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ITS Conference Paper: The Trend Towards Mobility Service Integration

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Abstract: The increasing availability of data from our transport services, combined with ubiquitous smartphone use, creates unprecedented opportunities to realise the potential of Intelligent Transport Systems to make moving around cities faster, simpler and more convenient. The European Cloud Marketplace for Intelligent Mobility (ECIM), an EC-Funded project aims to deliver on the promise of ITS through a solution that combines a flexible, easy-to-use Cloud Platform with a single front-end user experience that replaces the 50 transport apps cluttering up your phone with a single interface. This paper examines the development challenges and future opportunities which ECIM’s development has highlighted and points the way to future developments that can improve the delivery of ITS for smart cities everywhere. Finally, the paper will conclude that to deliver true ITS, Smart Cities need to focus not on Integration but Federation of their Transport Services.

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ITS Conference Paper: The Trend Towards Mobility Service Integration

  1. 1. 22nd ITS World Congress, Bordeaux, France, 5–9 October 2015 Paper number ITS-2595 The Trend Toward Mobility Service Integration: The case of ECIM Eric Legale1* , Susie Ruston McAleer2* , Julia Glidden3* , Wim Vanobberghen4* 1. Issy Media, France, +33 141 238260, eric.legale@ville-issy.fr 2. 21c Consultancy Ltd, United Kingdom, susie@21cconsultancy.com 3. Institute of European Studies, Vrije Universiteit, Belgium, julia@21cconsultancy.com 4. iMinds SMIT, Belgium, wim.vanobberghen@vub.ac.be Abstract: The increasing availability of data from our transport services, combined with ubiquitous smartphone use, creates unprecedented opportunities to realise the potential of Intelligent Transport Systems to make moving around cities faster, simpler and more convenient. The European Cloud Marketplace for Intelligent Mobility (ECIM), an EC-Funded project aims to deliver on the promise of ITS through a solution that combines a flexible, easy-to-use Cloud Platform with a single front-end user experience that replaces the 50 transport apps cluttering up your phone with a single interface. This paper examines the development challenges and future opportunities which ECIM’s development has highlighted and points the way to future developments that can improve the delivery of ITS for smart cities everywhere. Finally, the paper will conclude that to deliver true ITS, Smart Cities need to focus not on Integration but Federation of their Transport Services. Keywords: Marketplace, Innovation, Cloud An Untapped Opportunity to Make Mobility Easier The increasing availability of data from our transport services, combined with ubiquitous smartphone use, creates unprecedented opportunities to realise the potential of Intelligent Transport Systems to make moving around cities faster, simpler and more convenient1 . Yet despite thousands of new apps being launched to seize this opportunity, most developments happen in isolation, leaving innovative services lost in the crowd and cities without the means to understand what resources they have at their disposal. Cities in the 21st century face greater challenges than ever before in allowing their citizens to move around2 . Where once central planning and state-provided services delivered all transportation, now a profusion of public and private services exist to help people move around. Further, the ‘sharing economy’ is giving rise to new peer-to-peer services every day, driving competition and increasing choice. This trend presents a new challenge to both cities and service providers alike – For cities, the
  2. 2. The Trend Toward Mobility Service Integration: The Case of ECIM question is how to harness the power of these new services to deliver more effective transport systems? For service providers, the challenge is more fundamental – How to get my service into the hands of users in a crowded marketplace? Many innovative transport services currently exist, but most still lack: • Effective distribution channels to get into the hands of users • Simple scalability to avoid ‘crowded’ smartphones • Cost-Efficient access to shared features such as payment solutions and common data feeds To solve these twin challenges, what is needed is a new type of marketplace where transport services can be federated, managed and presented to users in a way that promotes smart transport choices. The ECIM solution combines a flexible, easy-to-use Cloud Platform with a single front-end user interface that replaces the 50 transport apps cluttering up your phone with a single interface. ECIM delivers on the promise of ITS by is a journey planner with a difference, where you not only decide how to get from A to B, but also manage the different transport combinations – taxi, bus, train, bicycle hire - and you can book and pay for them too, all using your favourite apps, all without changing screens. Developing a Solution to Integrate Mobility Services The ECIM platform was developed according to a layered architecture designed to deliver a flexible, modular system that can be updated to reflect the latest technologies and functionalities of the different services aggregated upon it. The platform contains four basic layers: 1) the Presentation Layer contains all the User Interfaces and Visualization Modules necessary to provide the end-to-end mobility experience to the consumer 2) the Services Layer exposes multiple mobility service APIs in the form of web services, defining a set of resources/methods as well as message structures 3) the Business Layer encapsulates all the business logic, as well as core domain entities of the system. It implements all system’s workflows and offers a simplified API (system façade) to the top layers for fulfilling the business workflows 4) the Data Layer consists of all Data Access Objects as well as external service consumers. It is the broker to all the persistence storage and external data. The ECIM platform has been designed with a native HTML5 user interface to make access via a smart device easy regardless of OS. In addition to the HTML5 interface, the team are currently developing extensions for native OS on Android and iOS. Overcoming the Challenges of a Complex Domain During the development of the ECIM platform, the team encountered a number of challenges. Some of these challenges represent industry-wide problems that Smart City solutions in the transport sphere must deal with. In order to advance the field and to demonstrate some pragmatic solutions, the following section shares the experience of the ECIM team with some of these problems: 2
