Mobility is getting public and personal

Kulveer Ranger

Atos Senior Vice President, Strategy & Communications, Atos UK&I
Former Transport Advisor to the Mayor of London (2008-12)

The history of transport is integral to human evolution. From the invention of the wheel to the development of railways and the creation of the internal combustion engine, our ability to move has shaped our society and the world we live in. The next evolution will be fueled by data and centered on us.

Increasingly, with population growth and denser metropolitan conurbations, we see the need to support the mass movement of people and goods with efficient, effective and integrated multi-modal public and personal transport systems.

Transport operators all over the world are beginning to rely heavily on data — harvested both from within their own networks and systems and from the personal mobile devices of individuals.

A key game-changer in making this type of travel data available was the implementation of smartcard technology, such as the Oyster card in London and the Octopus card in Hong Kong. For the first time, multi-modal journeys could be integrated seamlessly for individual commuters. After the Oyster card was launched in 2003, it delivered huge value not only in the form of revenue protection — the entire network became a gated system by which access in and out could be recorded and charged — but also through the availability and analysis of vast amounts of data in order to model, predict and more effectively manage the transport network.

Transport operators have sought to progress and develop the value of these types of smartcard platforms by gradually integrating different systems to attain an ever-broader view operationally, while also tracking and gaining a greater understanding of individual movements.

The ever-evolving use of personal digital technology has also made “personal mobility” easier to use and track. It is why we have witnessed the massive expansion of platforms such as mytaxi and Uber, car and bike-sharing apps, and journey-planning platforms like Waze that correlate multiple live datasets. This more flexible and richer personal mobility mix has disrupted the industry, coupled with changes to journey and work patterns.

However we choose to travel, what we used to think of as a “map” is now a real-time journey advisor, our journey’s friend, providing hints, tips and nudges along our route.

It also layers other relevant information: the location of your nearest favorite coffee shop, services that might be of interest or “relevant” offers we might like to take advantage of as we go. When we do get into our cars, we can forget the basic satellite navigation that used to lead us down a dead-end because the data was out of date. We live in a world where IoT-enabled vehicles not only know the route we should take, but also the speed we should travel, how to avoid the traffic as we go and even the weather we will encounter.

So where is all this information taking us?

With the myriad of personal mobility services and platforms being developed, what we should now expect is consolidation and increasing personalization of services. In the past, transport authorities would have been the focal point for integration. Today, it could just as likely be an intelligent “go compare”-type personal mobility aggregator. With mobility information integrated, we will be able to access real-time options through our own personal mobility dashboard, showing taxis, bike hire, car share, rail and bus journeys, etc.

All of this is organized with us at the center and taking into account our preferences and variables: price, traffic, weather, CO2 produced by the journey, the best discounts available on certain routes, events, diversions, road construction and of course, our favorite mode of transport.

To realize this vision of personal mobility, vast amounts of data from different apps and services will need to be aggregated. This will be a huge technological feat for innovative integrators and digital architects. Given the volumes involved, it will not be efficient or even practical to draw together data from every location into single points. We are entering the age of edge computing, when data will live where it is created: on individual devices, at the so-called “edge” of the digital ecosystem. Effort and creativity will also be needed to achieve the necessary cultural and behavioral changes; citizens will need to buy into the value of using an aggregator, feel confident in the services and be nudged into adoption, potentially using gamification and incentivization.

While there are clearly many challenges, with imagination, innovation and increasing collaboration, they are entirely surmountable. Historically, the transport industry has always been visionary in leading the adoption of new technology. Motor cars, high-speed trains, jet planes and underground metros have all enabled and enhanced the world we live in, but this next transport evolution will be centered on the individual.

The direction of travel will now be driven by the power of data, digital platforms and aggregation — creating efficiency, speed and exciting sustainable options for us to choose from, while making our personal mobility simpler and easier than ever before.


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