What is Seamless Mobility and why is it important?
We live in an era of a rapidly-growing global population which is driving increased urbanisation and the advent of global megacities, which are defined as having a population of more than 10 million people. It is suggested that by 2030, there will be 40 such megacities, most of them in Asia and Africa.
At the same time, city and governments are having to deal with issues ranging from climate change, extreme weather and local air pollution to resource scarcity and water shortages. This means that, as part of efforts to decarbonise the economy, they are seeking to change the way people travel, getting them out of their cars and on to public transport. The transport system of the future will have more rail, more buses, more bikes, more cars that are self-driving and electric.
As growing numbers of people seek to get around these more crowded and chaotic cities, transport systems are struggling to cope with demand. Taking a trip across any city today – whether for your daily commute, a business trip or a vacation – is often complicated, frustrating and time-consuming with travellers having to deal with overcrowding, congestion and disruption.
This situation is made worse by the fact that transport is fragmented and the separate parts of the system do not talk to each other – or to their customers – so travellers don’t know what is going on. This lack of information exacerbates the stresses of trying to get around the city.
But it doesn’t have to be like that.
A new age of Seamless Mobility is within our grasp thanks to advances in computing power, autonomous vehicles, big data and information available from social media. Seamless Mobility can not only make the travelling experience smoother for individual travellers but also allow the entire system to work better and improve the quality of life of everyone in the city.
As part of the connected, smart cities of the future, Seamless Mobility can take a lot of the hassle out of journeys by reducing what you could call the institutional friction of travel. This could be by enabling you to book your whole journey from door to door using a single app, or letting you know that your train has been cancelled and you need to take a different route or even switch to a different mode of transport such as bus.
Travellers will soon be able to plan and buy tickets for entire journeys before they leave the house rather than doing everything bit by bit – and even make journeys without having to use a ticket at all, thanks to new developments such as beacon technology, which allows users to be charged automatically for the journeys they take.
How is SilverRail involved in this space?
Seamless Mobility is not just a dream of a better future – the foundations are being laid right now.
In the UK, for example,Chiltern Railwaysis trialling a way to replace paper tickets with a smartphone app that can keep track of the journeys passengers make, open ticket barriers automatically and deduct the appropriate fare from customers’ bank accounts.
SilverRail is focused on bringing the rail industry into the digital age so that customers can find prices and journey information, buy a ticket and make their journey digitally. But we are also working on real-time, multi-modal information that enables customers to get the most up-to-date information about all aspects of their journey as they need it, no matter how they are travelling.
In Sweden, we are already working with rail networks, buses, taxis and other metropolitan transit providers to create a central data repository that helps customers to plan, book and take trips seamlessly. With our software systems, more than 90 carriers & suppliers and 600+ agents can offer their customers one ticket (that can include travel by bus, train and taxi to many destinations) in one transaction.
No other software can create one ticket for multiple legs of an international land journey and ensure that ticket vendors’ accounts are settled so quickly. There are now more than 26 million bookings a year through our software and over 3,000 users of their sales applications and an additional 20+ API connections.
And in other cities around the world, we are using our data on journey planning queries to allow transit authorities to identify the busiest times for particular types of transport, and bottlenecks that slow travellers’ journeys. Exposing this type of data enables transit companies to proactively plan and better prepare for such event to help make the travellers journey smoother.
What more needs to be done?
To make Seamless Mobility a reality across the transport ecosystem, information needs to become reliable enough for people to have confidence in its accuracy, and for all modes of transport to be integrated online in a way that they are not at the moment.
Today, the quality of the data available is one of the biggest challenges hindering smart mobility innovation. Describing a city such as London in all its intricacies – for example, that a particular street is shut from 13:00-15:00pm for roadworks, where alternative parking is available and which buildings have wheelchair access – is a massively ambitious undertaking.
Even rich cities such as London are only now starting to install technology such as GPS locators on buses and other measures. To get to the situation where a whole city is connected digitally will take many years and lots of money, as well as committed, pro-active leadership from city governments. Stockholm, for example, has launched a procurement scheme for new smart traffic solutions. Instead of buying a specific product, they have advertised the problem, in the hope that private companies and organisations will come up with more innovative and creative solutions.
To make all of this possible, we need the megacities to invest in sharing their data. In time, the cities with the most “open” data will become the best places to live and work, because that data will power a wave a Seamless Mobility innovation and solutions for their inhabitants.