  3. 3. The Trend Toward Mobility Service Integration: The Case of ECIM Harmonizing Different Services – ECIM approaches this challenge from both sides. On the app specifications side, we ask each service provider joining our platform to fill in a quick survey. The survey checks all the different features their app needs in order to function correctly in ECIM’s cloud. Common examples of such features include GPS access, payment solutions or API data interfaces. We also ask service providers to tell us the details they need for user registration. These details enable us to build that information into our ‘once-only’ sign-up form. On the cloud platform side, ECIM took an ‘open architecture’ approach. Every piece of functionality is modular and ties together through an Open Source interface. Our modular approach means it is simple for the team to swap out an older component for a new version if the software needs to be updated or if a new app needs more advanced features. The cloud hosting of the platform also means the ECIM solution requires minimal storage on the user’s smart device. We can deliver hundreds of different apps through a single interface by taking care of the processing and integration on the cloud. This approach saves the user both time and precious phone memory. Service Provider Buy-In – ECIM understands that the lifeblood of any transport app is its customers. Many of our service providers have their own branding, their own market presence and their own customer base. However, we also know that many apps get lost in the crowd on iOS, Android or other operating systems. ECIM approaches every service with a simple value proposition: Join us and widen your access to new customers and new locations automatically. When a user opens ECIM, they select their preferred service for each mode of transport from a list of available options in their city. If, for example, there are multiple taxi services in a city, the user specifies their preference in the menu. From then on, any time they use ECIM to call a taxi, the interface automatically routes the order to their specified choice. Users are free to amend their choice of service providers at any time. One-Size Fits All Cities – ECIM tackled this problem from day one of the project. We approached the design of this ‘one size fits all countries’ solution by focusing on the interface between our services and the data they use. As an example, one of our target services, a cycle finder in Brussels called Villo! details every cycle hire location in the city. To work, all the service needs is the live cycle location data published by Villo! and a map of Brussels. Now, suppose a traveller wants to find a bicycle in Issy-les-Moulineaux using the same service. To work, the app needs to substitute the data feed from Villo! with one from Velib (the Issy cycle hire scheme). ECIM makes this possible by allowing the services to ‘plug in’ new data feeds. So an ECIM user in Issy will be able to open her app and get local cycle hire locations just as easily as a user in Brussels. 3
  4. 4. The Trend Toward Mobility Service Integration: The Case of ECIM The solution above works well for data-powered services. For services that depend on physical providers like taxis or trains, the challenge is greater and forms one of the new developments we are focussing on in the coming year. Road-Testing the ECIM Solution To validate its solution, ECIM will deploy parking and mobility pilots to more than 500 initial users in Brussels (Belgium), Greater Paris (Paris Grand Seine Ouest area) and Barcelona (Spain) before rolling out the completed solution in the city of Birmingham (United Kingdom). This pilot deployment uses a Living Lab approach, assuring the involvement of end users throughout the whole development cycle and as such making sure that the proposed solutions is in line with customers’ demands and expectations. The piloting process itself follows a two phase-strategy in order to capture feedback in the most successful manner and make technological adaptations the most efficient. In a first phase, a pre-pilot is tested in Brussels within a closed group of technological skilled citizens. These tests needs to make sure that the pilot, before being launched in a wider community, is working technically well, is user friendly in its design and that its outline complies to the scenario of parking and mobility. Based on comments from testers, this pre-pilot will be adapted in order to be ready to be deployed in an open group of testers, recruited in the wider city context. This second pilot stage will consist of two iterations in Issy-les-Moulineaux and Barcelona and a final cycle in Brussels. In each of these iterations, new functionalities will be added. At the end of 2014, the pre-pilot in Brussels and the first iteration of the pilot in Issy have been deployed. Both pilots focused in this stage on improving the parking experience by combining in the ECIM application on-street (parking on public roads) and off-street (parking off the public road) parking services. Moreover, they could start, end and pay the parking session on the spot, while using the mobility services with their own private account. While the pre-pilot of Brussels included Villo! Bike sharing stations as a first test case, the first iteration of the Issy pilot included also a wide range of other mobility services such as public transport stops (metro, RER, trams, busses) and car sharing and bike sharing stations. More than 100 Testers in both cities were asked to execute a test scenario that on the one hand gave them liberty to plan their journey to a certain pre-defined location in the city as they commonly do but on the other hand managed to let them make use of all the functionalities and services present on the application. Feedback was collected via surveys, participant observation and interviews. The collected feedback indicates that citizens welcome the ECIM solution and its underpinning objectives. Not only did they in both cities acknowledge the fact that having access to different 4
