Powering innovation in rail by adopting interoperable smart data standards

Today Hayden, our Founder and Chair , gave a presentation to The Rail Innovation Group on their regular “Munch & Learn” webinar. The session explained the work & future aims of The Open Transport Initiative and was a combination of presentation (titled “Why all transport accounts need to make their data shareable”) and lively Q&A.

Topics covered included:

  • The UK Government has now clearly stated the intention to use legislation to “mandate industry involvement in Smart Data initiatives across the economy” – including transport & mobility
  • Now is the time for Rail to lead by example and commit to adopting interoperable customer account data standards to enable & fuel innovation across our industry

A full copy of the presentation can be found embedded below. And if you would like more information on the topics covered, please contact us: contact@opentransport.co.uk

2021 – the year Transport & Mobility adopts Smart Data initiatives?

Back in September 2020 the Government published the report:
“Next steps for Smart Data. Putting consumers and SMEs in control of their data and enabling innovation”.

In this document it clearly stated the intention to use legislation to “mandate industry involvement in Smart Data initiatives across the economy”. This means that Parliament will make different sectors, including Transport & Mobility, share customer data.

So in the same way that Open Banking delivered Financial Services account interoperability… we can expect the same regulations applied to Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) Platforms and Transport Providers across the UK.

The Open Transport initiative was set-up to further the creation & adoption of Open Standards in Transport. In January 2020, after getting the input from over 30 providers, suppliers, and specialists across the industry, we published THE FIRST & ONLY Open Standard API specifications for Transport & Mobility customer account smart data sharing. Learning from what has been successful in other sectors, this work is now known as the “Open Banking for Transport”.

We believe that the adoption of open and consistent smart data sharing standards will help:

  • To put customers back in control of their transportation data
  • To kick-start and enable an ecosystem of MaaS innovation
  • To deliver the UK Government intention of full customer transport account interoperability

2021 is the year that Transport & Mobility needs to shape the future of our industry or be shaped by it.

We therefore have the opportunity to work collectively and together now and adopt Smart Data sharing practices… Before we are legislated and mandated to do so.

Why build a Transport & Mobility Directory Open Standard?

Most people we speak with are surprised to find that a central directory service does not already exist.

The problem of a lack of a technical system-to-system look-up service across the transport and mobility industry was confirmed when we designed & published our Open Standard API for Mobility account interoperability (“The Open Banking for Transport”). We realised that without such a central service there was no way to find other APIs.
E.g. In the same way there was already a working & robust Internet domain name serviced BEFORE people started building websites.

We therefore decided to solve this issue by designing our own directory service and publishing for anyone to use. This specification evolved over time as we spoke with different stakeholders and standards bodies and we now have an Open Standard that also aligns to the Internet-of-Things discovery standard (PAS212)

We saw an opportunity to create a directory service that will be essential digital infrastructure for the entire industry.

And now we spend more of our time explaining the benefits and features of this service.

See also:

The benefits of a Central Operator Directory for Mobility & Transport

Every mature industry has some sort of central directory or look-up service (e.g. the Internet has IP addresses & DNS, telephone have exchanges & directories, the postal service has sorting offices & post offices and banks & financial services have branch / sort codes) with most of these now digitalised. However the transport and mobility sector does not… until now.

We think that the potential for a centralised directory API to be used by data providers and sharers (e.g. transport operators and MaaS Platforms) and data consumer (e.g. any 3rd party value-add service or transport tech innovator) is huge.

The benefits (e.g. time savings) and trust that comes from creating a key piece of modern digital infrastructure that can be used to find the precise digital location of any transport system or API that shares data across our industry is potentially game-changing.

It also (hopefully) supports an entire smart & data-driven transport innovation ecosystem.

More details on our Central Operator directory service are available here

What data entities does the Open Transport “Customer-Account” API expose?

Following various recent enquiries about the data that can be shared consistently between different transport and mobility accounts via our “customer-account” API specification, we thought we would explain each entity here in more detail

The purchase entity covers a product bought or agreed to be used. Such as a pre-paid ticket. e.g. an off-peak single ScotRail Glasgow Queen Street [GLQ] to Edinburgh (Waverley) [EDB] ticket
However, it could also cover the data relating to a contract or permit to travel (e.g. pay-per-use car parking contract or a electric car hire agreement )

The concession entity covers any relevant discount or voucher that the customer may have. Such as a railcard for a route or a person of a particular age.
However, it could also cover data related to free travel promotion for the subway or a staff parking discount scheme in a given area.

The usage entity covers any data associated with what the customer has historically done, including travelling on a journey.
Note: Usage/journey data is not always required for billing the customer (e.g. when they already have a pre-paid ticket), it could just be additional data that can be used to VALIDATE their purchase. However, it may be of financial use if the customer’s transport provider or mobility platform needs this usage data for subsequently billing them.
(e.g. to bill them for parking of that pay-per-use car parking contract, or to bill them for energy usage in addition to an electric car hire agreement)

If you have any further questions about the entities covered by our “customer-account” API specification, please contact us: contact@opentransport.co.uk

Joined-up transport data has Net Zero role

The ability to share smart data between many different transport and mobility accounts is a key aim of our organisation.

In an earlier post, we considered the range of benefits of customers being easily able to join-up their data from many different transport providers and Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) platforms. One of these benefits, comes from them being able to aggregate all their data from different accounts into the place of their choosing (e.g. into the transport app of their choice or the mobility dashboard website that provides the best user experience).

Transportation is currently responsible for around 20% of all global CO2 emissions.

So imagine the customer being able to see not only the miles they have travelled in total or the complete cost of a multi-modal trip… but also the combined environmental effect that this door-to-door transportation has had on the planet (e.g. the CO2 released as a result of their travels).

