Whether on the ICE or Intercity: the new ICE Portal allows passengers easy access to an extensive and free range of services and entertainment with their laptops, tablets or smartphones. As soon as the passenger connects to the Wi-Fi on board the train, the ICE Portal can be used in the installed browser through ICEportal.de. In addition to helpful DB services, there is also an extensive entertainment programme with films and series, news, audio books, podcasts and games. "The idea behind the ICE Portal is to make our passengers happy and turn a simple train journey into a carefree travel experience," says Daniel Rehkämper, head of Digital Partner Management at DB Fernverkehr, where he is responsible for the ICE Portal. "We want to play our part in getting people to drive less and choose our long-distance trains instead. That's why we are consistently developing the ICE Portal in line with customer needs in the context of the railway."
One new highlight is the Connectivity Radar, which shows the internet speed likely to be available along the route. Every passenger is likely to have experienced fluctuating internet quality during their journey. The new service shows the passenger the state of the connection on the route and displays the corresponding quality status. This enables passengers to better assess current and future internet speeds and to plan their time on the train as best they possibly can, for example if they want to avoid losing a connection during an important call. One brand new feature of the ICE Portal is the Komfort Check-in: passengers can check in themselves with their ticket from their seat. By clicking the Komfort Check-in button on the start page, passengers are taken directly to the web check-in.
Pure entertainment – even without internet
The ICE Portal also offers plenty of entertainment. During the journey, passengers can watch films and series from a wide range of offers free of charge on their mobile devices. The magazine kiosk offers an extensive selection of digital newspapers and magazines. There are also many audio books for children or adults, language courses and numerous podcasts. And this content has to be available at all times. The greatest technical challenge lies in the fact that the system is on a high-speed train, and internet is not always available. "We don't have a normal homepage, we run on a train," says Lars Erbelding. The product owner is responsible for the technical implementation of the ICE Portal at DB Systel. "The content has to be available – whether internet is there or not." The solution: around 90 percent of the content displayed via the ICE Portal is stored on hard disk drives located on the train. Even if there is no internet, content can be accessed without jerks in display. A large number of updates are simply loaded "over the air" as part of an established process. This also applies to real-time information.
"We want to make the ICE Portal even more widely known, easier to find and more attractive," says Daniel Rehkämper. "That's why we are already working on further additions and approaches, whereby we always try to see things from the customer's point of view. Our passengers have reason to be excited and can look forward to innovative services." This work is not only about continuing to develop the technology and content: we are also constantly working on the design and guiding our users so that passengers can continue to use the service easily and intuitively. Access to the ICE Portal also has to be as easy as possible for our passengers. They currently access the system via the "Captive Portal", which appears on the display of the mobile device as soon as the passenger connects to the on-board Wi-Fi. In addition to general route information, the information screens on the trains regularly display references to content on the ICE Portal.
In its five-year history, the ICE Portal has already won various awards, including three design awards. However, Daniel Rehkämper is not resting on his laurels: "We are already working on making access even easier, thus increasing the reach to our digital services and inspiring even more passengers." True to the slogan: "Log in. Check in. Relax."