  5. 5. The Trend Toward Mobility Service Integration: The Case of ECIM parking services on one single application is very convenient than having to use two different applications, they also testified that the ECIM solution in this way allows them to discover unknown parking spots in area’s they consider to know quite well and compare these with the parking spots they currently use. Moreover, also the integration of all process dimensions of parking (finding – starting/ending session – finding your parked car back by means of directions - paying) was valued as being a step forward compared to current methods in the city. Also, by reducing the time to search for parking and expanding the number of parking spots, testers in the two cities testified that the ECIM application contributed to avoiding driving unnecessary around in the city and therefore will have an environmental positive impact. In the Issy pilot, that besides parking spots displayed also the location of other mobility services (with availability in the case of bike and car sharing), the testers acknowledged that, when being on the ‘move’, having a direct overview of all mobility services around their current location, was not only convenient but also very time-efficient in the case of unexpected delays. With ECIM they could easily detect where they could park their car and how to continue their journey by other transport means in a much shorter time-span than having to consult all different mobility and parking apps one by one. Although they did not have the functionality on this first version, they nonetheless indicated that making use and payment via the ECIM application of this mobility services possible would be very helpful, not only on the ‘spot’, but also in the planning phase before leaving the house or office. In the latter case, this wish was also connected to an identification of the ECIM application as being able to stimulate multi-modality planning and hence also contributing to having an environmental friendly impact. Currently, in spring 2015, the Barcelona pilot will be launched, helping a visitor to Barcelona for professional reasons to move around in the city. The use case will be the Mobile World Congress of 2015. The coming months the second cycle of the pilot for Barcelona, Paris and Brussels will be deployed and tested. In these pilots, besides integrating more services and expanding the information as much as possible beyond location towards real-time availability, the focus will be on making the use and payment for other mobility services possible straight from ECIM. The final solution, based on the final lessons gathered in Paris, Barcelona and Brussels, will be deployed in Birmingham in late 2015. In this way, ECIM will make sure that its services can be re-used across cities and countries. Meanwhile, also via participations in hackathons or app challenges in different European countries, ECIM hopes to scale out to other European cities in 2015-2016. Looking to the Future The ECIM team are working hard to improve and innovate our solution to meet the constantly evolving demands of Smart city transport systems. In particular, the following developments are planned to take advantage of recent developments in the domain: White-Label Interface – During the next year, we will be developing a customisable user interface that 5
  6. 6. The Trend Toward Mobility Service Integration: The Case of ECIM can be adapted to the needs of new cities that adopt ECIM. Our ambition isn't to turn ECIM into just another transport app brand. Instead, our white-label interface means a city can personalise ECIM as their own transport user interface. This city branding helps develop credibility and drive acceptance of the ECIM platform in new locations. Trusted User Identification (ID) – ECIM heard from our service provider partners that a function they would like to see on the platform is a solution for achieving trusted user authentication. Trusted user ID would allow service providers to give a more personalised user experience through the ECIM interface by linking them up with secure government services. Next year, ECIM will launch a trial to integrate the Belgian electronic ID (eID) register into the platform. Using the eID feed from the Belgian Government, ECIM will allow drivers in Brussels to renew their parking permits through our interface using their eID as proof of residence. Upon successful completion of this trial, we anticipate a full-scale roll-out by 2016 to all ECIM locations. Bus Camera Integration – One of our most exciting new services comes from bus operator Central Buses in Birmingham, UK. Using mobile cameras on their buses, Central Buses have developed an app that allows travellers to receive live video feeds from their buses to monitor real-time positions and view how full the bus is. ECIM is currently mapping this service into the platform and will debut it in a Birmingham pilot in late 2015. Conclusion: Federating Creativity The ECIM development process has yielded significant lessons for those pursuing new innovations in the ITS and Smart City Mobility domains. The concept of the ‘Smart’ or ‘Connected’ city continues to evolve and this fluidity often leaves city managers without a clear goal or vision at which to aim with their transport programmes. To compound this situation, many efforts to impose centrally- integrated transport systems from the top-down have struggled to achieve the acceptance levels among users that would maximise their impact. Instead, driven by trends like the Sharing Economy and the release of large-scale Open Data, today’s most successful smart city transport services are often delivered by small-scale apps. From bus finders to cycle locations, taxi hire to parking, readily- available Open Data is delivering an unprecedented volume of services that residents are using to get from A to B more effectively. Contrary to the ‘centralised’ vision of the Smart City, this trend places city managers in the position of curators; their primary duty to ensure that citizens can reliably access the wealth of great services in an urban area. ECIM targets just such a problem. By allowing services to join our marketplace and instantly place themselves in the hands of new users, ECIM helps city managers become more effective service curators. ECIM believes that the future of Integrated Transport Systems will not be integrated at all, but rather federated. Our marketplace is designed to catalyse a new generation of Open Data-fuelled mobility 6
  7. 7. The Trend Toward Mobility Service Integration: The Case of ECIM services to deliver ITS faster, cheaper and more effectively for Smart Cities everywhere. Acknowledgements Acknowledgement of the whole ECIM Consortium and the European Commission for their support and valuable input. References 1. Wedener, M; (2013) Transport policy, vol 29, September. pp 275-282 2. Van Audenhove, F. (2014). The Future of Urban Mobility 2.0 – white paper (Arthur D. Little). 3. ECIM website (2015). www.ecim-cities.ceu 7
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