INIT: 40 years of innovations for public transport

Digital transformation as a recipe for success: yesterday, today and tomorrow

Karlsruhe – March 07, 2023

A number of success stories in the field of sustainable mobility find their beginnings in 1983: The Green Party enters the German parliament for the first time and the German Federal Government passes an act to introduce lead-free gasoline at petrol stations and to equip all new vehicles with catalytic converters. In Karlsruhe a company is founded that will make its name contributing digital solutions for sustainable mobility. On 7 March 1983, exactly 40 years ago, INIT Innovative Informatikanwendungen in Transport-, Verkehrs- und Leitsystemen GmbH is founded on the back of a university research project for “on-demand bus transport”. 

Today, calls for a new paradigm shift in transport towards sustainable mobility are louder than ever. INIT has long been a successful global player in this field and enjoys an excellent listing on the stock exchange. As a single source provider for urban and regional public transport, INIT relies on state-of-the-art technologies, most recently using cloud solutions and artificial intelligence. “Climate change dominates the political agenda. The digital transformation is opening up completely new avenues to solve the challenges of the coming years. It is our job to pave the way for future mobility,” is how INIT founder and Chairman of the Management Board, Dr. Gottfried Greschner, sums up the general development.

“On-demand bus transport” – from Karlsruhe to the rest of the world

With his doctorate fresh in hand, Dr. Gottfried Greschner developed his “integration of on-demand and fixed-route bus transport” research project into a valid business case. With just a handful of employees, INIT equipped its first customers in Friedrichshafen with the “Rufbus” software. In 1985, the integration of regular and on-demand bus transport was tested for the first time worldwide in a pilot project. “Today, on-demand transport will be once again a growth area. Transport operators around the world are more interested than ever before in maintaining an attractive transport solution in outlying urban and rural areas, and at times when there is low passenger demand. We have the experience, technology and AI-based optimization algorithms that they need,” states Greschner.

The first evidence of INIT’s accomplishment came as early as 1989, when the company was awarded the State of Baden-Württemberg’s innovation prize. However, an even more decisive step was when the company tapped into the national market with the realization of the RBL computer-based transport operating system (since renamed the Intermodal Transport Control System ITCS) in Osnabrück. Since then, the Osnabrück municipal authority has been a loyal customer of INIT, one of over 1,100 worldwide. At almost the same time, towards the end of the 80’s, development work commenced on the company’s own hardware. “This step was necessary because at the time there were simply no products on the market that met the needs of our customers. So we developed our own first on-board computer with the name COPILOT. In its most recent version, COPILOTpc3 has become the central IT and communication platform in the vehicle. Our on-board computers are installed in vehicles across the globe – from Osnabrück to San Francisco, from Rotterdam to Dubai,” explains Dr. Gottfried Greschner.

Rigorous policy of international expansion

As early as 1990, INIT acquired its first international contract by winning a tender in Stockholm. In parallel, business continued to grow in Germany and INIT expanded its product portfolio. In 1996 the company moved to its current office in Käppelestrasse in Karlsruhe. Another milestone was reached in 1999 with the foundation of the U.S. subsidiary, INIT Inc. in Chesapeake, Virginia. A decisive factor in the global success of the company was the IPO of init innovation in traffic systems AG on the “Neuer Markt” segment of the Frankfurt stock exchange. With the proceeds from this IPO, INIT was able to participate in an increasing number of international tenders – and to win them.

Typical for this phase were major projects such as the one in Dubai, which involved equipping approximately 1,600 vehicles and 155 bus lines and the largest integrated telematics and ticketing system in Germany, involving over 4,000 vehicles and the connection of 500 bus operators to the network, which was installed for DB Regio in Bavaria. Countless international projects have since been added to the list, including projects in Abu Dhabi, Brisbane, Christchurch, Dallas, Houston, London, Luxembourg, Montreal, New York, Nottingham, Portland, Seattle, Tasmania, Turku and Vancouver. They were followed by the establishment of INIT branches in North America, Europe, the Middle East, Singapore and Australia.

Revenue and share multiplies many times over

Since the IPO, revenue has multiplied many times over, increasing from EUR 22.9 million in 2001 to EUR 190 million today. The share price also reflects this growth: after its successful initial public offering at a price of EUR 5.10, the INIT share (ISIN DE 0005759807) rose to over EUR 25 in 2013. In August 2021, it peaked at its all-time high of EUR 48.50. In the meantime, a dividend of EUR 6.76 has been distributed for each share purchased during the IPO.

INIT received an important award in 2014. At the “Talents in Mobility” awards at the French “Transports Publics” trade fair in Paris, Dr. Gottfried Greschner received the Special Career Service Award from a jury consisting of European trade journalists who gave him this honor for his services in the field of public transport. The sustained success also resulted in a steady increase in the headcount, with currently over 1,000 employees. As a result, neighbouring buildings were gradually incorporated, one-by-one into the INIT campus. This expansion reached its first pinnacle with the construction of “INIT Towers” in 2015.

In this phase of the company’s history, the product portfolio was complemented by acquisitions targeted at implementing INIT’s strategy of supporting transport operators to handle all their operating tasks using IT solutions from INIT. This has created the INIT Group in its current form. In this regard, a major milestone was the acquisition of HanseCom Public Transport Ticketing Solutions (PTTS) GmbH, the leading provider of sales and customer management systems for public transport back in 2016 and now the market leader in smart ticketing for transport operators in the German-speaking region. 

Electronic ticketing as a guarantee of success

Today, the combination of ITCS and ticketing systems is one of the pillars of INIT’s success in international tenders. Its main features include electronic ticketing with fare capping using apps, credit card systems (ID-based ticketing) and smartphones. The largest single order ever received in INIT’s history, with a volume of over USD 90 million, which was awarded by the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (Sound Transit, Seattle region) in the United States, underscores the benefits of INIT’s solutions. INIT has managed to weather all the headwinds it has encountered when realizing its projects, such as the pandemic and supply chain problems, and still managed to post record sales in the past year.

The drivers of this success are still the intact growth trends of digital transformation and global programs to confront climate change that are shaping the mobility market. As a result, demand for INIT solutions continues to increase around the world – to drive further expansion of electromobility, for instance, or to establish network mobility services on one platform (Mobility as a Service, MaaS).

Next generation success

INIT has already responded to these growth trends with its “nextGen” innovation campaign. The latest generation of INIT solutions will be supported by the following technological pillars: optimization of automation, assistance systems, artificial intelligence (AI), broker architecture and web-based cloud solutions. These include smart ticketing solutions such as the TaaS (Ticketing as a Service) platform, which can be implemented quickly and at little cost; the personnel assignment software MOBILE-PERDIS nextGen; MOBILEguide, which provides information on available capacity for buses and trains or RESPONSEassist, a solution for semi-automated incident management and multi-channel passenger information.

However, at the core of the product family lies the latest generation of its control system, MOBILE-ITCS nextGen, which is already equipped for the specific requirements of electric buses. In addition, it significantly improves the forecast reliability of departure times thanks to machine learning, marking a notable improvement in the quality of passenger information systems. The technical foundation of the solution involves a switch to a new open database system architecture that also supports future operating systems and therefore not only future-proofs the system, but also creates the conditions for higher-level IT security. INIT is therefore perfectly equipped to continue its success story in the coming years.

Andrea Mohr-Braun

Head of Department Corporate Marketing
INIT worldwide
Phone: +49 721 6100 113
Fax: +49 721 6100 399