Mobile App Development

The Smart Future of Commuting

27th June 2018

Technology is changing the transport sector when it comes to high-speed trains and electric buses. But, we’ve still to see the same digital transformation when it comes to improving daily commuting for millions of passengers. Especially for those in London, there’s no escape from the headlines when it comes to transport, particularly trains and buses. “Train torture”, “Stranded passengers”, “Chaos”, “Disruptions”…you get the picture.

Where digital solutions are improving many areas of life from mobile banking to wearables and digital health, it’s now time for commuter transport to be revolutionised by technology! Afterall, pretty much everyone nowadays is mobile-savvy. Most people are constantly connected to their smartphones which are embedded with all of the necessary software for location tracking, GPS, bluetooth, voice control and more.

So, here’s a glimpse into the smart future of commuting.

And the best thing, it’s all entirely possible now.

Alexa, how’s my commute today?

It’s Monday morning, you wake up and ask Alexa, “How’s my commute today?”.  With previous journey data available from your smartphone, Alexa knows your daily commute without you having to supply any other details.  Alexa replies, “Your 8am train has been delayed and is now due to depart at 8.30am”.

Gone are the days of having to search for travel updates from your train company and you can now re-plan your schedule. “Alexa, move my 9am calendar appointment to 10am.” All this before you’ve even had breakfast!

What about if there is a quicker route to work?  “Alexa, what alternatives to my usual commute are available?”  “You could get the 8.10am bus from Station Street and arrive at your destination for 9am.” “Alexa, purchase my bus ticket please.

Voice technology is becoming mainstream now, in fact, ComScore states that by 2020, 50% of all searches will be made by voice. Waracle are one of Amazon’s Alexa Skill Builders in the UK and can help with voice technology. We know that more and more people are now interacting with technology using their voice.  Waracle has been recognised by Amazon Alexa for having the expertise in planning, designing, developing, promoting, and optimising Alexa skills. What’s more, after WWDC 2018, we’re pretty excited by the news from the Apple Keynote that iOS 12 introduces Siri Shortcuts. This enables Siri to work with any app, delivering a much faster way to get things done. And, because Siri can figure out where you might benefit from automation, it can suggest creating shortcuts and expose the option to add actions to Siri from within apps.

Personalised updates

For those without an Alexa, Google Home, Apple HomeKit or other home voice technology, proactive push notifications on your mobile ensure that you receive personalised updates.

In the past, we’ve all turned up for trains to wait around stations due to delays or, or even worse trains have been cancelled. The future though is much more pleasant…personalised, predictive journey planning.

You haven’t even left your house and you’re notified about the delay. Or, if you’re already in the vicinity of the train station, you receive a push notification saying the train is delayed. You’re given a suggested alternative route and/or told a nearby cafe is offering discounts on hot drinks. Proactive technology anticipates our needs before the need even arises!

How can all of this happen? There are various technologies working behind the scenes. Our mobiles are using location information to learn our usual journeys and with Artificial Intelligence (AI) it’s possible to predict our movements. predicts that this year, travelers will look more to technology to help plan travel. In a survey, almost 30% of global travelers say they’re comfortable allowing technology to plan a trip based on data from their previous travel history.

Also, Geo-fencing is a feature that can be built into a mobile app that utilises the user’s global positioning system (GPS) or radio frequency identification (RFID) to define a specific geographical boundary. Technology is being used to change how we travel.

End-to-end journeys

In the future, end-to-end journeys will make our lives much easier.  Imagine…your day ahead involves commuting to the office then traveling out to a client meeting for lunch then traveling to a hotel for an awards evening.

You download an end-to-end journey planning app and by entering a few details of where you need to be in London and when, you can get the departure time for the tube to work, get the departure time for a bus ticket to the lunch venue and order a taxi to take you to the awards evening.

But, the beauty here is that you don’t even have to plan all that much!

With machine learning and beacons, your end-to-end journey app will know where you are and offer support to get you to your next destination on time. While commuting, using voice control you can also listen to Tripadvisor reviews of the lunch restaurant and you receive a link to the awards website so you can read up on the evening ahead!

