Posted: 22 Nov. 2019 05 min. read

How to coordinate our transport network with a digital platform

There’s been a lot of talk about a digital platform that can coordinate a city’s transportation network – a so-called mobility operating system. Lawrence Liang discusses with a Deloitte Future of Mobility specialist Mark Siddall how this might look like in Australia, and how Deloitte can add value.

Lawrence: So Mark, what exactly is a mobility operating system, and why do we need one?

Mark - A mobility operating system, or mOS, is a common digital platform that enables visibility, interoperability and optimisation across the transportation network’s many modes and modalities. It’s a layer over existing physical assets that connects disparate physical transportation systems, combining innovation in Internet of Things technology and cognitive analytics. Cities can use a mOS to centrally manage the transportation ecosystem and make decisions that consider impacts across the entire system. 

Lawrence: It makes sense that we are looking to new technology solutions to solve transport challenges like congestion. There have been several innovations in the mobility space over the past several years like ridesharing, trip planning, and vehicle-to-anything connectivity. These have aimed to solve very specific challenges for transport users – could you explain how a mobility operating system is different from these innovations?

Mark – These kinds of innovations tend to be one-off solutions with little consideration of the entire ecosystem. Deploying uncoordinated and isolated solutions is unlikely to do much to solve mobility challenges from the perspective of the city. They’re typically designed to optimise mobility for the individual or specific domain, not the entire system. Consider for example ridesharing. This may shift demand from public transport to cars, potentially adding further pressure to congestion challenges. 

The bottom line is, a mOS is needed to coordinate these innovations and allow them to realise benefits for the whole system, not just the specific area they target. These innovations aren’t incompatible with a mOS either. A mOS acts like a layer on top of them to allow all the infrastructure and technologies within the transport ecosystem to communicate with each other.

Lawrence: How would this help a city?

Mark – There are a lot of benefits. For example, sensors would feed data into the mOS and provide a real-time perspective on the entire network. Transport managers can use this to balance the supply and demand of transport services, , and simulate how new policies or operational choices would impact congestion, infrastructure investment and infrastructure utilisation.

Private sector service providers would be able to optimise the size of their vehicle fleet deployments depending on how efficient they expect each trip to be. Citizens would benefit from reduced congestion, faster trips, and improved access to mobility. Through greater visibility of their mobility options, they can make more informed decisions about how they travel. 

Lawrence: What kind of technology and capabilities do you need to make a mobility operating system successful?

Mark – In our experience, a mOS requires a broad set of technology and capabilities. For example, an effective technology stack will integrate physical hardware and infrastructure (e.g. sensors that track road congestion), back-end servers and storage, and a centralised control centre. Behind the scenes, the mOS will generate insights through seamless data capture, processing, analytics and reporting systems to provide insights to the end user. Citizens and suppliers would engage with the mOS through a single payments interface where users can plan and pay for trips across all available modes of transport.

But to really make this work, mOS designers will need to effectively integrate the appropriate assets and systems within the transport ecosystem. They will also need to design it in a way that will scale to new use cases and demands. 

Lawrence: What kind of experience does Deloitte have in this area?

Mark – It’s probably fair to say that it’s still early days for cities to deploy a full-blown mobility operating system.  There are examples emerging in Europe, notably, Finland and Portugal come to mind where there are active mobility-as-a-service programs underway which ultimately drives the need for an underlying mobility operating system.  Deloitte has had some direct involvement in some of the developments in Portugal, specifically with the city of Cascais where we have assisted them in developing their DCC or “Digital Command Centre” which could be seen as the operational brain of the city.  

More broadly Deloitte has had good experience in developing open data platforms which cross a number of industries.  Open banking is probably a good example of a very similar data exchange problem being applied to Financial Services Industry.  Deloitte has had some good experience locally and globally in delivering open data platforms to our banking clients.

In time, I believe there will be increased opportunities to support both public and private sector clients in looking at how to enable the underlying platforms that make cities work.  It would be great to have the opportunity to be part of unlocking some of the congestion that we all face in our daily lives.

Mark Siddall is a partner in Deloitte’s Technology Strategy & Transformation practice, specialising in the transport industry. Please contact Mark to learn more about mobility operating systems and how Deloitte can help.