Wide range of GIS-based smart services at SBB

Map-based information can enhance and simplify our experience of the world when we are at work and on vacation, allowing us, for instance, to anticipate and learn more about a point of interest on our train trip or learn more about a location where we will soon be deployed? Such information is even more helpful when it can be updated in addition to being easy to access. Together with EBP, Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) has developed a platform for geographic information systems (GIS platform) to enable a wide range of smart app-based services.

The Gotthard Panorama Express app

The Gotthard Panorama Express app lets travelers track their progress throughout the train route from Zurich to Lugano. Points of interest are automatically highlighted on the map as travelers approach them. A click is then all it takes to access more information about them.

“The entire work process runs digitally and far more efficiently with the new app.”

Efficient, digital work process

The track management team at SBB monitors and maintains the vegetation along SBB’s network of tracks. The team needs to know what trees will need cutting and the proper season to carry out the work. This used to be done by conducting field inspections and then transferring handwritten records to Excel spreadsheets back at the office. The new app digitizes the entire work process, making it far more efficient. Team members use the app to quickly and conveniently evaluate the vegetation at the respective locations, detecting all critical areas at a glance. Maintenance measures and implementation priorities are determined at the office and orders are then forwarded directly to contracting companies.

Nicole Sulzberger, Stephan Heuel and Rafael Brunner of the core EBP team which is working together with SBB to develop the company-wide GIS

All services based on one GIS platform

Both the Gotthard Panorama Express app and the track maintenance app are based on maps, with information provided by a GIS platform maintained by SBB, which also supports numerous other applications used for various purposes. “The need to seamlessly integrate the GIS platform into SBB’s existing IT landscape proved to be a special challenge,” according to Rafael Brunner, Team Leader of Systems Development. “The GIS platform not only enables tourists to track travel routes, it enables SBB employees to exchange data more easily and to make calculations and share the results with others.” Work processes for the track maintenance team are thereby completely digitalized, just as they are for numerous other employees at SBB who are responsible for the maintenance of greenways, trains, track infrastructure, railway stations and buildings. Moreover, many of the companies that work with SBB also profit from the system, not to mention SBB’s customers. SBB provides numerous map-based IT applications to all of these various target groups. The new GIS and its applications meet all of their needs, regardless of whether they use Android or iOS, or whether they use desktops, tablets or smartphones, online or offline.

“The GIS platform at SBB also supports numerous other applications.”

EBP’s role as a strategic partner to SBB

With crucial support from EBP, SBB has been developing and refining its enterprise-wide GIS since 2016. EBP has helped SBB deploy the GIS in many different business areas by defining requirements and developing unique applications for various user groups. The mobile app for the Gotthard Panorama Express and the track maintenance app are among many other examples. “EBP won the contract through a public call to tender thanks to its many years of experience in the conceptualization, creation and operation of IT infrastructures for GIS’s,” explains Stephan Heuel, Team Leader for IT Consulting.

While the system is primarily based on ArcGIS platform technology provided by the company Esri, based in Germany, it also makes use of open source software and Safe Software’s FME.

The project team

Stephan Heuel is a partner at EBP and is in charge of the company’s IT consulting unit. With many years of experience in the development, implementation and operation of map-based services and applications, Heuel knows how essential it is to meet the needs of customers.

Rafael Brunner manages the software development unit at EBP. Working in close consultation with EBP’s clients, Brunner creates complex system architectures and oversees their implementation. As a certified inspection expert in the area of applications development, Brunner has also played a valuable role in the training of tomorrow’s software developers.

As a software developer, Nicole Sulzberger is in her element when creating and implementing software solutions, whether for web, desktop or mobile devices. Clients’ wishes and requirements are central to Sulzberger’s work. She also embraces the challenge that comes with new technologies and is currently delving into applications involving mixed and virtual reality.