The future of transport is digital: infrastructure management

by Philippe Clapin and Didier Le Guirriec, Sopra Steria France

In our third and final look at the future of transport we are exploring how the use of digital technologies within infrastructure management can be used to improve overall maintenance and efficiency, ultimately lowering costs and improving user experience.

At the last European Logistics Platform meeting in Brussels this year, the white paper outcome from the meeting stated that:

“Digitalisation remains the most important aspect when it comes to innovation in the field of freight transport. The cost of a lack of interoperability in multimodal transport in Europe is as large as €12 billion per year. If Europe wants to remain competitive, we have thus to ensure that we as policy makers provide the right framework conditions that will stimulate the digitalisation of the transport sector.”

Analysts McKinsey have predicted that the world needs an investment of $57 trillion into transport infrastructure by 2030 to keep up with world GDP. That’s an increase of 60% over the past 18 years. Managing this challenge is one where we can utilise information technology – digital techniques and tools can certainly help to optimise services and minimise costs. McKinsey, in the same report, suggest that one way to optimise delivery of transport systems is by investing in early-stage planning and design to help mitigate some of the costs. The digitisation of transport is about creating new paradigms in the visualisation and capitalisation of data of a given system and to use that knowledge to build more optimised and maintainable infrastructures. There are a number of techniques involved in this emerging area of transport management. Here, we’ll concentrate on 3D modelling techniques.

3D modelling within a transport infrastructure context

The goal of infrastructure management should be one of optimisation of available spaces and systems whilst managing constraints. Creating integrated infrastructures today includes making sure those infrastructures are part of a wider eco-system and are fit for purpose within it. There are a number of drivers that are pushing the need for a more sophisticated and more ‘real-world’ view when designing these new systems. These drivers include environmental constraints, such as seismic activity and rainfall, as well as contextual design considerations based on existing and expected structures around the transport system. We may also see more of a green impact on the design of transport infrastructures, especially in light of the recent events at the Sustainable Innovation Forum in Paris this month, where the future of transport was discussed at length. A report from the conference entitled ‘Transport @COP21 Paris’ goes into detail about how climate changes are impacting infrastructure design and development.  It is in the optimisation of design of transport infrastructures and their progressive management, where 3D modelling comes into its own and gives transport and logistics projects a technology that can truly deliver the right design.

The optimal use of a transport system infrastructure impacts across many levels of society – from transport and logistics efficiency, to productivity and economic output of a given region. The building and continued management of transport infrastructures can be difficult, requiring financial backing, policy decisions, as well as public acceptance. The current row over the expansion of Heathrow airport in the UK has shown how infrastructure decisions can have wide-reaching impact and draw enormous financial, socio-economic and political resource into the equation.

Digital technologies, such as Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) and 3D modeling techniques, can help in the management of new or improved infrastructures. The advantages that using 3D modelling can confer on the management of transport infrastructures are far reaching. Done well, they provide an intelligent way of conveying the (often) complex nature of an infrastructure design and 3D output can be used to provide insight. And modelling, based on the underlying structured data, used to build the 3D model.

This can then be used to offer visualisation logistics around site planning, predictions based on geospatial requirements and climatic conditions, as well as a way of communicating the ideas and plans to the stakeholders – a vital part of any user-centered design-based project that requires buy-in from a wide audience, some of whom may have negative feelings towards the plans.

3D modelling offers a more intuitive way to not only design a project, but handle the extended needs of the project as it passes through the various gates required to execute and deliver.

3D optimisation through Agile working

Agile working and 3D modeling go hand in hand. PLM is enhanced by incorporating the tenets of Agile work practices. Companies like La Poste Online use these methodologies and tools to provide a better service to their customers. Visualisation of processes can help to show customers possible innovations, and working with these technologies in an agile and innovative way, can break molds and offer better and more attractive products.

Transforming infrastructures through digital technologies

3D modelling is a transformative technology. It is a tool that not only gives your audience a glimpse of the possible, but it is powerful enough to allow designers to generate optimal infrastructure plans, based on real-world constraints. 3D modelling must be used as part of the wider Product Lifecycle Management process, drawing in all of the actors in a given project to create a multi-disciplinary approach to infrastructure design and management. In this way, the digitisation of transport will benefit from state-of-the-art tools which will give us a more efficient transport system, that utilises resources in a world that is becoming increasingly urbanised, where populations are expanding and requiring more integrated transport systems and where climatic constraints are creating challenges we could not easily plan for without the benefit of sophisticated and powerful digital means.