This end-to-end journey planning app involves multimodal UI. This simply means you have multiple ways of interacting with the app e.g. input text and use voice control and view text and listen to responses. Multimodal UI enables much faster and more natural communication.

Gone are the days of having to use one app to plan the journey, separate apps to book the tickets and a third app for live departure information. An aggregated app brings everything into one and makes the lives of tourists so much easier too. What’s more you don’t even need to pre-purchase the travel tickets.  Just by walking through the sensors as you board and exit the train or bus, payment is automatically taken from your mobile payment system!

Which leads us to mobile payment…

Mobile Payment

In the future, paying by Mobile will become the norm thanks to Apple Pay, Android Pay and Amazon Pay.  In fact, Virgin Trains have become the first global train operator to sell tickets through Amazon Alexa.

When you set off on a multi-leg trip it traditionally requires different payment methods and it can be quite inconvenient.  Whereas, mobile payment is a safe and secure method of payment and with many apps incorporating biometrics, such as TouchID and FaceID more and more companies are adopting mobile payment.  And with sensors, it’s not even going to be necessary to pre-purchase tickets. Just by walking through a sensor as you board and exit a method of transport, your mobile payment will be taken.

An end to overcrowded journeys

In our survey of London commuters, 90% of respondents said one of their biggest frustrations with commuting was the overcrowding on trains.  Commuters battle crowds on the platform and fight their way to find a seat (if they’re lucky). We’ve all suffered overcrowded train carriages and standing on long journeys.

The future scene is quite different. With smart travel cards and apps, transport companies are able to collect a lot of data about who travels when and where.  This data is used to help predict busy routes and put on more trains/buses to alleviate overcrowding.

Machine learning can analyse the vast quantities of data available to create to predict journeys. Trainline has used crowdsourced data to create a bot called BusyBot that advises passengers where they’re most likely to find a seat, depending on the location and direction of their specific journey. Also, BusyBot crowdsources data from passengers to notify others about how busy a specific section of a train is!

Sensors and Beacons

When it comes to technology and public transport, there is no technology more critical to city commuting than sensors and connected beacons.

A connected beacon is a device that transmits radio signals and small packets of data to mobile devices. Beacons transmit small data packets to an array of mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and increasingly wearable devices such as smartwatches.

Sensors embedded into roads, traffic signs, railways and other places throughout a city can collect huge amounts of data and provide information that can be used to allow people to better plan their trips.  These sensors feed into travel apps and push notifications to commuters to advise about busy routes and offer alternatives.

Not only are sensors useful for tracking the location of transport on it’s route, sensors can be used in train carriages to check on the temperature in the carriage to maintain a comfortable environment for passengers. And, when it comes to predictive maintenance, sensors are vital to predict potential issues and can minimise disruption. But that’s a whole other blog, keep your eyes on Waracle blog for future Industrial Internet of Things posts.

The Future of Commuting is closer than you think!

The reality is that all of these things are possible now by incorporating voice control, machine learning, geofencing, multi-modal UI and more.

So, if you’re a business involved in the transportation sector and seeking new ways to increase consumer engagement, it’s worth taking time to consider your role in the future of technology. You need to think about how technology, and particularly mobile apps, can be used to enhance your customers’ journey times and experience. Contact Waracle today to start the conversation.

For more mobile megatrends, you can download the 2018 Mobile Megatrends whitepaper or subscribe to Waracle newsletter.

About Waracle

Waracle, part of the Exception Group, are the UK’s leading digital solutions specialist. Since 2008 Waracle have engaged with large UK and international organisations to plan and execute their digital product strategies. Waracle now have offices in DundeeGlasgowEdinburgh and London with a rapidly growing team of industry leading UX designers, scrum-masters, iOS, Android and Hybrid developers, IoT, Voice (we’re Amazon Alexa Skills Approved) , QA and App Store Optimisation experts.

In addition to an investment in Mozenix (Augmented Reality), Waracle also have investment in Kumulos (Mobile App Performance Software) and Wallet.Services (Blockchain).

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