Why we need to commit to Open Data

Open data is critical to the success of Mobility as a Service (MaaS). If we’re to provide a true alternative to the private car then it has to be convenient, cost-effective and above all, sustainable. Whether it’s governments, companies or citizens themselves, we all need easy access to high-quality data to make this work.

Facing barriers

Whilst multi-modal transport has been around for a while, we still face many issues that make it difficult to create a joined-up approach that works for everyone. The MaaS Alliance outlines many of these problems in its latest report along with its recommendations.

In short, the technical, commercial and legal triage need to be interoperable. This means standardised open architecture with access to business processes. Verification, for instance, is still a major stumbling block.

Let’s not forget the speed with which data is available either. For instance, users of travel planning apps want to see real-time data for transport options. This allows them to find the best route, helps avoid traffic congestion and plan an alternative route if a service has been cancelled.

Having low-quality data that’s incomplete and inconsistent can be just as bad as no data at all. Trying to get all the legacy systems talking to each other – along with the myriad of new technologies to make all this work – requires a common standard. And open APIs.

A further issue is competition. Some organisations simply don’t want their data shown alongside their competitors or they’re taking a proprietary stance. Therefore, we need to look closely at the commercial implications and find a way to make the economics work for everyone.  

“Open data fosters innovation and competition, and will therefore result in the best solutions for customers and travellers. If transport providers keep data to themselves, customers will only get one choice. And many types of customers with special needs are likely to be left behind. It’s like a small monopoly, which is rarely a good thing, and it’s very much at odds with the core premise of Mobility as a Service.”

Adrian Schoenig, CTO at SkedGo

Clear benefits

MaaS has great potential – if we commit to sharing data. Governments, organisations and other interested parties could fill gaps in the market and provide more cost-effective services based on real needs. Open data would avoid a fragmented end user experience too because citizens would be able to see the full range of transport options – both public and private – that are open to them. When alternative transportation becomes more convenient and cost-effective than owning a car, people are incentivised to switch.

Social inclusivity is another key factor. We recently wrote about why accessibility matters and the important role of MaaS. Not only will it help people who struggle with current transport options for physical or mental health reasons, it helps us all get around easier.

For fleet managers, being able to better analyse what’s working – or not working – will ensure vehicles are being as fully utilised as possible. For transport authorities, it can mean more efficient traffic management. Being able to balance travel demand puts less strain on resources – and those commuting. Less wasted time and a more convenient, relaxed journey make for happier citizens.

Win or lose?

The bottom line is that open data equals more opportunities. As the MaaS report rightly points out: we all win if we commit to sharing data, taking account of privacy regulations, commercial agreements and business models. New transport options, bridging gaps in the market – and encouraging more people to use the services of those that provide access to their data in the first place. Everyone benefits.

This takes courage on all sides, placing the value of what we’re looking to achieve as an industry in equal standing to our commercial goals. It’s not only altruistic but makes good business sense. At the end of the day, it’s down to us all if we win or lose. One thing’s for sure, open data will help to encourage a vibrant MaaS marketplace. And that’s something we should all look to focus on.

At SkedGo, we , connect you to thousands of transport providers around the globe through a single API. We provide customised white label solutions  so you can seamlessly and rapidly integrate mixed/multi-modal transport services, parking, book and pay features, events and itineraries – all in one easy-to-use solution.

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