QROWD is an EU funded project that delivers big data integration, human-driven solutions and innovative transport solutions for smart cities and smart mobility. Recent advances in data-sharing, smartphones, 4G connectivity, GPS and the Internet of Things (IoT) have led to an explosion of ‘intelligent mobility’, an industry that is predicted to be worth £900bn per year by 2025.
The ultimate aim of such an industry is the development of a mobility as a service ecosystem (MaaS) where all transport services interact seamlessly. For MaaS to become a reality on a global scale there are a number of barriers that data-sharing must overcome. These range from privacy concerns from citizens who don’t want their information shared, a lack of collaboration between disparate organisations, confusion over who owns the data collected, and the problem of sharing data which is in different formats.
A recent report by the Urban Transport Group found that although merging data meant transport users were more fully informed about their travel choices and transport authorities were better able to plan and manage their networks, there were barriers to overcome. The future of MaaS, and of smart transport, is therefore reliant on a series of priorities needed for success.
The first of these priorities rely on sector strategy. Aspects such as planning integration, policy setting, regulatory roles and definitions as well as operational roles are all required to ensure that existing infrastructure is aligned with new investment. The future of MaaS and smart cities needs to be integrated and strategic to have any hope of being sustainable and durable.
“One misconception is that the main problem is that transport authorities have lots of data and if they would only open it up then transport challenges would melt away,” says director Jonathan Bray. “Opening up data can indeed open up the potential for new and innovative use, but there are also issues around the availability of data and its quality and compatibility in the first place – as well as privacy and trust issues on its use.”
The second of these priorities rely on service delivery. This includes the factors of organisational coordination and effectiveness, asset delivery, asset management and customer experience. These are equally important as economic competitiveness is the foundation of smart transport and infrastructure, where customer satisfaction is the core driver of success.
Although smart transport and MaaS can help smart cities to remain competitive, quality information and integration, as well as placing an emphasis on the experience of citizens, are vital for any kind of sustainability. Each of these flows of information have the power to shape transport, as well as extend beyond it.
For example, Nissan is launching a pilot project in the UK in which 100 of its Leaf electric cars can be plugged into the national electricity grid, allowing motorists to charge their cars and allow the batteries in them to act as additional grid capacity, helping meet demand at peak times by selling power back to the grid. The effect can be further bolstered by adding smart sensors to the grid to track disturbances and quickly re-route power in the event of failures.
Similarly, the city of Helsinki is aiming to render car ownership obsolete by unlocking the ecosystem of mobility in the form of a MaaS app that uses real-time information on availability and price to enable citizens to plan and pay for their journey – by bus, taxi, ferry or bike – more cheaply, efficiently and with greater flexibility.
Such ambient technology will reduce the size and importance of central stations and increase that of decentralised transport nodes. But it is the substantial shrinking of the car fleet caused by the advent of autonomous vehicles that could free up whole lanes on city streets (by eliminating parked cars) and reclaim space allocated to parking lots and home garages, bringing about change to our cityscapes.