Making city transport smarter with the smartphone

Brian Zanghi, CEO, Masabi

Smart Cities are all about the implementation and adoption of integrated technology to improve urban life, and there is no better example than the impact the smartphone is having on urban transport systems.

With the accelerating shift toward urbanisation, greater demands are being placed on already over burdened transportation networks. As public transportation becomes increasingly more critical to driving economic development, transportation operators will need to ensure they are maximising their investments while balancing ageing vehicles, infrastructure and ticketing architecture. Without an optimised network, cities cannot realise their full economic potential, as they face a vicious cycle of less and less visitors, fewer headquartered companies and diminishing incentives to invest in housing, says Brian Zanghi, CEO of Masabi.

However, simply increasing capacity is not an option for many cities. Building more subway tunnels, buying additional buses or adding more ticket machines are all expensive options and require more space than some cities have to spare, often prohibitively so. Instead, cities around the world are turning to technology – in particular the smartphone – to provide solutions; improve network utilisation and creating vital savings for infrastructure investment while also dramatically improving trip experience for the end-user.

It is hard to think of a mode of transportation that hasn’t utilised smartphone technology to its benefit. From mobile-based boarding passes for air travel, to applications for bicycle or car hire, parking, ride hailing, and across all modes of public transport; the smartphone is at the heart of moving people more efficiently around urban ecosystems by providing users with unprecedented levels of information and convenience.

Mobile ticketing benefits cities, transport operators, authorities and passengers alike. No longer does paying for a journey need to involve queuing and fumbling for cash or ticketing media. Gone are the days of waiting to get to the station, bus stop, or ferry pier only to find out your train, bus, tram, subway or ferry is delayed or isn’t running. By putting the means to purchase tickets and access up-to-the-minute service information at the tap of a screen, the smartphone has redefined the urban travel experience.

masabi_jr_imgMobile Ticketing also provides operators with a previously unimaginable wealth of ridership insight including revenues, rider usage and density; enabling better network planning and capacity optimisation on a daily basis and providing continuously updating live data that previously took months to gather.

Mobile ticketing is deployment-proven in cities around the world. In Boston, where mobile ticketing saved the MBTA $70 million as opposed to upgrading existing ticketing sales architecture, more than a third of the ridership already utilise the mobile sales channel with overwhelmingly positive feedback on user experience. In Athens, where the authorities introduced mobile ticketing across all modes of public transport, the process of travel has been revolutionised. Where previously passengers had to visit a metro station to purchase tickets, even if riding the bus, now they can be ready to turn up and travel with a few taps of their device.

Mobile ticketing is just one of many mobile apps and services being developed to help people navigate cities.  Each app does a fantastic job in the niche they are designed for, be it parking, bike share or route planning. Masabi believes that the next step in Smart City development is to create an ecosystem of tightly integrated apps for seamless, frictionless, door-to-door journeys – making it simple for the user to transact across several different services. By utilising a common set of APIs and standards it is possible for multiple applications to interact allowing the user to surf between services in the same way they would on the web. The result is stress free, frictionless travel using your smartphone. Masabi is working with major partners, such as Mastercard, to define and build the Smart City app ecosystem, and provide links within ticketing apps that connect with route planning services to help make journeys better. But, this is just the start; over the next two years ecosystems will be built around the specific needs of individual cities, to help make Smart Cities a reality.

Changes such as these – improving the efficiency of the entire transport network, with minimal capital expenditure for operators and no disruption to services for users, while at the same time improving the profitability of the fare collection process – illustrate the potential that the smartphone has to improve everyday urban life.

The author of this blog is Brian Zanghi, CEO of Masabi.

Comment on this article below or via Twitter: @IoTNow_ OR @jcIoTnow


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