Start ups work with London Midland

Technology challenge to improve rail passenger experiences.

Railway group London Midland has brought together ten of the UK’s hottest technology start-ups to work as partners in developing solutions that benefit passengers’ rail experiences.

These start-ups include coders, white-hat hackers, big data analysts, and computer scientists, who have all have been put through a rigorous selection process to prove that they have what it takes to bring technology-based solutions to improve modern rail travel.

London Midland runs 1,300 trains every day and carries 200,000 daily passengers – the challenges that their passengers have raised have been captured in real-time through on-platform and in carriage research, as well as through the National Rail Passenger Survey. The findings of this combined research have been presented before the start-ups and they are challenged with using technology to address the specific points raised (like travel delay compensation) and create tailored solutions that will improve passengers’ travel experience.

Based at London Midland’s Labs as part of Innovation Birmingham’s Serendip Smart City Incubator programme, they will be collectively working towards solving passenger issues to ensure better journeys and can easier travel, implementing a smart use of technology to achieve this.

The selection process to secure a space at The Labs was a gruelling one, with over 100 start-ups initially applying. These were then whittled down through a paper-sift to 30 who were invited to pitch their ideas in front of an innovation panel over three days. Following several rounds of pitching and interrogation about viability of concepts, a final group of ten were then selected to take residency in The Labs. The successful cohort of start-ups includes a queueing avoidance app, a rapid response passenger compensation platform, facial recognition technology, a sensory messaging service for the hearing impaired, and a travel company that specialises in providing trips for disabled people.

The London Midland Labs is a unique entity for the rail sector. It forms part of the train operator’s ongoing commitment to investing in innovative technologies that have tangible and timely passenger benefit. The Labs Accelerator Programme has been pioneered and created to continue to deliver on London Midland’s commitment to bringing it closer to the communities it serves through the smart use of technology.

This latest innovation follows a sustained and ongoing period of investment that includes improving security on trains, new ticketing facilities, network-wide station improvements, state of the art CCTV systems, cross collaboration with British Transport Police to bring rail pastors on journeys, and has led London Midland being named the ‘most improved organisation’ in the latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI).

This diverse group of ten start-ups will be based at London Midland’s Lab at Innovation Birmingham Campus’ flagship iCentrum building for six months. During this time they will take part in a structured twelve-week scheme to help them develop solutions for rail, as well as receiving support on how to grow their own organisations. As part of the programme, they will benefit from free workshop space, ongoing mentoring, access to London Midland’s analytics and travel data, have one to one sessions with proven and established technology entrepreneurs, and have access to hard and software resources.

All of this support will be given free of charge and the bank of experts available is all a start-up needs: from professional services, to intellectual property, and marketing consultants. This bank of experts will be on hand to meet the needs of the start-ups and help ideas flourish allowing them to go from concept to creation at pace.

The programme culminates with the start-ups taking part in a demonstration day in front of assorted decision makers. This is where the Labs Accelerator participants will be given the chance to present their progress and pitch their ideas to an audience of investors, London Midland stakeholders and existing suppliers, media figures, and key influencers from the start-up community.

Ian McLaren, London Midland’s Finance and Contracts Director, and head of the innovation board, explains: “Technology is a positively disruptive force and using it to improve our passengers’ journeys is part of our commitment to doing everything we can to make their rail experience better. These start-ups are a diverse group that share common traits – they are all terrifyingly brilliant and the projects they are working on are incredible. We’re immensely proud to be working with this group and can’t wait to see what they will produce and how it will improve journeys. This is an exciting chapter for the next generation of entrepreneurs who want to come together and build a modern day railway.”

Dr David Hardman MBE, CEO of Innovation Birmingham, said: “We have experienced a fantastic response to the Serendip Smart City Incubator, with many of our start-ups across other quarters having already secured funding, obtained access to key markets and received useful mentoring from our commercial partners. We are thrilled to welcome the latest cohort to London Midland’s Labs and look forward to supporting them on the next leg of their business journey.”

Who’s who at the London Midland Labs?

KOMPAS is a new take on city exploration. It has been created to save users time, by presenting tailored suggestions, relevant reviews and a hassle-free way of getting people from A to B whilst exploring a city. It uses use smart algorithms and deep learning to understand the user as an individual, and subsequently builds recommendations based on these personal interests.

RailRepay is a compensation platform built specifically for consumers and the rail industry to improve the consumer experience and enable more efficient and accurate processing of valid delay or cancellation compensation claims. It means that customers can claim quicker, and rail companies can eradicate fraud by professional criminals.

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Sphere is a machine-learning messaging platform which allows commuters to communicate with nearby transportation services through their social media channels. A passenger can talk to Facebook and ask what time their train is, what delays there are and which are the most effective travel routes.

TransReport: an app allows passenger users to report faults to travel companies in real-time and stay informed about progress with regard to fixing the fault. This is done by the passenger sending an image of the fault/issue via the app and allows them to have direct communication with the travel provider.

QShy is an innovative take on mapping. Its software measures and manages pedestrian traffic using device and system data, and complex algorithms, and can suggest alternate routes for passengers to avoid lengthy queues, or crowded areas.

Popwork is an app that brings together and offers a network of beautifully designed on demand, pop-up pods that act as meeting rooms or touchdown space – all accessed through a smartphone and easily controlled.

Touchbyte is an anonymous customer footfall, analytics, recognition and validation software system that uses the latest, cutting edge face recognition algorithms.

Warwick Analytics produces automated predictive analytics software. This means that analytics predictions that would normally take a data scientist months of labour to compile, can now take minutes. This will save on key investment and resource.

Limitless Travel provides incredible holidays, tours, accommodation and travel for everyone. They also provide anybody who has a disability a bespoke travel offering with support, tips, resource and logistical help.