Defining the modes of transport & mobility

As part of our standards work, we quickly realised that we needed to centralise around a common definition of the “mode” of transport. Other definitions of the “method of conveyance” that were identified during the evolution of the standard we created were either too restrictive (e.g. just covering public transit) or proprietary (and therefore not suitable for a truly open specification).

However, after consulting with another European public sector transport body, we published the following list of modes:

001 = on foot (for complete end-to-end journey mapping)
002 = cycle (includes both human-powered pedal cycle and ebike, typically rented or shared but also possibly privately owned for complete end-to-end journey mapping)
003 = moped & motorbike (shared & privately-owned self-powered vehicles, for complete end-to-end journey mapping)
004 = scooter (includes human and electric/battery powered where passenger steps in/on)
005 = segway (includes any motorised self-balancing personal platform and also electric unicycles)
006 = car (includes any vehicle where the driver is also a passenger, such as: car / van vehicle rental, car pool & car club)
007 = bus (includes any vehicle typically greater than 8 seats.. such as a mini bus)
008 = tram (includes any guided vehicle such as a streetcar and also trolleybuses that are limited by overhead power lines)
009 = metro & subway (includes any light rail transit and their interconnecting systems)
010 = train (includes intercity, Eurostar / TGV, etc.)
011 = water bus (includes river buses, typically just passenger service with multiple stops)
012 = water ferry (includes passenger only and also passenger & vehicle)
013 = air (aeroplane, helicopter, etc.)
014 = car parking (includes on-street & off-street)
015 = taxi (includes any vehicle where the driver is NOT a passenger)
Since January we have also now:

  • Deployed our list of transport & mobility modes as a sample “mode” API :
  • Received a Change Request to add a further 16th mode:
    016 = suspended cable car (includes any aerial cable cars, such as London “Emirates Air Line”, Barcelona Montjuïc & Port Cable Cars and New York Roosevelt Island Tramway)

    Note: This change has now been accepted and we are now in the process of updating our specification

How does Open Transport help innovation?

The transport and mobility sector is not known for the pace of innovation that some others have (e.g. FinTechs).

To help change this we firmly believe that the new world of transport & mobility needs to be open (not proprietary).

This means: an open ecosystem, open technology and easy collaboration between services using open APIs.

Adopting this openness means transport providers and Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) Platforms can connect to a wider external ecosystem of suppliers and consumers of their services. They can then potentially collaborate much easier on new product offerings. This all helps to reduce development time & costs and reducing vendor lock-in.

Embracing this open movement means newer entrants be introduced much easier. Putting the power to innovate firmly back in the hands of those most able to provide it.

Open Transport as an Innovation case study

Our Founder, Hayden Sutherland, was recently interviewed by a University student on the topic of innovation.

Here are the questions & answers provided:

Q1 : Did you use a specific innovation model or follow a process when carrying out your innovation?

A1: When originally coming up with the original idea, there was no specific model or approach used. However, to get this idea to actually become the reality of an accepted & published Open Standard, there was an established process to go through:

  • Collate a pool of experts from as wide & diverse group as possible to create a “straw man” concept of the specifications
  • Invite others to participate in workshops and an online community to evolve the specifications
  • Publish the draft specifications
  • Issue an open invitation to provide input and general feedback from the entire international community (if you want nice feedback ask a friend, but if you want real criticism … ask an enemy)
  • In addition, and to get the widest possible reach and honestly, an event was organised by MaaS Scotland (the industry body for the transport and mobility sector in Scotland) where I got to present my latest specification and future direction to my peers. This “technical Dragons Den” was very useful as many different specialists got to: listen in full, ask specific questions and even bounce ideas of each other to challenge the draft spec. This all helped to refine the detail and really ratify the work that had been done
  • Publish the specifications as an official version (v1.0) of the Open Standards, along with content on their free usage and a clear process for requesting changes and improvements in the future.

Q2: How did you make decisions throughout the process? Did you use any models here?

A2: There were no set models used for decision making. But from the beginning and throughout the entire process I was very aware that a potential barrier to us achieving the best decisions was if they were made by just one person (me). To therefore make certain this did not happen, I ensured I was significantly guided, challenged and helped by a wide group of industry specialists, who are each experts in their field or mode of transport. The most foolish thing would have been to have brought together a group of people who were all specialists and then not continually listen, ask, consult and more generally work with them.

Q3: Did the culture of the group support innovation?

A3: Yes, the group’s culture was particularly important and this really helped to get the standards published in such a comparatively short space of time.
If you want to get the best out of people (and I wanted to, see answer 2 above), you have to ensure that they have all the right inputs, cues or data (e.g. a firm understanding of when this innovation will and will not be used or applicable) and also are able to speak their mind and develop the ideas of the others in the group.

The Open Transport elevator pitch

We regularly get asked for a short description of what Open Transport specifically is (our ‘elevator pitch’). So, we thought we would share this here:

Open Transport is the first & only Open Standard for Transport and Mobility account interoperability. It is best described simply as the “Open Banking for Transport”.

The standard, released on 3rd January 2020, is made up of two different two Application Programming Interface (API) specifications that can be used separately or together to help provide an open mobility system:

  1. Customer-account API
    A standard way to expose mobility account data (not personally identifiable data) owned by a customer when integrating to another account, regardless of transport mode or system. Thus potentially allowing the customer to view all their transportation and associated data in one place. Properly implemented, this means the travelling customer has no more continual searching across various apps and websites to join-up journey, ticket and discount data.
  2. Centralised Operator-info API
    A design for a centralised look-up for all transport operators and Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) platforms. This first-of-a-kind transport directory service (similar to the sort code directory within the Financial Services Industry) will provide unique reference information about each mode of transport or mobility organisation, including Customer-account API locations.

