New cable tracking Challenge

DB Netz AG is facing large projects of underground cable construction over the next 5-10 years: to increase our traveler’s connectivity, fibre optic cables will be installed along a significant part of our 36,000 km rail network. On top of this, our initiative to digitise our interlocking systems (Stellwerk) is advancing rapidly, and a great number of cables will be deployed.

This program gives startups the chance to customize and live-test their solution to real challenges that DB is facing. What is in for you?

  • Access to DB experts and data
  • The opportunity to test your solution at a real track section during the DB mindbox program
  • Access to a network of selected coaching and mentoring experts
  • Compensation of 4,000€ for participating in the challenge week
  • One follow-up cooperation with DB Netz for the winning team
  • Support by our DB mindbox startup managers and  24/7 access to our coworking space

This is a great opportunity to lay the foundation for joint projects and successful long-term collaboration with Deutsche Bahn AG, Europe’s largest mobility and infrastructure provider.
Questions? Check out our FAQs.


What we are looking for

Cables that we lay and install underground next to the rail tracks must be easy to locate accurate to the centimetre, even after 15 years. The cables are usually layed in cable ducts made of concrete or plastic within 50cm depth or can be layed out as outdoor cable in 20cm depth. We are talking about any kind of cable: made of fiber optics, copper etc.

Please note: we are not looking for ground penetrating radars.

© Deutsche Bahn AG / Laura Weinert
Cable tracking

We are looking for solutions that allow us to locate the cables directly when they have been laid and to process this data to make it actionable. For example, we want to update our existing GIS maps with this information. Is there a mobile solution maybe even autonomously operating that can collect the location data? Or is there a small device that can be attached to construction machinery in use to safe time?

© Deutsche Bahn AG / Max Lautenschläger
Smart or connected cables

We are also looking for technologies that allow us to instantly locate the cables without a GIS map. Everything from the use of sensors to the installation of intelligent markers is conceivable. Those components could be installed already during the construction work of new cables and cable ducts. Let's try out your approaches together!


Format - what is a challenge like?

During a mindbox challenge, several startups are working on a stated problem within an intensive project phase. The teams will meet on-site (probably in Berlin) where they have the opportunity to meet DB experts and have a closer look at real DB infrastructure relevant to the challenge topic.

Update: 13.05.2022

There will be a kick-off event with various DB and industry experts in the beginning of July in Berlin. The aim is to get a better understanding of the problem, conditions and requirements.

In September a challenge week will take place: concepts will be developed and prototypes be built in order to run test trials. At the end of the week, each participating team will pitch the developed solution in front of a jury composed of DB experts. The jury will evaluate the solutions and their fit with problem to be solved. The team with the best performance will be invited to enter a follow-up cooperation with DB.

The compensation for the challenge participation is based on fixed amounts:
Each participating team receives a one-time payment of 4.000€ for participating in the challenge week.

In addition to that, each participating team can be reimbursed for travel expenses (transportation and hotel accommodation) of up to 1.000€ per team and per event (kick-off and challenge week) upon proof.



Application deadline


Announcement of candidates


Kick-off event

July 4 & 5


Challenge week

September 12-16 (date confirmed)


Follow-up cooperation

Start of the 100 day Proof of Concept