On-Train Net Access

The system being developed as Project Rainbow by The Network Connection (TNCi UK Ltd.), aims to provide films, shopping, Internet access and travel booking facilities for the millions who travel by rail every day.
While gazing out of the window is generally an enjoyable way to pass the time on a train journey, sometimes the mind could do with a little more stimulation; that’s why I was pleased to take part in a demonstration of an on-train information and entertainment system at the Railtex exhibition, currently underway at Britain’s National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham.
The system being developed as Project Rainbow by The Network Connection (TNCi UK Ltd.), aims to provide films, shopping, Internet access and travel booking facilities for the millions who travel by rail every day.
Through a seat-back monitor, a passenger will be able to view a movie of his or her choice at any time from a wide selection, listen to various audio channels or shop for products to be delivered at home on arrival.
Direct access to the rail reservation network will also be available, together with weather, news and other information.
I asked Dominic Newton, Development Engineer for the project, how he sees access to the Internet being offered through this system.
“We will be providing various sites through a ‘walled garden’, meaning that only certain non-offensive, non-controversial sites will be available; this is because the train is a public environment and it would not be desirable to have someone looking at an ‘adult’ site while in close proximity to another passenger who might not make that their first choice!”
Agreed, but how will the choice be made as to which sites are accessible? Mr Newton said that extensive research is underway and he felt that most tastes would be catered for.
There will also be the facility to browse the on-train catering menus and to have an order delivered to ones seat, at least in First Class; Standard Class passengers will probably still have to stroll down to the Buffet Car!
He expects that the service will be offered at no cost to either passenger or train operator, thanks to targeted advertising. Profiles of regular passengers would be built up as a traveller uses their credit or debit card to access, for example, shopping sites. Note would be taken of the type of films viewed, news items selected etc. to find out the right buttons to press for each traveller and the optimum customer profile would be recorded.
The system is so easy to navigate, using a flush-mounted touch-screen in the seat back. Mr. Newton said that extensive tests had been conducted to find the right size of screen; it is not too small so there is difficulty reading it, neither is it too big to cause unnecessary eye movement, which makes people tire quickly.
When I asked him about ‘sticky finger marks’, Mr. Newton said that in tests, a passenger who had been fed and watered with the consequent residue on their fingers who used the screen for two hours left no discernible marks on the screen. As the display is flush mounted, a simple wipe across will make sure the screen stays clean.
A USB port is also provided for e-mail access with charge points for laptops and other personal devices. The system is so easy to use and would offer so much variety that, when installed, should prove a must for those long train journeys that seem to be getting even longer by the day!
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