Discover more about our experience delivering intelligent transport solutions.

The future of transport is digital: transport services production

by Philippe Clapin and Didier Le Guirriec, Sopra Steria France

In the second of our series looking at the challenges and benefits of the digitisation of transport we are going to delve into the area of digitised transport services production and all that entails.

The challenges and the needs

Digitisation is cutting across all layers of society. We have an expectation that virtually every action we take now has a digital approach, and transport and logistics have not escaped this. Digitising transport services, if done well, can improve the efficiency, create better experiences for customers and ultimately increase profitability of an integrated transport infrastructure.

The transportation industry, like many others, is under pressure to improve cost efficiency.  A report by transport and logistics analysts, Oliver Wyman, found that in a ten-year study, the companies involved showed increased revenue, yet reduced profits. Oliver Wyman suggests that to improve the situation, logistics and transport companies should focus on “standardizing and streamlining structures and processes, developing industry oriented and innovative solutions, thinking and acting in terms of networks.”

And digitisation is also being driven by consumer needs. Consumers are pushing the boundaries using ‘collaborative consumption’ to envisage new models of transport, including app-initiated car sharing and personal car rental.

An example of the power of digitisation: traffic management

In a report by Deloitte Research, Digital-Age Transportation: The Future of Urban Mobility’, they speak of American commuters spending 34 hours per year delayed in traffic. Europe can be even worse, with Paris having the worst traffic jams in Europe – unfortunate drivers are losing up to 70 hours a year stuck in traffic. A German Automobile Club study found that the impact of traffic jams on a country’s economy, the related fuel consumed and lost time could be up to 200 billion Euros.

This situation is not good for anyone – for  drivers, the road system or the councils. The issue arises when transport planners try to rectify these issues by adding new infrastructure – without intelligent application, this can prove slow and costly.

One of the emerging ways of managing traffic is through the use of drones. The U.S. Government is currently piloting a drone-based traffic monitoring system. In Europe there has been a number of research projects looking into the use of drones for traffic management. Some examples being the Czech Republic, Spain and France.

Drones offer real time data of traffic issues and allow planners to build patterns of traffic use and spot areas and times prone to traffic problems. They give a more accurate way of measuring and predicting traffic patterns. Big data obtained in real-time, from real events, can help to build a smarter approach to traffic planning and can inform smart infrastructure improvements. This can mean changes such as encouraging flexible working and creating ‘park and ride’ areas for busy town locations. The Netherlands has used this type of approach to manage their increasing traffic and cut traffic jams by 20%.

The importance of trains

The use of trains as a way of managing traffic should not be overlooked. Digitisation does not stop at roads. The automation of train management is crucial to the optimisation of the use of trains, which ultimately impacts on the optimisation of other modes of transport. Examples of how to improve train traffic have been identified by planning and prediction initiatives such as ‘Project Darwin’, which looks at how to link real-time train running information, to web sites and social media platforms. This information can then be used to predict journey times and allow passengers to plan journeys.

An example in action: La Poste Courrier

La Poste delivered around 15 billion parcels and letters in 2012 and is France’s foremost postal service. To say they have complex logistics is an understatement. To improve productivity and increase profits, La Poste Courrier has digitised their processes across 50 applications. By digitising their services and logistics, La Poste Courrier has been able to expand its product offering and improve their overall responsiveness by simplifying operations. One of the key areas in which a business like la Poste has to engage is customer engagement and commitment. Being able to optimize logistics and transport has ensured that delivery schedules are maintained and customers see the best service – giving La Poste the competitive edge in an increasingly competitive market space.

One of the challenges of digitising La Poste and other similar transport and logistic organisations is supporting existing infrastructures. Drawing on the use of modern Internet programming languages like PHP and .net as well as supporting enterprise architecture languages like Java, are essential to the success of digitisation of transport. In addition, understanding the needs of the various integrated departments within any given industry can only help to optimise the digitisation processes.

The Future

In a Franhofer Institute study into the future of road and train transportation and logistics, they determined that three main changes needed to be put in place to effect positive and efficient improvements:

  • Digitisation
  • Flexible management
  • Use of technology

They state that “…transportation sector, too, increasing interconnectedness and digitisation offers new opportunities and solutions to tackle growing traffic flows.“

I believe we can safely say the future of transport and logistics is digital.

