holiday are familiar with our barometer. The tool has definitely contributed to our coast's positive and dynamic image,” explained Darline.

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Westtoer is an autonomous provincial company with about eighty people on staff. It is at the crossroads of the Flemish level and key stakeholders like municipalities and the private sector. Westtoer seeks to bring those players involved in the tourism and recreation sector together.

"THE TOOL HAS CONTRIBUTED TO OUR COAST'S POSITIVE AND DYNAMIC IMAGE.”

DARLINE VANDAELE,

Westtoer Knowledge Center Team Manager

True digital transformation according to transformation strategist Jo Caudron

Jo: “True transformation only comes about when an organization succeeds in adapting its business model to current and future social trends. Think, for example, of the music industry, where we no longer buy records, but subscribe to a streaming service."

SUPER-CHANGE MODEL

Jo uses the acronym SUPER for companies to deal with the digital transformation.

  • See: look beyond your familiar surroundings. Those who only base themselves on trade shows and magazines from their sector miss out on the bigger picture.
  • Understand: estimate the impact of change on your business.
  • Plan: get on with it and get to work.
  • Enable: put all the pawns, people, and technologies in the right place.
  • Run: the last step is to execute everything.

⟶ Read the interview with Jo Caudron

JO CAUDRON

Jo founded Scopernia. He advises global players on the opportunities and pitfalls of the digital transformation.

ThinkThings: event about IoT, data analytics and innovation

Westtoer, Innovation Lab of SNCB and transformation strategist Jo Caudron were speakers at ThinkThings 2020. This year the annual event took place virtually. ThinkThings inspires with new ideas, innovative solutions and shows the immense potential of IoT and data analytics for your business. Curious who else shared the spotlights?

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