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