Modern times in Germany

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I’m a member of a Toast Masters group in Berlin called Berliner Rhetorikmeister.

Te goal of Toast Masters is to enable the members to improve their rhetoric skills. This is done by 10 speech projects, of which all projects have a different focus, like structure, get to the point and body language, to name three of them. The subject of the speech can be chosen freely.

Yesterday, I performed my third speech and I was talking about how Germany fails, when it comes to innovation and to adapt new technologies in several domains.

I want to mention in between that the people, who attend those meetings are the most friendly and empathic ones I ever met. Most of them are Germans and they listened interested and respectful when I was talking about where Germany fails.

I have written bout this subject before, but times are changing rapidly and the world around Germany changes in light speed. I like to mention how China is going forward when it comes to offering services and convenient tools to the people.

Yes! I know perfectly well about the government in China and I also aware of the existence of the social  credit and the connected soft and hardware which control every single step of each single person.

But! One can disagree how things are handled in China (and I assume that most people do) but one also has to stay objective. E-commerce is done great in China. AliPay and WeChat are doing a great job.

And China is not the only country which collects data from the people massively.

Actually my homeland, The Netherlands, offers several services for which a connection to a cloud is needed. Let’s have a look.

Reward Based Systems:

Dutch people dislike top-down behaviour. We’re assertive, self-assured and we always know our rights. Of course, the government knows his people and will always try to start new things by making it a benefit.

We’re a small but very crowded country. To compare it with Germany:

The surface of Germany is 357.580 km². The surface of The Netherlands is 41.540 km

But 😉

The number of inhabitants in Germany per km²: 232,4. The number of inhabitants in The Netherlands per km²: 417,3

So on the relatively small surface there are a lot of people commuting every working day. A test project “Spitsmijden” (avoid traffic peaks (spits = peak | mijden = to avoid)) was started in 2006.

The Idea:

Can the car driver be persuaded to avoid peak traffic? The Spitsmijden experiment will provide the answer. Spitsmijden is Dutch for avoiding peak traffic. During the 50 working day Dutch experiment, 340 frequent drivers looked for alternatives to driving in morning traffic over the stretch of the Dutch A12 motorway from Zoetermeer towards The Hague. They were rewarded if they were successful, and it worked! The number of participants driving in peak morning traffic was cut in half.

The goal of the “Spitsmijden” test in 2006 was to investigate whether the use of a reward programme can be a steering mechanism for traffic management. During the experiment with a time span of 50 working days, 340 frequent drivers looked for alternatives to driving in morning traffic over the stretch of the Dutch A12 motorway from the city of Zoetermeer towards the city of The Hague.

Implementation:

To gain information about whether the participants did or did not drive during rush hour (7:30 – 9:30), a combination of techniques has been used:

  • Electronic Vehicle Identification (EVI),
  • camera-registration and
  • GPS-tracking by means of an On Board Unit (OBU).

The surplus value of this combination is the possibility of acquiring very detailed data about time and position of the participants. During the period of the test, every participant was asked to fill in a digital logbook on a daily basis. Doing so, they provided extra information about their behaviour and choices during the test. It could also be used to cover up for flaws regarding the measuring-equipment.

The reward one could obtain depended on the number of avoided rush hour car trips, this related to their pre-test transport behaviour. The participating persons were able to make a choice about the type of reward they‘d get when avoiding peak hour. Either a sum of money, either a Smartphone.>If someone chose to get a financial bonus, he or she could earn approximately €5 per avoidance. To find out which reward was the most effective, one varied the bonuses: during one period participants could earn €3, during another period this could be up to €7. Those who chose to save for a Smartphone had the ability to use the Smartphone during the testing period. The Smartphone provided them with information concerning traffic situations on their route. If at the end of the period, they had avoided a certain percentage of daily rush hours, the Smartphone was theirs to keep.

Results:

The results of the test are promising. Without reward, 40% of the participants were a part of the rush hour, during the period of the test however a reduction to 20% was noticed. Most participants earned their rewards because they adjusted the moment they take off to work to the rush hour. In most of the cases this implicated an agreement with their employer about going into a flexible working pattern. Although the most significant progression was made by leaving to work earlier, one did also notice an increase in car-use after the rush hour. The total car-use has seen a slight decrease, from 70% to 65%, mainly due to an increase in the use of public transport.

