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Creating connected infrastructure to power MaaS

Fujitsu’s Rabih Arzouni explores how public bodies and private companies must work together to ensure the right infrastructure is in place to support MaaS and other transport advances.

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Technology has changed the face of modern transport. With the rise of cloud technology, artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things (IoT), commuters now rely more on connected devices to determine travel routes than they ever did on station staff or departure boards.

In turn, this is changing how commuters interact with public transport systems across the world – the growing wealth of data around transport has the potential to revolutionise its infrastructure. Just look at Google Maps recently announcing that it will now add live traffic and crowd predictions for public transport, helping to reduce delays.

 

And beyond this, connected devices have changed the very concept of mobility – the likes of ride-sharing and e-hailing services like Uber and MyTaxi to transport guides such as CityMapper have given rise to Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS).

 

Connected devices have changed the very concept of mobility.

 

MaaS has been a gamechanger for travellers, giving commuters a number of different transport options all at the push of a button. Indeed, our latest research found that 55% of consumers think accurate route planning services have been rolled out well, while over a third found that new technologies have made their journeys more efficient.

 

What it demonstrates is that combining technology and infrastructure is key to creating a seamless, passenger experience.

 

The end of rush hour?

 

Many commuters will have experienced the squeeze of rush hour at some point in their lives. Will live traffic and crowd predictions on maps help end overcrowding during the morning commute? Probably not. It is, however, a step in the right direction towards reducing congestion, delays and giving passengers a more comfortable journey.

 

Whilst MaaS is still in its infancy, applications such as CityMapper and Google Maps are already giving passengers an array of real-time data, including delays for public transport and congestion for drivers, which can influence what route a passenger decides to take.

 

And while pay-as-you-go ticketing is used in London, the rest of the country has been slow to adopt this model of public transport.

 

However, a lot of the issues surrounding MaaS centres around connectivity: it is impossible to get real-time updates on delays or faster services if you do not have a stable internet connection. For example, 3G, 4G and WiFi are available on most over-ground train lines, but the connection is often poor or slow, and entirely unavailable underground.

 

A lot of the issues surrounding MaaS centres around connectivity.

 

In fact, earlier this year, a study by uSwitch found that 56% of commuters struggled to connect to their mobile network on 3G or 4G – a figure that is quite frankly far too high. The arrival of 5G will no doubt help alleviate the problem, but it will still be a few years until the technology is widely used.

 

Other steps are being taken to solve the problem around connectivity; for example, TfL recently announced that it will begin rolling out 4G on some of its lines from early next year.

 

Investments such as these can be a gamechanger for commuters who are already frustrated with increasingly burdened transportation networks. However, before MaaS can fully mature and reach its potential, there needs to be some key changes to infrastructure.

 

The role of infrastructure in connecting transport

 

MaaS has been complemented by the development of smart cities, which has seen large changes to the traditional cityscape – including the networks required for 5G adoption.

 

The development of edge computing has also helped to drive more connected, coordinated and intelligent solutions across cities. This is particularly important for MaaS, which can prompt passengers to use different modes of transport in a single journey, therefore requiring easily accessible information on delays and congestion.

 

Edge computing allows for much of the data that is collected across cities to be processed closer to its source, meaning less traffic is needed to be directed to the cloud.

 

The development of edge computing has also helped to drive more connected, coordinated and intelligent solutions across cities. This is particularly important for MaaS.

 

Google is a good example of a company that has empowered customers on their journey. But there is more that can be done. Transport operators, from governments and city authorities to technology companies, should take a leaf out of Google’s book to develop an understanding of how people travel from one place to another. This could help create relevant services aligned with passenger demand.

 

By working together, private companies and public bodies can create a system which enhances the passenger experience.

 

A connected future for transport

 

The transport sector is becoming more digitally advanced which has, in turn, made commuting easier and more accessible for most. But it is still up to private companies and governments to work together to provide passengers with a better service. And small adjustments in transport technology can go a long way to improving the transport system.

 

As MaaS continues to develop as a popular transport solution, it cannot function without the relevant infrastructure and technology to support it. By working hand-in-hand, technology will undoubtedly enhance the passenger experience for the millions of commuters.

 

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