Traincomms News from BWCS

Through the Looking Glass – Swiss Company Cuts the Need for On-Train Repeaters?

Thursday 10 Feb 2022

A Swiss technology company says it can make train windows permeable to mobile communications without the need to replace them. Nu Glass, which is a spin-off from the Swiss Federal University of Technology, claims its new portable laser system can transform a train pane in 15 minutes and enable 4G and 5G signals to better connect with on-board devices – thereby eliminating the need for costly on-board repeaters.

A spokesperson for the company confirmed that researchers have recently successfully tested the system on a Swiss train.

Nu glass, says it has effectively produced a mobile version of an established laser treatment that engraves microscopic lines into the metal coating of train windows, thereby enabling wireless signals to pass through. Until now, this had to be done prior to the glass being fitted. However, the Swiss company’s system can carve out a signal opening in 15 minutes on a train window, without the need to remove the pane.

Luc Burnier, the founder and CEO of nu glass believes the procedure will help eliminate the need for on-board repeaters – which can require up to 700 watts of power.

Of course, this is not the first time that companies have focused on train windows as a location for dynamic technological change.

The German branch of ad giant BBDO once trialled a system that would play adverts “directly into weary commuters’ heads” as they leaned up against the glass. The trial, which took place on the Munich - North Rhine-Westphalia line, generated adverts and passenger information if the traveller’s head came into contact with the glass. The drawbacks, of course, included startled passengers suddenly hearing voices in their heads and others banging their foreheads against the glass to retrieve an update on the train’s progress.

Speaking at the time, a BBDO official said, somewhat optimistically, “Passengers got surprised and enjoyed this new form of advertising” adding that they had “highly encouraging first reactions by commuters and our client.” However, there are currently no plans to roll out the talking window service across German trains.

Other companies have trialled train windows and on-board partitions which can display adverts and passenger information and even video content on them. One such pioneer, Vision Systems, offers a dimmable divider with an integrated information display that gives travel information informational or promotional content. This system offers privacy between classes too.

Israeli company Oran Safety Glass (OSG) has gone a step further and is currently trialling what it calls ScreeneX with a bus and rail operator in its domestic market. The system is essentially a digital LCD screen embedded into toughened, double-glazed glass which is usable as a window, an interior glass partition, or glass door. OSG says it is resistant to long-term vibrations, jolts as well as fluctuations in temperature and contact with passengers.

The company believes that train operators could use the glass to display customisable information such as timetable and connection information as the train approaches a station, destination information, as well as news and advertising. It adds that there is also scope to show movies and other entertainment on long-distance journeys (providing the passengers can agree amongst themselves which film to watch).


Track-side connectivity and on-board WiFi provision will be the main subjects of this year’s Traincomms Conference.  

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