Discover more about our experience delivering intelligent transport solutions.

The future of transport is digital: the customers

by Philippe Clapin and Didier Le Guirriec, Sopra Steria France

In our series of three articles looking at the digitization of transport we will explore some of the most impactful areas of this new paradigm:

  1. The customer
  2. Management of services
  3. Infrastructure

This first article will look at the customer, the driving force behind the digitization of the service.

Why digitize?

There has been a major shift in consumer perception and expectation of how a service works. This can be attributed to the rise of the Internet and in particular to the consumezisation of the Internet with platforms like Facebook and apps like Uber. Gartner has been watching and predicting outcomes from this consumerization and expect fluidic and dramatic changes in how services expect to be delivered.

Our customers are rapidly becoming technology sophisticates and as we move well into the 21stcentury, those customers will be the true digital natives, with an expectation that the products and services they use are digital. In addition, public transport is seeing increasingly heavy usage patterns as people including those in less developed countries, move into urban areas. Transport is an area that is now crossing the chasm into the age of digitization and with that comes challenges in how to handle the end to end customer experience and at the same time optimise on the use of technology to enhance this experience.

Challenges of serving the customer in a digitized transport system

One of the challenges and also the greatest benefit of a digitized transport system is the offering of a contactless payment method.

Contactless ticketing challenges: To truly embed contactless ticketing into a given transport system, it needs to be holistic. That is, it needs to work across every touch point in the transport eco-system – from carriers, to passengers, to local authorities and transport providers. Each must be enabled to proffer, moderate and accept the contactless method. Taking the system and extending it to cover all modes of transport, including, car shares, trains, buses, taxis and even bike hire schemes, is also part of the remit of the contactless ticketing network.

As part of this challenge, industry bodies such as the Smart Ticketing Alliance and Smart Card Alliance are working towards creating standards and industry collaboration, similar to those in the mobile phone ad banking sectors to encourage interoperability between transport systems throughout Europe.

Contactless ticketing benefits: The paramount benefit of offering a contactless ticketing system to customers is convenience. Urban transport is seeing some negative changes, including increased commute time. The average commute in London is 74 minutes and in New York it’s 75 minutes. Anything that can speed up a person’s journey is welcome and a quick swipe of a card, as opposed to pushing a ticket through a barrier, can do that – how often have we experienced a ticket getting stuck in a barrier or being held up by someone experiencing that?

People like contactless too. It’s easy to use. You don’t have to remember to ‘top up’ cards and you can use the device, such as a mobile phone, that you use for all of your other transactions. In fact the idea of contactless payments, in general, is taking off. In the UK there are 76 million contactless cards issued (more than the total population). In Australia, two thirds of the population own a contactless card and 53% use those regularly. In the US 80% of those who have contactless cards used them once a week. The reason for the popularity of contactless is the removal of barriers through ease of use and contactless ticketing is just another application of this method.

Transport for London is one of the first systems in the world to embrace contactless ticketing in a holistic manner. TfL have found this new system, which is integrated across almost all modes of transport in London, to be a success, with 20% of all pay-as-you go journeys now contactless less than a year since its launch.

One of the other major benefits to both the consumer and the transport provider is the integrated nature of the contactless ticketing system. Contactless is a more personalized and transparent method of ticketing and provides more insightful audit. Users can keep track of their payments and check out their travel habits in a way traditional ticketing doesn’t allow. Transport providers can offer enhanced services and have constant contact with their customers.

Security is a possible area of concern for contactless ticketing. However, as tickets are generally at the lower price bracket they in turn have a lower barrier to uptake. Further, older technologies incorporating magnetic strips could be counterfeited, whereas many contactless ticketing systems utilize modern security techniques and authentication methods.

Strasbourg Transport Company: a modern day contactless ticketing success

The Strasbourg Transport Company (STC) is a successful example of how contactless ticketing can work. They have rolled out a Near Field Communication (NFC) method of transport ticketing to the French cities of Strasbourg and Caen. The ticketing system is based on a mobile app known as U’GO which utilizes NFC technology to purchase tickets on public transport across the cities.

