What’s new in the transport world? Thoughts from Fujitsu Forum 2017

Russell Goodenough
By , - InnovationTransport

At the beginning of November, more than 10,000 people from over 80 countries arrived in Munich for Fujitsu Forum 2017.

This means over 10,000 return journeys were made between homes, airports, hotels, the conference centre and everywhere in between – literally tens of thousands of individual trips.

I wonder how many modes of transport were used?

How many miles were travelled and how many connections made?

And most importantly I’d like to know: how many people had a good travel experience?

These were the kinds of questions discussed in Forum’s transport breakout sessions.

In this blog post I’m going to round up the key themes these sessions, from co-creation to passenger-centricity and the overwhelming importance of safety.

A close look at mobility – now and in the future

First, let’s start with some definitions.

And there is nobody better to define mobility than Dr Prof Helmut Krcmar, Chair for Information Systems at the Technical University of Munich.

He opened his session, “Insights on Connected Mobility 2025 +” by emphasising the breadth of the term mobility.

Admittedly when you talk about mobility you normally just mean transportation from A to B, involving anything from your own vehicle, a hire car, a long-distance train, an international flight or an underground network.

But there is more to it than this.

Being able to move around also gives you access to the labour market.

How many people can realistically walk to work every day? Without transportation, our economy and increasingly urban lifestyles would look very different.

Mobility also exercises significant influence over a person’s social life.

It can determine your participation in leisure activities. Can you go for a hike if you can’t get to the mountains?

And transport has had a serious impact on the wider economy.

We are fast becoming a cashless society, for example.

In part this may be due to the fact that transport options no longer require cash – in London, contactless banking cards and mobile payment are quickly making the Oyster smartcard redundant – buses went cash free altogether in 2014. Around the globe, Uber uses an online payment platform so neither passengers nor drivers have to negotiate coins and notes.

This is part of a much wider point on the overall significance of transport in our daily lives.

Our lives require us to travel, so mobility is now one of our fundamental needs.

Transport is connected to all aspects of our world in ways you might not expect – from politics and business to the environment and social life.

Another point that emerged from Dr Krcmar’s session involved the variability of passenger needs.

He pointed out that sometimes you want to be in your car alone because you want to listen to music really loudly or have a private conversation on the phone.

And there are other times that you need to catch up on work during your journey so you might prefer to take the train.

Data is king

Dr Krcmar then went on to discuss his research paper on mobility. He asked 2,600 experts what the future of mobility will look like.

He discovered that data and connectivity is a real issue when it comes to mobility.

Mobility data acts as a currency, which becomes clear if you attempt to use a transport app on a slow bandwidth.

Data also plays a role on the reverse side of things.

You need to provide data about your mobility needs to transport operators. After all, if you are the only one who knows about your needs, you can’t be surprised when nobody provides for them.

But let’s not forget technology also provides us with ways to avoid travelling at all – you can use telephone conferences or video chat, for example.

If we get to a point where it is less culturally important to communicate in person, these technological alternatives to transport could wipe out the need for mobility entirely.

The future of transport: personalisation and connectivity

Many of these points were picked up by Nial Finnegan in his talk ‘The role of mobility in transportation’.

Like Dr Krcmar, Nial highlighted the importance of technology to mobility, revealing that 38% of UK passengers consider a smartphone essential to their journey experience.

The internet of things (IoT) has huge value here, Nial said, “as it provides the operators with more information about their passengers so they can make better choices.”

Here’s an example: imagine you are the operator of an intercity train, and there are a lot of passengers running late on a connecting train. You can see this because their mobiles are connected to the IoT.

You could decide to hold the train for two minutes to wait for them so they can continue their journey, preventing overcrowding on a later service.

The other great thing about connected devices is you can use them to collect data about passenger preferences.

Then you can use this information to improve the end-to-end passenger experience – it will automatically find you a seat in the quiet carriage, for instance, if that is your usual choice.

You can also use personal data to offer incentives to passengers who delay their journey at peak times in order to ease congestion.

This is part of what Nial described as a wider vision – one where passengers will be encouraged to work with transport operators to manage supply and demand and deliver a service that works for everyone.

Take a look at some of the transport solutions from the Fujitsu Forum demo centre:

The role of safety in mobility

One of the key considerations when thinking about transport is safety.

