Article about Open Transport on Digit website

There is a great post about the Open Transport initiative from Moya of Ideal Interface on the Digit website this week.

The article leads with the line:
Open Transport is creating a standard way that transport customers can securely integrate their accounts together and share some transport data. “

It answers some very useful questions that Open Transit has been asked recently, including:

  • So what would an Open Standard do for the transport sector?
  • Why does the Transport & Mobility sector need an Open Standard?
  • So what’s next for the Open Transport initiative?

Open Transport Press Release October 2019 (full version)

Open Transport Initiative launches New Standard for Transport and Mobility Interoperability

“Open Transport aims to do for the transport sector what Open Banking has done for the Financial Services sector.”

Today, International Standards Day (14th October) sees the launch of a new standard in the transport and mobility sector. The publication of a draft Open Standard for Transport Account Interoperability by the Open Transport initiative, a team of transport and technology specialists who saw the need for transport accounts to work together.

Since early 2018 the Financial Services market across Europe has been adopting Open Banking. An approach that allows secure interoperability of personal accounts between banks, which puts the customer more in control of their finances. This new transport account standard has been created to achieve for Transport what Open Banking has achieved for Financial Services. It facilitates peer-to-peer transport account data sharing and interoperability, allowing the customer to view all their transportation, mobility and associated data in one place. No searching across various apps and websites to join-up journey, ticket and discount data. This collaborative account and data standardisation will produce the best experience for the travelling customer.

This initiative was started earlier in 2019 by Ideal Interface, a strategic and digital consultancy based in Glasgow Scotland. It has since been steadily gathering interest by mobility industry vendors, public transport authorities and operators around the UK and Europe, plus has had wider input from rail, ferry, subway, bus, parking, & taxi organisations, as well as academia. It is now ready for review and input by all transportation practitioners and observers.
“This is the right time to put the draft standard out to review. For us, this is the next step in getting the Open Transport accepted as a ratified standard. This is an enabler for true Mobility-As-A-Service (MaaS) schemes.”
Hayden Sutherland, Ideal Interface

If you are interested in reading more or taking part in the review, contact the Open Standard Initiative

The disruption of transport

Every industry is seemingly being disrupted right now. It seems as if there is almost an inevitability about it, regardless of whether this disruption is commercially viable or not.

And disruptive start-ups have to start somewhere, typically by taking revenue or customers away from more established brands. Meaning that market fragmentation is an almost inevitable consequence:

  • Challenger banks entered the financial services market to take business from the High Street banks
  • Tesla look custom away from traditional car manufacturers by providing innovation, distance, style and performance from electric cars

And transportation disruption is now upon us. Uber is worth around $100Bn (yes Billions!) and eScooter companies like Bird and Lime are scooping up users and propelling them along urban tarmac near you. Meaning that there are more & more online accounts being created for each & every mobility service.

What Open Transport is therefore trying to do is create a way to put the customer back in control of their transport data.

By allowing them to use the online account of their choice and to securely link it to their other transport accounts. In this way they can have a central view of all their tickets, journeys and travel discounts, without having to log into each account separately.

So even if the transport market becomes increasingly fragmented, the data can all be integrated in the account(s) that the user wants.

Updating the Open Transport roadmap

In an earlier post, we showed our roadmap of intended functionality, broken into 3 phases. Since then we have discussed the possibility of adding a third data entity to the first phase: concessions (in addition to tickets and journeys).

Concessions, also called travelcards/railcards or entitlements provide a discount across one or mode modes of transport – mainly public transit.

This additional entity was felt to to be sufficiently important to add to the initial release of the specification as we believe that not having it would be a further barrier to the adoption of account interoperability… especially in a younger demographic, who tend to be early adopters of technology.

Modern mobility needs account interoperability

The way that people now travel in rural areas, suburbs and cities has changed (and will change further and more quickly) as customer needs have evolved and mobile technologies have gained increasing acceptance. Transportation users have become more used to mixing modes that combine mass transit such as rail, subway and bus services with more private services, such as car & bike sharing, scooter and other micro-mobility initiatives.

Each of these services now typically provides an online account to plan, book, view and manage each mode of transportation separately. Rail tickets and journeys can be viewed in a user’s train account, bus journeys are stored in an online bus account and individual car hire websites just show the bookings made for their vehicles. There are exceptions (such as Uber, which now allows other services such as electric scooters to also be booked within their App), but the usual situation is still “one mode, once account”.

However, as transport increasingly moves to more of an on-demand proposition, which should ideally provide the best end-to-end (door-to-door) solution in the cheapest, easiest or greenest way… the old data silos created for each mode are going to be an issue.

Data about a user’s complete journey therefore either needs to sit in a central (aggregated) account, or the individual accounts need to find a way to integrate between themselves (federated) and share the necessary data to provide a single joined-up view.