Intelligent light rail window enters field test!

Research results on the SmartMMI project under the leadership of HKA are made available to the public

One glance at the light rail window – and the passenger is already informed about both the passing museum and his or her connection. This information will be displayed on the future semi-transparent display window, the SmartWindow. What sounded like science fiction in 2017 has largely become reality in the SmartMMI research project led by Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences (the HKA) – in a dual-system light rail vehicle operated by Albtal-Verkehrs-Gesellschaft mbH (AVG).

In the currently ongoing field test, the SmartMMI system developed in the project is being tested in consideration of the specifications for the corona pandemic. For this purpose, the SmartMMI app was made available to the public and the SmartWindow was installed in a dual-system light rail vehicle of the AVG. Passengers can interact with the SmartWindow and have desired information displayed on the window, for example the route network map, connection information, or points of interest along the rail route, insofar as these have already been included in the SmartMMI system in terms of data.

Within a six-month field test phase, the applications will be evaluated until spring 2022. The aim of these user studies is to find out in which situations and under which circumstances passengers interact with the SmartWindow. They will thus provide information about the potential and future viability of such interactive passenger information systems.


Institut für Ubiquitäre Mobilitätssysteme IUMS
Institut für Ubiquitäre Mobilitätssysteme IUMS

“With SmartMMI, we want to make transparent display technologies a tangible reality for public transport passengers. Up-to-date and highly relevant information will then find its way directly to passengers – and make public transport more attractive with digital technologies,” says Professor Schlegel, who is also coordinating the overall project as head of the Institute for Ubiquitous Mobility Systems at HKA.

The research project “Model- and Context-based Mobility Information on Smart Public Displays and Mobile Devices in Public Transport” (SmartMMI) with a project volume of 2.86 million euros was funded by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) as part of the mFUND innovation initiative from October 2017 to June 2021. ANNAX GmbH, AVG mbh, MENTZ GmbH and USU Software AG were involved as partners. Verkehrsbetriebe Karlsruhe and Karlsruher Verkehrsverbund also supported the project.

With the goal of further developing public transportation and providing passengers with a “Mobility Experience,” the SmartMMI project focuses on improving the provision of information to passengers along their mobility chain. The aim is to provide passengers with situation-specific information about disruptions, changes in planning, tourist destinations or services available along the route. The field test currently underway marks the start of testing of all the systems developed for this purpose.

Institut für Ubiquitäre Mobilitätssysteme IUMS
Institut für Ubiquitäre Mobilitätssysteme IUMS

As part of the SmartMMI project, the five project partners from industry and research developed new technologies ranging from data acquisition and data integration to data visualization. The project focused on researching and testing context-sensitive data provision of mobility data on specially developed intelligent semi-transparent display screens that can be installed in public transport vehicles. Furthermore, it is possible to couple the personal mobile device with the intelligent display panels. The SmartMMI app was developed for this purpose and enables personalized passenger information. It can also be used to bring trips planned on the smartphone into the SmartMMI vehicle and thus activate a travel guide on the large and interactive display in the vehicle. It is also possible to take along journeys calculated on the SmartWindow with the aid of the mobile app. This means that transfers can be managed without any problems.

To this end, the project partners developed new technologies for collecting and integrating various information from different data sources. In doing so, the consortium relied on the use of Big Data and Smart Data technologies and the integration of specific public transport data based on the latest standards co-developed in-house with Open Data and data from third-party providers. The data is semantically enhanced to enable intelligent integration and, above all, selection of the relevant data – in other words, “understanding” by systems as well. Contextual information that describes the current situation of the passengers is used for this purpose, thereby enabling the system to select data tailored to the situation and to prepare it in a way that is appropriate for the user and the situation. For example, sensitive data is displayed in a suitable format on the user’s smartphone, while general, supplementary information is displayed on the vehicle’s partially transparent SmartWindow. Thus, this larger surface can be used for more details and indications superimposed on reality. Visualization concepts can be used, among other things, to provide additional information about the route for a passenger in addition to his or her personal route, for example, about the weather or tourist attractions.

In the project, semantic connectors were developed that enhance public transport data and optimally link it with other data relevant along the travel chain. With the help of three prototypes, an intelligent travel information system was researched and developed to provide passengers with the best possible support in every situation during their public transport journey. In this way, the project makes a fundamental contribution to further developing the attractiveness of public transport as an ecological, time-saving and inexpensive alternative to automobile transport.

The introduction of such SmartMMI windows depends crucially on the receipt of further funding. The next step is to develop a SmartMMI window suitable for series production as part of a further research project.

About the BMVI’s mFUND
Within the framework of mFUND, the BMVI has been funding data-based research and development projects for digital and networked mobility 4.0 since 2016. Project funding is supplemented by active professional networking between stakeholders from politics, industry, administration and research and by the provision of open data on the mCLOUD portal. For more information, visit

SmartMMI project results summarized at a glanze

The video shows the project idea, current project results and the prototypical implementation of these results in the railroad simulator. Currently the following services are available for application:

  • displaing of the current position, the next stops and which connections are reached,
  • calculation of the route via the map view or via the route network plan,
  • transferring the personal travel plan from the passenger’s SmartMMI app to SmartWindow and taking a connection created on SmartWindow with them.

