Public transport’s weird journey into the future
In big cities, this fact has become increasingly true: all travel and movement starts with a smartphone.
Should you drive a car through town? Better check the traffic situation.
Want to hop on a bus to go out? Better see when it’s coming.
Want to ride a subway or tram to an area you’re not very familiar with? Better check how to get there and how long it will take.
Without a doubt, the smartphone has changed the situation for public transport.
Eric Goldwyn wrote about this last year. Goldwyn wonders why app development is not at the top of the list for public transport operators and providers.
There are probably many answers to this question. One of them is Goldwyn himself – the past few years have had a lot to do with opening up data flows and allowing independent developers to make use of them, sometimes by encouraging the development of ideas through hackathons. For example, New York held this competition and in Stockholm, SL helped create Travelhack.
But this is where we think the insight that forms the basis of Goldwyn’s question comes in: in order to be able to share data, there has to be data to share.
Or to put it differently: if the only information the app developers have available are timetables and route maps, their hands are tied from the outset.
This is of course where the Internet of Things and our own MIIPS platform come in. The point of it is simply that it can generate almost any kind of data anywhere.
Up to 20 apps are installed in some vehicles. They generate data on the position of a bus and its relationship to the timetable, how many passengers got on and off, how they surf the web, the extent of ticket sales, who is driving, how green the driving is, and so on. Even the vibrations of the bus can be measured and analyzed for maintenance purposes.
Altogether, there is certainly an impressive amount of data that can be used in all possible ways to improve financial results, environmental impact, or traveler benefits.
And we’re only talking about what we’ve already done. The number of possible data sources is endless.
Maybe it was a little absurd that so many people thought about how they could share data rather than about how to create it. It is what it is. It’s certainly clear that we have now entered the next step, where an increasing number of vehicles, systems and things are connected to generate data, or be controlled directly online.
Within a few years, practically all busses, trains, trams, and ferries in the world will be connected. They will have sensors to see, measure, count, weigh, listen – all to make public transport a little better all the time.
We look forward to the trip.