One of the great benefits of the system is that it is entirely ticketless. The cost of the new system is less than a tenth of the cost of a paper-based ticketing system, savings in paper and printing alone being part of this cost reduction. The system itself is entirely turnkey, with a connected mobile app, website and information system. The system has taken into account modern requirements of multicultural, connected, smart cities with multi-lingual web content and adaptive design for use across device types. The approach that STC is using is an all-encompassing one – supporting customers from ‘door-to-door’ and embracing dialogue and discourse through online content and social outlets.

In a survey on the U’GO ticketing system, 90% said it was a useful application and 85% said they would be continued users of the system.

The future

Contactless ticketing opens up a number of new avenues to make travelling easier, cheaper and more convenient. Contactless ticketing has the potential to offer other add on value services such as vouchers and gift opportunities. As well as cutting ongoing costs, it allows a transport provider to truly interact with their consumers and build a trusted relationship.

Discover more about our experience delivering intelligent transport solutions.

Never run on empty again

We often perceive queuing to be a waste of time simply because we could be doing something better. The advent of the driverless car could potentially change the regular visit to the fuel station by virtue of an intelligent planning solution.  Being able to understand your upcoming schedule, current capacity and prevailing travel conditions (weather, road works, congestion, etc.) could mean that an intelligent planner ensures your vehicle is re-fuelled at a convenient time without you being present, either on-demand or at a scheduled slot at your local station with which you have a contract. It could also be an attractive venture for the station to guarantee revenue, predict capacity and optimise the supply chain and delivery schedule of multiple fuel types, not just carbon based fuel. Using ANPR cameras and sensors, the garage can record the transaction and post it to your credit card.

Driverless cars have the potential to create many disruptive joint ventures.  Automated business and consumer deliveries would overcome skills shortages, but offer a new challenge to security staff. Health and community services could be accessed by elderly customers or simply extend their mobility. Roads could be surveyed using driverless cars with cameras that are later inspected back at the office. Vehicles that interact with smart cities could be used to collect important environmental, traffic and other data.

The car journey may start to resemble the train journey with all the benefits such as time to relax, indulge in a good book, watch a film or catch up on emails and telephone calls, but without the pitfalls, such as waiting on the platform and last mile to and from the station. Being able to access a greater range of on-demand services could be made available with innovative pricing and billing engines.

Of course, it may also mean that in future you will never run on empty again.

What are your thoughts? Leave a reply below or contact me by email.

End of the travel season ticket?

For decades the season ticket has been the convenient companion for the modern commuter. Is that about change? The day in the life of the commuter could look radically different in a few years’ time. Rather than the rider having to adjust to a fixed world of timetables, services and prices, they will be able to exercise more choice is a far more flexible and passenger centric eco-system.

Instead of a fixed season ticket, a far better alternative maybe in the form of a contract with a service provider whereby the rider chooses from options offered in real-time that can be purchased via the smart phone. Rather than the rider having to accommodate their individual needs to immovable timetables, the future rider will consume on-demand services that are dynamically priced and targeted toward the whole customer journey and experience, across multiple transport modes. The rise of the intelligent mobility provider will act as the broker between customer and the provider of transit capacity.

The customer accesses these services from a range of emerging services becoming available on the smartphone, but behind the scenes the mobility provider is processing the data from multiple sources which the customer can personalise to their travelling experience.

Mobility providers have been quick to respond to changes in attitude and are responsible for accelerating patterns of behavior; vehicle ownership is becoming less attractive in smart cities where the alternative of on-demand services can be purchased by the hour or minute. City cycle hire schemes have done much to improve reliance on a single mode of transport which means the rider can plan an entire journey from A to B, not just the train, tube, bus components. The future rider is more likely to share services and may elect to use feeder or community services for part of the journey.

Smart cities will enable data to be harvested from millions of collection points that will be consumed by city transport authorities, service providers, operators as well as passengers. For example, transport authorities may be interested to understand customer demand, service routes and emission data to inform the procurement of the types of vehicle they need to purchase. Attitudes to sharing are likely to extend beyond the immediate passenger needs with new joint ventures emerging: unmarked white vans delivering groceries on behalf of multiple retailers to reduce the number of branded vans that make similar journeys daily.

The emergence of alternatives is doing much to reshape the customer experience, where there is less reliance on the fixed world of separate transport services and acceptance of complete journeys that offers choice and personalisation, so that season ticket may soon be expiring.

What do you think? Leave a reply below, or contact me by email.