Currently we are developing Augmented Reality applications. Semi-transparent displays provide the possibility to show information about surrounding sights, such as the pyramid on the market place and the Karlsruhe Castle, while passing by. This way, current exhibitions and events as well as offers in retail can be displayed. But just take a look for yourself…

SmartMMI presented on virtual IT-TRANS 2020

The SmartMMI research project “Model and context-based mobility information on smart public displays and mobile devices in public transport” was presented at the virtual trade exhibition IT-TRANS 2020 as part of a round table on December 3, 2020. In addition to the project presentation and the presentation of conducted user studies and their results, a lively discussion took place on how semi-transparent display panels can be used to strengthen the local retail trade. The international trade exhibition and conference took place between December 1 and 3 for the first time in online format. For all those who could not be there live, please find a video of the presentation below.

SmartMMI at the kick-off for the Baden-Württemberg Institute for Sustainable Mobility (BWIM)

On October 27, Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences (Hochschule Karlsruhe – Technik und Wirtschaft) opened the Baden-Württemberg Institute for Sustainable Mobility (BWIM), the only one of its kind in the state, together with Minister of Science Theresia Bauer and Minister of Transport Winfried Hermann. Under the motto “Together we’re simply better on the move”, the institute aims to make an important contribution to sustainable mobility and thus to climate protection in the state. The SmartMMI demonstrator and concepts from the current project were presented at the kick-off events.

(Photo: TOBIAS SCHWERDT) Minister of Science Theresia Bauer during the mobility speed dating with Sarina Pfründer, Mayor of Sulzfeld

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SmartMMI with four scientific contributions at the HCII 2020

SmartMMI presents 4 (four) scientific papers at the virtual international conference Human Computer Interaction International (HCII) 2020. The HCI is one of the largest conferences in the field of Human Computer Interaction. Due to the corona pandemic, this year’s conference did not take place in Copenhagen between 19 and 24 July as planned, but for the first time in its history completely online. The four scientific contributions reflect the current research focus of the project SmartMMI.

The evaluation of people’s mobility is crucial for understanding traffic, traffic security and the effects of traffic planning. In this paper, we present our toolbox for analyzing and evaluating aspects of different mobility modes. Some of these tools support the participation of road users in the analysis. The tools either can be applied to implement analyses for planning purposes or for the evaluation of implemented measures. Our goal is to improve the understanding of mobility in all its facets and ultimately to increase user comfort, safety and the overall user acceptance in urban mobility.

Passengers in public transport expect passenger information to be exact, timely and appropriate to their situation. Therefore, future passenger information systems should adapt to the passenger’s context as precisely as possible. In this paper, we present a context model and describe our architecture for an adaptive, multi-device passenger information system. We will also present adaptation scenarios that show the application of our context model.

User studies to evaluate public transport systems are often hard to set up. While field tests provide important insight into realworld usability of public transport systems, they are also complex and expensive. Especially in early development stages of public transport related systems, field tests are not appropriate. However, usability of public transport systems is often depending on “real-life” context factors that are hard to reproduce in lab-based user studies. We have developed a mockup of a tram or train compartment that can be flexibly used to create a public transport experience in user studies. In this paper we will describe our experiences and recurring challenges with user studies in public transport, the design and set-up of our mockup, as well as give an insight into its applications in studies we conducted and lessons we learned.

Adaptive passenger information for an enhanced mobility experience may be the next step towards a smart public transport. In our research project, we have developed a multi-device evaluation approach for adaptive passenger information systems of mobile public displays. An adaptive passenger information system needs to be aware of the passenger’s context. In order to fulfill this requirement, we use the passenger’s personal devices like smartphones or smart watches as context sources. In this paper, we describe our approach of a multidevice passenger information system evaluation focusing on privacy aspects. We present three different methods of pseudonyms that were used to visually link the personal information on passenger’s private devices with the displayed information on the public display. In addition, we report on our evaluation results from a user study evaluating the acceptance and the intelligibility of the used visual pseudonyms.

SmartMMI @mFUND exchange of expertise on passenger data and information

(Foto: Annette Hillebrand, WIK)

On 12 March the “mFUND exchange of expertise: passenger data and information” took place in the DB mindbox in Berlin. Under the title “SmartMMI – Passenger Information PLUS in Public Transport”, University of Applied Sciences Karlsruhe presented the project plan and the current progress of SmartMMI to the participants of the mFUND accompanying research. Together, the participants of the expert exchange discussed challenges and best practice examples for data acquisition and data protection in public transport. The exchange networks mFUND projects of similar topics and different project statuses, thus the individual research projects benefit from mutual experiences.

SmartMMI choosen by BMVI for the mFUND video series 2019/2020

The smart light rail window of the future!

A smart light rail window where passengers can find out where to interchange, whether their travel is running like planed or whether there is a disrubtion. Our SmartMMI project, sponsored by the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI), was selected by the mFUND video series for funding in 2018/2019.

SmartMMI passenger cabin in the Messe Karlsruhe magazine of Baden TV

The SmartMMI research project was presented in the Messe Karlsruhe magazine on Baden TV. Our passenger cabin equipped with the smart light rail window received special interest. This passenger cabin will be exhibited at the international conference and trade fair IT-TRANS from March 3 to 5, 2020 (from minute 7:45).

User study on the usability of icons used on SmartWindow

On Thursday, January 16, 2020, a user study on the usability of the icons used on the SmartWindow took place in the IUMS laboratory. The aim was to find out the understanding and usability of our current interaction and visualization concepts with regard to the use of the icons on the SmartWindow and on the smartphone. The evaluation method “Card-Sorting” from the user experience design was used for this study.

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