We have a published process for suggesting further amendments and improvements to this Open Standard. So if it does not exactly meet the needs of a specific transport provider or mobility service, we can look to amend our specifications in a backward compatible way .

Plus, being a truly Open Standard… both API specifications are free to adopt and adapt, without conditions. All we ask is that Open Transport is informed and publicly mentioned when either is used.

Want to know more?

Proposed changes to the Open Transport specifications

The two Open Transport API specifications were published as Open Standards on 3rd January 2020. Since then the Board has received the following Change Requests to modify and improve these designs:

API: Centralised Operator-info API
Change: The addition of another “mode”, that of: “016: suspended cable car”.
Plus also some mapping work to clarify the use of Open Transport “modes” against those used in the GTFS standard.

API: Centralised Operator-info API
Change: Change of API structure to align to PAS212 (the Internet-of-Things directory standard)
In effect, making the Open Transport Centralised Operator-info API a mobility industry-specific implementation of PAS212.

API: Centralised Operator-info API
Change: Expansion of the centralised look-up service to include an additional MIPTA (Mobile Interface for Public Transport Assets) asset registry endpoint location (URL)

API: Customer-account API
Change: Add “account balance” to add “account balance” to “purchase” data
This exposed the transport credit balance of any account based travel (ABT) system or stored value product. So that the balance can be viewed in another integrated transport provider account.

On the assumption that these Change Requests are accepted, this will result in a version update to both API specifications.

Open Transport & Cliff Notes Podcast Interview

In a recent interview with Cliff Notes Podcast host Tristan Bailey, Hayden Sutherland Founder and Chair of the Open Transport initiative shares his thoughts on Transport and Mobility account interoperability.

In the interview they cover:
– What the Open Transport standards?
– What is an Open Standard?
– What are Open Transport helping businesses with?
– Is there a cost or saving?
– Who benefits from Transport and Mobility account interoperability?

You can here the whole interview here:

A request from Open Transport

We have had a frantic 2019 to get the “the first global Open Standard for transport account interoperability” launched last month (3rd January 2020 to be exact). And now we are busy pushing for its adoption and acceptance across the transport industry.

To help with this aim we have a simple request. The Board of the Open Transport initiative is now looking to meet and share our work with anyone who is a senior level transport, mobility or smart city stakeholder.

Perhaps you are:

– a legislator or public sector industry policy maker that covers public and private mobility

– a local authority transport, digital or innovation lead

– a chief technologist in a transit company or their software supplier

In short, if you provide guidance, are responsible for the future direction or make decisions on mobility and transportation services… then we would like 30 minutes of your time (please).

For further background on what we have done so far, here is the presentation our Founder and Chair gave recently at Transport Ticketing Global, where Open Transport was shortlisted for the “technology of the year” award*

*we were unfortunately beaten by some taxi company called Uber in the end 😉

Rail Innovation recognition for Open Transport Founder

The Open Transport Initiative is delighted with the announcement from the Rail Innovation Group that founding member and chair, Hayden Sutherland, has been appointed to their Hall of Recognition for services to innovation in the transportation industry and most specifically for the development of the Open Transport Initiative.

This nomination is for a person contributing to cultural change in rail who:
“Approach problems with a willingness to challenge tradition & be open minded to new concepts that don’t always have proven track record. Cultivate & embrace diversity to derive benefits from new technologies or processes, or from using them in a better way.

The Rail Innovation Group is a community that brings together the best skills and experience from the rail & tech industries with this nomination endorsed by peer groups.

This is a fantastic acknowledgement, not only for Hayden personally, but for the validation of the Open Transport Initiative and its progress.

Dan Schoenhofen appointed to Open Transport Board

The Open Transport initiative has appointed smart ticketing and public transport expert Dan Schoenhofen to its Board.

Dan has over a decade of public transport ticketing experience across a variety of modes and operators. He was a key contributor to the successful £300m business case for the modernisation of the Glasgow Subway and, as part of the resulting programme, delivered the UK’s first fully smart ticketing system with the largest e-purse outside London.

As well as project delivery for light and heavy rail, bus, coach and ferry, Dan also chaired the forum of the ZoneCard ticketing arrangement in Strathclyde and was previously responsible for customer management of Subway smartcard and the Scottish National Entitlement Card holders.

Hayden Sutherland, Founder & Chair of Open Transport stated “Having Dan join the Open Transport board brings a wealth of public transit experience to the team. His input as a smart ticketing specialist also helps ensure our work to develop a Global Open Standard for mobility account interoperability covers as many transport modes as possible.”

Amendment process for our Open Standards

An Open Standard must have a transparent and published feedback and amendment or modification process. This also needs to be clear and communicated as widely as possible. Therefore we have published this process here on our website (and other Social Media channels too).

For those who don’t know… Open Transport Provides 2 x APIs :

  1. An API specification for federated transport customer account interoperability
  2. An API specification for a centralised operator information look-up service. This is a directory of transport endpoints (AKA An “API of APIs”)

We have also published this document in PDF for reference:

Therefore is anyone wishes to propose a change to either one of our two published Open Standards (or both), they should initially contact us on: to start this process.