This  is one example of collecting data. We use them for good reasons, but still.

The second example is the OV Chipkaart (OV= openbaar vervoer (openbaar= public | vervoer = transport | chipkaart = credit card alike))

OV-Chipkaart The Netherlands (English)
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This card allows you to travel all across The Netherlands by train, bus, tram and ferry. When taking a tram, one holds the OV Chipkaart in front of a reader when ascending the tram. A sound can be heard and the display will show “Check-in okay”. When descending the tram, one must present the card to the reader again. There will be a sound again and the display will show “Check-out okay”, the price of the ride and your current (new) balance.

When I was visiting Holland, sometimes I must go back and to “taste” the atmosphere and to interact. When I arrived there, I needed such an OV Chipkaart. I don’t have a Dutch bank account and therefore I got myself a prepaid one.

It’s very easy and comfortable to use the card and I was surprised that old ladies were handling this modern solution intuitively.

The OV Chipkaart is enhanced now by the TU Delft (technical University Delft NL)

Payment in Dutch public transport for international travellers (service design proposal)
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And the old checkpoints in the train stations will be improved as well. Here the old ones:

Dutch Trainticket-System: OV-Chipkaart (English Version)
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The concept explanation of the future ones:

Open public transport gates (concept explanation)
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And another, a very useful one in The Netherlands!, case of paying with the OV Chipkaart:

Bicycle parking garage "Knoop", Utrecht (Netherlands)
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When I want to travel in Germany, I need to buy a ticket online and I need an extra app, if I want to avoid paper. When I need a ticket for the local public transport, I need to buy a ticket or I can use another app to have them stored on my smart phone. I used to buy 4-ticket packages. They are € 1 less expensive. 

When I wanted to buy those four tickets with my app, I was forced to use the first ticket immediately. I was not able, to store them in my account for later use. Now how bad is this customer/user-experience?

When I wrote a complaint about this at Google® Play, the answer was tat they might think about a storing option. So not agile-German…

Another optimization is parking by license plate. Here a Video in Dutch with English subtitles:

Maastricht - de nieuwe parkeermeters / new parking ticket machines
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This is a cutie;)

sms parking.mov
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There are e-cars with 12 cameras which drive through the city scanning all license plates of the cars which are parking. I a car overdue, the information will be sent to the cloud. Users with an app will be notified before the payment is overdue.

In Berlin you can’t neither pay with credit card nor by debit card. You always have to take care that there are some coins in your pocket. If you use an app, you need to download a piece of paper which you have to put behind the windshield for whatever reason.

And shopping at Albert Heijn (the largest chain of supermarkets in The Netherlands) is possible without paying process at the cash register. You can pay contactless.

The “old-fashioned” way

Zelf scannen bij Albert Heijn
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Modern times 😉

Albert Heijn to go I Tap to Go (English)
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Retail without Queues: Dutch Albert Heijn Enables New Age of Payment
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How to create a next level seamless payment innovation - Interview w Danny Groenenboom, Albert Heijn
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But even if you’re not able to pay contect-less, you can pay by card.In fact in The Netherlands, we don’t pay by cash anymore. I remember that I was in the Hague waiting for the train to return to Germany and I wanted to buy some snacks. There was a young lady standing in front of me buying a coffee to go.  The price was € 1,50 and she said “Ik pin” (Ik = I and “pinnen” is a new Dutch word for using your pin code.

One can literally pay everywhere by card. May it be in a restaurrant or a snackbar or at a market stand. In germany, I often can’t even pay with card in a normal shop.

When I was working in Hamburg I was out for lunch with colleagues. A couple joined us at our table and one of my colleagues overheard their conversation and noticed that they were speaking Dutch. So he told them, that I’m Dutch and we started some chit-chat. 

At the end, the lady asked me “Why is it so difficult to pay with card here?”

I live in Germany since 1994 and in Berlin since 1997. But in the last years I have a less understandng of Germany and the Germans.

The unflexibility, the old fashioned mindset and the fear, I often experience when I talk to people goes more and more on my nerves. Of course there are Germans, which are modern thinkers and who also complain about the situation here. But they are the minority IMHO.

The mindset of the Dutch is totally different from the mindset of the Germans and, to be very honest, I am very glad to have a modern,outgoing and curious Dutch mindset.

 

 

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