Intelligent transportation constitutes the arteries of smart cities. If mobility in the city is congested, unsafe, polluted, and costly, citizens are unhappy.
Urban transportation is evolving into “mobility as a service” (MaaS) — a more traveler-centric view of transport that is less focused on individual modes and more on a person’s mobility options from one location to another. Urban dwellers seek intra-city travel with minimal wait times between modes, minimal hassles and travel time, intuitive payment systems, maximum comfort and safety, and minimal environmental impact. Urban mobility hubs (such as train, metro and coach stations, and airports) play an important role to make mobility as a service a reality.
Reimagining the Traveler Experience in Mobility Hubs
Mobility hubs provide the physical and digital infrastructure and services that make intermodal mobility possible by connecting international, national, and regional travel with last-mile mobility. Mobility hubs deliver value to multiple customers. They aim to offer an excellent experience to travelers and other citizens. They must provide affordable, reliable, sustainable, and safe places for transportation companies to pick up and drop off passengers. They need to collaborate with cities and communities to develop neighborhoods in a sustainable manner.
The growing affordability, reliability, and popularity of high-speed trains, societal concerns over greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of private vehicles, and increasing traffic congestion is increasing the attention towards public transit options. As a result, train, metro, and coach stations — particularly in medium and large European cities — have taken advantage of the opportunity to expand their services and increase the yield of their real estate, while dealing with the safety and operational effectiveness challenges that more people bring. Airports are also experiencing a steady increase of air traffic, across Europe, and are benefiting from improved connections to city centers that made travel in and out of airports more sustainable through subways and trains. Under pressure to grow revenues while managing infrastructural and policy constraints (e.g., controls on GHG and noise emissions), airports have expanded the services they offer to airlines and passengers.
All strategic initiatives that train, metro, coach stations and airports have launched in Europe are geared to grow revenues by reimagining the traveler experience and improving operational efficiencies through a series of strategic initiatives aimed at:
- Getting people in and out of the hub through multiple modes of transport conveniently, by facilitating connections with private cars, subways and buses, ride-sharing, ride-hailing and taxi services, and increasingly, micro-mobility, such as escooters and ebikes.
- Creating personalized and pleasant experiences during the time passengers spend at the hub waiting for their connection, by expanding shopping, dining, and other entertainment experiences.
- Making navigation through check-ins, security controls, baggage drop-off and pickup, and moving on and off trains, coaches and airplanes more intuitive, by guiding passengers through queues and enabling self-service.
Mobility hubs are embracing technology to accelerate innovation
From augmented reality for indoor navigation, to IoT and big data and analytics for operational efficiency, to artificial intelligence (AI) and biometrics used to securely clear passengers across check-ins and boarding of trains, metro, buses, and planes, technological innovation is enabling mobility hubs to accelerate in the quest for improved operational efficiencies, customer satisfaction, security, and sustainability. Technology innovation is empowering mobility hubs to bring together:
- Personalized, pleasant, intuitive experiences — Mobile apps, NFC, video technologies, indoor location tools, intelligent process automation and customer data integration, analytics, and artificial intelligence are empowering mobility hubs to make the end-to-end passenger experience convenient, pleasant, and intuitive through self-service, seamless payments, and personalized.
- Adaptive and predictive operations — The combination of IoT sensor technology with data integration platforms, 3D modeling, predictive analytics, and artificial intelligence and their integration with operational technologies is empowering mobility hubs to adapt in real time and predict events that affect efficiency and quality of operations and to offer frictionless services that drive cost efficiencies. International guidelines, such as the 2018 IATA Resolution 753 that requires airports to track baggage at four separate key points — passenger handover, loading onto the aircraft, delivery to the transfer area, and the return to the passenger — drive investment in RFID tagging and sensing infrastructure.
- Smart infrastructure — The combination of IoT, analytics, artificial intelligence, and building information systems with operational equipment such as HVAC, elevators, escalators, and water management systems is enabling mobility hubs to plan, build, expand, and maintain infrastructure while saving on energy costs, reducing their impact on the environment, and making the experience more comfortable for travelers.
- 360° Security — Security must be pervasive in mobility hubs because of growing traffic levels and the risk of terrorist attacks and other security incidents. Investments in biometrics, artificial intelligence, high-resolution video, robotics, and analytics are top priorities to continuously advance the safety and resilience of hubs. For instance, the EU-funded iBrderCtrl project involves the trial of AI to speed up border crossings. A virtual border guard asks passengers questions such as “What’s in your suitcase”, while a webcam analyses their facial expressions.
Technology innovation will empower mobility hubs to drive revenue growth through a reimagined traveler experience, to reduce costs through operational efficiency and to ensure end-to-end security. To realize the value of digital innovation, mobility hub executives should:
- Align technology investments with the strategic goals of reimagining the end-to-end traveler experience.
- Orchestrate an ecosystem of suppliers that spans from operational equipment providers to artificial intelligence start-ups, to biometrics experts.
- Share data with the ecosystem.
- Make security and data protection top priorities.
- Work with start-ups and academia to run research projects to envision how their operational environment will evolve.