DB Call a Bike: IoT for Efficient Bike Sharing

06.04.2022 by Pauline Batzer

A woman uses Call a Bike, Deutsche Bahn's bikesharing service

Call a Bike, Deutsche Bahn’s bike sharing service, uses LTE-M SIM cards and Telekom’s IoT Solution Optimizer to optimize its offering and product development.

If you attach importance to sustainable mobility in Germany, you cannot ignore Deutsche Bahn. Over long distances its trains use green electricity to take passengers all over the country. What may impair the rail traveler’s environmental performance is the “last mile” to or from the train station. Take a cab or drive to the station in a car with a conventional combustion engine and you are sure to generate harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

In order not to neglect environmental protection on their way to the station travelers in many cities and localities can use Call a Bike, the bike sharing service of Deutsche Bahn Connect GmbH. Its bikes take you sustainably to the station or anywhere else in town – the supermarket, the theater or to work. Tailbacks? Not a problem for cyclists. This is where Deutsche Bahn can offer an integrated, eco-friendly, end-to-end mobility service.

The core of the bike sharing service is the smart lock with the aid of which bikes are hired by smartphone. To hire a bike, users used to have to generate a code on their smartphone and key it into the display on the handlebar. That was partly because communication between the bike and the backend at DB Call a Bike was based on 2G and 4G. For better wireless technology in the new generation of locks DB Call a Bike called on the services of Deutsche Telekom.

Green Mobility With State-Of-The-Art Network Technology

The bikes first had to be equipped with future-proof connectivity. DB Call a Bike had already installed the new design of the backend and the electronic locks with their built-in SIM cards and communications module. The network technology had to be so powerful that hiring and returning bikes took just seconds. It also had to be as energy-efficient as possible. DB Call a Bike and Telekom opted for LTE-M Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) technology. LTE-M can process optimally the swift movement of bikes between radio stations. Switching from one radio or base station to the next presents no problems and the low latency of LTE-M when compared with, say, NB-IoT is is in this use case an advantage.

Optimized User Experience and Well-Known Customers

Bike hiring is faster and easier than ever. LTE-M enables bikes to be unlocked in next to no time. That is also partly due to the newly developed backend, which in performance is an improvement on the previous system. Hiring is easy. Users simply scan the bike’s QR code with their smartphone’s camera to unlock the bike by means of the app. Returning the bike also takes no time at all.

Thanks to the high level of energy efficiency the communication modules can communicate continuously with the backend while the bike is on the move. An LED on the bike indicates to users when they stop whether or not they are in an authorized parking area. Give it a try first? Complicated, may need to be repeated more than once if you want to return the bike to a drop-off place, and no longer necessary thanks to LTE-M. Improvements of this kind are designed to make Call A Bike appeal to users, and environmental and climate protection stand to benefit in the long term.

Along with various cities and municipalities Deutsche Bahn has been able to convince the automobile and motorcycle manufacturer BMW of the advantages of its bike sharing service. BMW uses the bikes as a works fleet in the public space, enabling employees to travel quickly, easily and sustainably from one deployment location to another.

How Connectivity Optimizes Business Processes

LTE-M technology also offers DB Call a Bike itself future benefits. Combined with other factors such as the solar panels that are now a feature of the bikes, low energy consumption ensures that the bikes less frequently need to be collected and recharged. They can be used for longer, increasing value creation and cutting running costs. Throughout the entire project Telekom has provided DB Call a Bike with comprehensive support to ensure the interplay of components as part of the new connectivity.

Green IoT: Sustainability Meets Profitability

The bike sharing provider also plans to use the IoT Solution Optimizer, a cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution, to plan and implement IoT projects optimally. DB Call a Bike can use it to trial new developments on a digital twin, a virtual image of a real object. How long do different types of battery last in different hardware constellations? How do different reception conditions affect energy consumption?

These tests can show the bike sharing provider which changes or new technologies are promising. If, for example, a battery’s service life does not meet requirements in certain framework conditions the company can rectify matters before launching the real hardware and thereby avoid bad investment and waste of resources. In this way the IoT Solution Optimizer – like LTE-M connectivity – is a Green IoT technology. And Deutsche Bahn’s sustainable mobility concept combines environmental protection, profitability and an optimal user experience.

Green IoT with Deutsche Telekom

Sustainable mobility is not the only area in which Telekom Green IoT solutions are used. In transportation and logistics, for example, IoT sensors help monitor sensitive or perishable goods. If the temperature rises too high in a truck’s cargo space and foodstuffs may perish, the system sounds the alarm. In farming the Internet of Things now helps to optimize irrigation, which is especially important in parts of the world with low rainfall. A Spanish company, Hidroconta, has paved the way: its smart and connected plantation irrigation systems enable farms to use water targetedly and thereby sustainably. That and many other use cases demonstrate how technological progress and environmental protection join forces in many Telekom solutions.


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Pauline Batzer
Pauline Batzer

Project Manager IoT

Since 2015, Pauline has been passionate about the variety of the IoT world. She has gained a lot of experience with the Internet of Things from different perspectives by working with customers, partners, and start-up companies. For the Telekom IoT blog she writes about technological trends, products, and innovations in the Internet of Things which are implemented in different industries.