Transport solutions require big data for innovation and passenger satisfaction
Following Keolis’ partnership with IVADO, Arnaud Julien, Innovation and Digital Director at Keolis, discusses how the business is using big data to drive innovation and offer passengers a more tailored transport network for tomorrow.
With the rise of digitalisation bringing customers round-the-clock access to information, the collection and analysis of big data is changing how we approach daily life. For transport operators, this is particularly relevant as the passenger’s expectation of a personalised service increases.
While the phrase ‘big data’ has been used since the 1990s, it is only in the past decade, through technological advances, that its full potential has been realised. The rise of an ‘always on’ culture – where consumers expect services and information to be available at all times – has made it imperative for service providers to develop a deeper understanding of their customers’ needs. As a result, the collection and analysis of data is now present across many aspects of daily life, often without customers’ knowledge, as companies seek new insights for innovation and ideas on how to provide a better customer experience.
Passenger transport is no different and data is already heavily shaping how services are operated currently, as well as planned for the future. The number of passengers using public transport in favour of private vehicles is rising, with the latest data from UITP showing a global increase of 18 per cent between 2000 and 2015. This, coupled with rising customer expectations for a digitalised and personal service, is bringing both challenges and opportunities for mobility operators.
Correctly harnessing big data is essential to meeting these challenges head on. But to reach its maximum potential, it must be fully understood by the companies attempting to use it.
At Keolis, we have partnered with the Institute for Data Valorisation (IVADO) – one of the largest scientific communities on big data created by HEC Montréal, Polytechnique Montréal and the Université de Montréal with around 1,000 scientists and 40 academic programs – to help foster knowledge and data-sharing in business. This five-year partnership will support the development of innovative mobility solutions using big data, by providing a deeper understanding of the way passengers travel around transport networks. Working directly with data scientists will allow us to better understand how we can use the technology to create a more streamlined, innovative and integrated network, that can help address future mobility challenges and provide a more personalised service.
Grounding in research
As a global mobility operator, we have always recognised the opportunity to collect information on an international scale and use it to create a best practice example that can improve our networks. Although the IVADO partnership signifies a large shift in our commitment to understanding big data, as a business we already have a long history of incorporating research into our customers’ digital requirements.
Listening to passenger needs is the best way to develop connected mobility solutions and we have created a research method, called Keoscopie, which
consists of studies on lifestyle trends, community needs and stakeholder feedback, creating networks that meet local needs. To build on this, we partnered with thinktank NetExplo to create the Observatory of Digital Mobility, which focuses on studying the use of technology in public transport. An initial study was conducted in October 2016 to investigate digital trends in France, before expanding globally to produce the World Mobility Report.
This international analysis of innovations in digital mobility across 13 major cities revealed three common passenger expectations: real-time information, personalisation of mobility solutions and step-by-step guidance. Meeting these expectations is now at the heart of every new Keolis initiative using big data.
One of the main findings our research revealed is how important the use of smartphones and travel apps are to customers. These have revolutionised the collection of passenger information and we have introduced new initiatives to help take advantage of this opportunity.
Our most significant contribution to the collection and application of big data was the development of the ‘all-in-one’ Plan Book Ticket app, launched in June 2017. This allows passengers to plan, book, buy and validate their travel tickets using their smartphones, integrating travel information with personal technology and making it easier to suit customer needs. This has already been implemented across several cities in France. By analysing the passenger information collected by the app, the platform can be adjusted and adapted across Keolis’ international networks.
Tailored solutions and increasing efficiencies
The way customers move around a transport network has radically changed, with more choice available than ever before. One of the biggest objectives for transport operators is finding ways to collect more detailed, granular information on passengers’ preferences and habits, and build flexible networks that fit them. For example, knowing customers’ start and finish locations, rather than just the station that they travel to, will give the data needed to provide last mile services: the next big goal for public transport providers.
Our previous innovations provided the building blocks to utilise big data and our partnership with IVADO will help expand this further, using personalised data to create new algorithms that will allow us to provide further innovative transport solutions for our customers.
We’ve already made strides in this area. For example, we recently trialled an on-demand bus service in Sydney, Australia, where passengers can book a shuttle bus from their homes using an app. This trial has been well received and the analysis of generated data will help us to introduce and extend this service. In January 2018, we launched the ‘Newcastle Transport on Demand App’ in Newcastle, New South Wales, that allows passengers to book a bus from their doors by matching routes with other customers travelling in the same direction.
Big data analysis is not only able to increase passenger satisfaction, it also has the potential to create significant efficiencies for the operation of rolling stock. Recording and analysing maintenance procedures across an operator’s portfolio of vehicles can help build predictive models to manage repairs, schedule in check-ups or the replacing of parts such as brake pads or doors before a fault occurs. This increases efficiency by reducing the risk of disruption on the network and can unlock economies of scale through the collection and analysis of operational data, allowing networks to co-ordinate maintenance or troubleshoot issues before they become significant.
At the end of 2017, we introduced a new approach known as ‘DataLab’ to help increase efficiency – not only in maintenance, but across the business. This collects and analyses data from areas such as marketing, operations, maintenance and human resources to identify inefficiencies and find the right solution for improvements.
There is still a huge amount of potential that big data can supply to public transportation. This is likely to increase as more advanced technologies, such as automation and artificial intelligence, are embedded into networks. Our partnership with IVADO has only recently been formed and the exact solutions it will bring are still being developed and explored. But with this commitment to big data in place, we know our business is primed to take advantage of new opportunities and provide an even better service for our customers around the world.