NeoMesh-enabled Smart Seat to innovate train operation and maintenance

German startup Attensys has designed a Smart Seat that gives train operators valuable information for optimizing daily operations and maintenance. NeoMesh modules connect the Attensys Smart Seat wirelessly to the train’s on-board system.

Recently chosen as a winner by the Deutsche Bahn tech innovation initiative DB Mindbox, the Attensys Smart Seat is attracting a lot of interest from train operators across Germany.

The centrepiece of the Attensys Smart Seat solution is a seat cushion with a built-in multi-purpose sensor. The sensor reveals if the seat is occupied, and it can distinguish between an adult and a child, and between big or small luggage items. Also, it can tell if the seat is wet or has been vandalized. Built-in NeoMesh radio modules send data from each seat sensor through the network to the cloud.

Multiple applications

The Smart Seat allows train operators to give passengers an overview over free seats. Also, maintenance personnel can be alerted if seats have been vandalized or otherwise need attention, and train staff can block reservations for damaged seats until they’re ready to be used again.

Also, train staff can receive an alert, if people or bags are on board the train outside service hours. Moreover, maintenance can be planned according to the use profile of every single seat, so that seat cushions can be changed when needed, thus avoiding unnecessary expenditure. If a seat is vandalized train staff will be notified immediately and can take action, or combine the alert with CCTV footage to get the full picture of what has happened.

Maximum robustness

Jochen Treitel CEO of Attensys, explains:

– Our sensor is designed to be more robust than anything else on the market, and it can be deployed in new trains as well as being retrofitted. Deployment is easy, because we have chosen NeoMesh for battery-powered wireless connectivity. You just put in the sensors and the network finds the connections by itself.

– On top of that, NeoMesh gives us a number of additional advantages. The amount of data transferred through the network to the gateway and from there to the train’s WIFI system is very small and thus easily manageable. Furthermore, NeoMesh gives us years of battery lifetime. As all parts of the mesh network have the same power consumption profile, you can change all batteries in one go when needed.

For Stuttgart city trains

End of October Jochen Treitel and Jakob Olrik from Attensys presented their Smart Seat to representatives from Deutsche Bahn Stuttgart.

– We were invited by fleet managers and innovation managers responsible for Stuttgart’s city trains. We demonstrated our seats and how they can distinguish between adults, children, large and small luggage items etc. The Smart Seat can deliver data that can be used for a wealth of different purposes, like maintenance, lifecycle management, safety etc. Choosing from all these opportunities, DB Stuttgart decided to zoom in on four categories of information: Is the seat taken or free? If taken, is it a person or luggage? Is the seat wet? And, has the seat been vandalized?

Integrating the Smart Seat

– Also, we had an in-depth discussion about how to integrate the smart seat into the technical infrastructure of the train, about software, data transmission etc. We were very happy to be able to highlight the strong features of the NeoMesh connectivity solution, because right from the beginning DB Stuttgart told us they would prefer the wireless version of our solution, for several reasons. It will be much easier to deploy than a cabled solution. And, with a solution that is autonomous regarding data transfer and power supply, it will be easier and less time-consuming to achieve the approvals required for a large-scale deployment.

– We were happy to tell DB Stuttgart that two and a half years ago we designed that exact solution. With a NeoCortec module as communication medium und an industrial battery as power supply we deployed it in a Bombardier demonstrator. It has operated without any problems since.

Connected to the WLAN

– The data transfer from the seat sensors is done via a NeoMesh gateway connecting to a dedicated port in the train’s WLAN system. When we discussed this with the DB Stuttgart engineers they found it hard to believe, that our system only needs to transmit very small amounts of data to function. We explained to them, that precisely this is one of the strongpoints of the solution we developed together with NeoCortec. The amount of transmission data is small, and that allows for long battery lifetime and easy integration into an existing transmission infrastructure.

– The people from DB Stuttgart were very satisfied with what we presented, and we are now going forward with the wireless version of the Smart Seat. DB Stuttgart expects that the German Railway Agency will grant us all the necessary permits very soon. The next step will be to deploy the seat in a train that is in full operation. We just need to do some final technical tests and then we’ll equip a carriage with 16 Smart Seats for a test run. If everything goes as planned, that will happen within 3 months from now.

Great start

– That will be a fantastic start for us, not least compared to how long it usually takes to integrate a new system into a running train. The railway industry is a business with extremely strict safety policies, so only after very thorough considerations new technologies are allowed on board. In that respect it serves us well that we have worked with the smart seat concept and the NeoMesh wireless connectivity solution for nearly three years, so we have a high development maturity.

– I consider this is a success story for Attensys as well as for NeoCortec. We have been able to use the capacity of the NeoCortec module and the features of the NeoMesh connectivity protocol to design a solution that is superior to what our competitors are offering. The data our Smart Seat is producing can be used for a wide range of applications, like maintenance, lifecycle management, safety, and much more, and I am sure we are going to make a significant difference in the transport sector.


We have been able to use the capacity of the NeoCortec module and the features of the NeoMesh connectivity protocol to design a solution that is superior to what our competitors are offering.

Jochen Treitel, CEO Attensys
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