This is how David Walker, Global Product Manager at Amplify, Fujitsu, opened his session: ‘People first: delivering worker safety by mastering wellbeing and compliance’.

Watch the ‘People first’ session here:

The second point this session highlighted was that you don’t have to be a professional driver in order to do driving as a part of your job.

So when you’re considering the safety of your workforce you need to include the person who drives for 2.5 hours to a difficult meeting and then 2.5 hours back.

In fact, you need to include just about anyone who takes excessive journeys for work, because transport is a part of everyone’s life as we’ve already seen.

“Driver drowsiness,” David noted, “is a universal problem.”

Organisations have a duty of care over people who work for them – they need to look after them even when they are on their way home.

You want your staff to get home safely – not just from a business perspective but a human one.

One way of doing this is to use a drowsy driver kit.

The kit includes a sensor that sits on the bottom of the driver’s ear and measures their biorhythms to ensure that they are alert and fit to drive.

If it picks up the change in the biorhythms that indicates you are entering a pre-drowsy state, it will vibrate to warn you to take a break.

It will also send a notification to the dashboard on your phone, which can be mounted on your windscreen so you can see it while driving.

If you continue driving in a drowsy condition, it will contact your management through the dashboard.

One of the most useful things about the kit is that it collects data.

Mike Kehoe from Amey talked us through this feature.

“We’ve got a lot of data using this kit” he said, “We know that some of our staff have been driving extreme distances without taking a break.”

Having this data meant that Amey could change its policy towards staff driving.

Before the kit was introduced, Amey tried to enforce a rule dictating all drivers took a break after two hours, but now it suggests employees take a break when they need one.

Clearly this is another example of connected technology working with transport stakeholders – the passengers and employees – to make their experience safer.

A flying example for transport innovation

The final example of the importance of transport in our daily lives came from ‘Mastering business innovation: co-creation takes off at Heathrow’.

Robin Gissing, Innovation Technologist at Heathrow Airport, and his Fujitsu colleagues Joachim Box and Camilo Mesias led this session.

They described their work on Heathrow as “a truly collaborative co-creation experience.”

This is according to their own definition of co-creation, which involves “multiple perspectives brought together with digital technology by Fujitsu to create transformational outcomes,” according to Joachim.

Heathrow airport is the second busiest international airport in the world, with nearly 75 million passengers a year.

Utilisation of the two runways is at 98.2%, so as Robin said, “optimisation is really important.”

The team aimed to deliver a step-change in experience or service through new tech processes and technologies.

To do this they spoke to a lot of people in the airport, from cleaners to CEOs, and used their feedback to direct their innovation efforts.

They also sought input from the brightest minds available for the task: Fujitsu Distinguished Engineers.

The Distinguished Engineer community helped them generate 130 ideas, which was eventually reduced down to just a few.

The idea that found most success as a use case was the digital ear.

This technology is comprised of a sensor that connects to Heathrow’s 4G in order to listen out for unusual noises that can signify a piece of equipment is malfunctioning.

The airport is naturally a noisy environment, which represented a challenge.

But results so far have been promising. The digital ear has been trialled in two locations with 70% accuracy.

An improved rate of malfunction detection has the potential to make a hugely positive impact on energy use at the airport.

The team estimates the digital ear could save 12 tonnes of CO1 and 4% of NOx a year.

This is very much in line with Heathrow’s new environmental policies, named ‘Heathrow 2.0’, which intend to redress the balance between the need for aviation and the ecosystem that surrounds it.

Joachim, Robin and Camilo ended with some advice for people aiming to use co-creation to spur innovation:

  • Goals – there must be a meaningful goal behind the innovation. In the case of the digital ear, this was the reduction of emissions – something that has clear value to everyone.
  • Try stuff – it’s important to go out and try things, even if the ideas seem bizarre at first. Refining and developing through experimentation is the only way to produce something exciting.
  • Governance – figuring out a strong partnership needs to happen right at the start. You need to have conversations about ownership and responsibility before you start brainstorming.

***

It’s clear there’s a lot going on in the world of transport today.

Technology is making it possible to learn more about passenger decision-making so operators can work with their passengers to develop a more efficient, effective and safer experience.

When combined with the kind of forward-thinking approach seen at Heathrow and the human-centric approach evident in our wearables use case, this data will produce lasting change for our transport systems.

And since transport impacts everybody this could not be more critical.

You only need to look at the 10,000 people who attended Forum to see that.

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