Surely, if we know which modes of transport have the biggest carbon footprints, integrated data therefore has a role to play in making this joined-up data far more available and presented back to the customer. So that in-turn they can make considered choices about the modes they use for transport & mobility and the greenhouse gases they emit as a consequence.

In-turn helping the UK to meet its Net Zero target of 2050.

What are the CO2 emissions for different transport & mobility modes?

Transport is currently responsible for around one-fifth of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

This is demonstrated in this recent graph (based on 2018 data) from Our World in Data, which gives a clear comparison of travel modes by their carbon footprint. These figures are measured in the amount of greenhouse gases emitted per passenger kilometre ( sourced from the UK Government’s methodology paper for greenhouse gas reporting).

Perhaps unsurprisingly air and car / taxi transportation (for single occupants) typically generates the highest carbon dioxide per passenger, with rail coming consistently much lower in grams of emissions per person per km.

So knowing this, what can transport & mobility do about it?

Well the emission of all greenhouse gases has to either stop or be naturally offset to prevent further climate change. The UK date for this “Net Zero” target is 2050, set by legislation passed by the Government in June 2019. Therefore the UK has to reduce the emission of (predominantly) CO2 and 5 others named gases within the next 30 years.

This means that transportation needs to quickly find a way to be carbon free.

Although this is challenging… it is not impossible. And we at The Open Transport Initiative intend to help meet this target.

Supporting a MaaS Ecosystem with Open Standard APIs

Earlier this year The Open Transport Initiative published its Open Standards for the sharing of transport and mobility account smart data. The aim being that by giving away any license claims and removing any proprietary Intellectual Property considerations these API standards could be adopted easier and quicker.

In short, our aim was to kick-start an entire ecosystem of transport account interoperability and mobility innovation.

These aims also align with the recently-published Government intention to include the transport sector within the scope of legislation to mandate UK industry-wide involvement in data sharing initiatives. The expectation is that that sectors such as ours will learn from others (principally Open Banking), who are further-on in their implementation and adoption of smart / shared data.
We therefore believe that the adoption (by choice or mandatory legislation) of Open customer account data sharing standards across the entire sector would be completely transformative from a customer perspective as well as a Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) platform vendor and public and private transport provider perspective too.

Or put another way… The creation and publication of these Open Standards is not a commercial venture, but a freely provided and necessary piece of digital infrastructure and value enabler for the entire transport and Mobility sector.

If you want to learn more about the work we have published or want to suggest a change that can benefit this sector: at contact@opentransport.co.uk

Smart Data for Transport – Lessons from other industries

The Transport and Mobility industry makes owning and sharing data difficult. The travelling customer has to work hard to access all their transport & mobility data. There are dozens & dozens of different online accounts – one for every major Transport Provider and MaaS Platform. Customers therefore have to log into every account to get a complete view of all their transport tickets and usage.

Or put another way:

  • Why isn’t there a way for the travelling customer to view their data in all disparate accounts in the same way?
  • Why don’t we have online services that can present all tickets, permits & passes across multiple different transport modes in a single dashboard (without them being part of one bespoke platform)?
  • Where are the innovations that join up customer journey data to help them made faster, cheaper, or greener future transport decisions?
The biggest inhibitor to Transport & Mobility Smart Data integration is not technology, but the lack of an adopted framework to securely access, use and share that smart data.

The biggest inhibitor to Transport & Mobility Smart Data integration is not technology, but the lack of an adopted framework to securely access, use and share that smart data. (Smart Data, defined as data that is owned by a customer and then shared with their permission, allowing it to be portable and interoperable between multiple services)

Transport also has a lot to learn from other industries about Smart Data (sometimes called “Shared data”).

For example:

Open Banking gives consumers the right and the ability to share their financial data with third parties. This industry-wide approach was significantly pushed forward by the European Payment Services Directive 2 (PSD2) in 2018. Following this, The Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) legislated that the UK banks must create API Standards that now allow third parties to access data in a consistent way. This helped to put customers back in control of their data and also kick-start and enable an entire ecosystem of innovation.

Open Finance is defined by The Financial Conduct Authority (FAC) as “the extension of open banking-like data sharing and third-party access to a wider range of financial sectors and products“. An example of this is interoperable vehicle telematics data that can open up the car insurance market.

Open Energy can do the same in the energy sector by making it much easier to exchange contract and usage data. This would allow better and more personalised products & billing and make account switching much easier.

9th September 2020 the UK Government published the report: “Next steps for Smart Data. Putting consumers and SMEs in control of their data and enabling innovation”. This welcome report stated the intention to use legislation to “mandate industry involvement in Smart Data initiatives across the economy”. Clearly indicating that Parliament will make different sectors participate in Smart Data initiatives, including Transport – which was specifically mentioned.

So its clear that the Transport and Mobility has a lot of catching-up to do and with inevitable legislation on the horizon… it is time for the industry to shape involvement or be shaped.

Smart Data for Transport & Mobility

Today, Hayden Sutherland, our Founder & Chair presented to the MaaS Scotland 2020 conference on the adoption of Smart Data for Transport & Mobility.

His presentation covered:

  • The current restrictions and limitations with online accounts
  • Definitions of Open Data and Smart Data
  • Smart Data examples in other industries – especially Online Banking
  • The findings in UK Gov report on “Next steps for Smart Data”
  • Their implications for Transport & Mobility
  • What The Open Transport Initiative has delivered to help with Smart Data sharing
  • A call to action, that it is now “Time to shape or be shaped” the future of Smart Data

A full copy of the presentation is now online here: