Innovation in trains is taking the form of infotainment systems, helping to make the onboard experience better for passengers. But how do you overcome the barriers associated with the transport industry?
British railways are steeped in tradition, spanning three revolutionary centuries that have seen Agatha Christie-esque steam locomotives give way to sleek, lightning-fast powerhouses. Yet, despite the clear evolution of the industry, in more recent times its uptake of new technologies has been considerably less progressive.
But there is innovation out there, bringing one of Britain’s greatest exports up to speed. We’ve been talking to Roger Matthews, Managing Director of GoMedia, Europe’s leading onboard infotainment system developer, about how the business initially attracted some of the UK’s leading transport operators, the challenges it has faced and how start-ups can begin conversations with nationwide, household businesses.
Getting the wheels in motion
I joined GoMedia as Managing Director in 2016, but the business was established six months earlier. It was a project embarked upon by senior figures in the broadcast and television media industries. A niche was spotted – which is still largely apparent – in that there has been huge growth in the number of public transport users, but the onboard experience is typically the same as it was 50 years ago. Our founders decided to use our media experience and connections to do something about it. The result was GoMedia, bringing news, entertainment and travel information direct to passengers’ own smart devices, enabling them to remain connected whilst travelling.
Our first major customer was Eurostar, launching an infotainment platform – with Hollywood movies, TV boxsets, digital magazines and newspapers, moving map and much more – on its trains in 2016. The fact that our launch customer was one of Europe’s leading transport operators was a fantastic start for us, but we were only able to achieve this due to our meticulous market-entry planning, boardroom-level support and our own achievements and backgrounds as individuals. Essentially, we had to prove to Eurostar that we could be trusted to deliver exactly what was required, at exactly the right time and at exactly the right cost. At the end of the day, a safe pair of hands is the most fundamental thing when being trusted to deliver to such iconic brands. Since launching on Eurostar, we have developed passenger experience solutions for Virgin Trains East and West Coast, National Express, c2c, TransPennine Express and Abellio, with plans to launch with more operators, both in the UK and abroad, on the cards.
Overcoming the barriers
Of course, like any business, we have faced challenges along the way. Aside from the obvious hurdles that a new business faces (establishing a presence, matching supply with demand, financing etc.), we also have to contend with the red tape that comes with the transport industry. Any innovative platform brings with it its share of bureaucracy. Because of national interest, there are myriad approvals, deadlines and standards to meet and it can take time for deals to progress, with initial launch dates often being pushed back weeks, months or even years.
Another challenge that we face is the fact that current Wi-Fi signals are unreliable, meaning connections are stronger in certain areas of the country. Whilst GoMedia’s platforms do free up bandwidth space on board – due to content being served locally from onboard servers, like offline playlists on music streaming services, making it easier for passengers to check emails and update social media – signal strength on the whole won’t improve until the whole 3G system is overhauled. The good news is that 5G might be closer than we think.
Staying in control
If I were looking to launch a technology company and attract the interest of leading businesses, I would appreciate the following advice.
Firstly, you must develop a thick skin. There will be knockbacks, rejections and negative feedback on your journey – it’s a part of this life. Secondly, it’s so important that you listen to the market and results, develop a strategy whereby you learn from past mistakes and tweak your product and services. Thirdly, be better than your competition. Understand them and work out how and why you will make a difference to your customers, then focus on delighting them.
Lastly, take the time to focus on what matters most in life and that isn’t always your business. Family and friends are what we do this for and if we don’t take the time to appreciate them, then what are we really working for? A work/life balance is essential, even when you’re just starting out and the pressure of succeeding seems overbearing – never forget what truly matters to you.
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