The Many Shades of Openness in MaaS/MOD

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Today, Iomob hosted a webinar with Karen Vancluysen, Secretary General of POLIS, Anders Nilsson of Innovation Skane (an Iomob client) , and Iomob’s CEO Boyd Cohen, PhD and CMO, Scott Shepard (as moderator).

The topic: “Openness in MaaS”.

The concept of openness in digital platforms has gained momentum in recent years.  But like most things in life, we do not believe there is a generally accepted definition that makes systems open or closed, and in fact, there are many shades of grey when it comes to the topic of how open a platform or system is and in the world of Mobility as a Service, this is absolutely the case.

During the webinar Boyd Cohen presented the following graphic to guide a discussion on the relative amount of openness we are witnessing and envision for the future.

  • Open Transit

Not all transit authorities agree with us on this, but in our opinion, an open MaaS ecosystem starts with an open transit authority. This means first of all, open data, preferably real-time about transit services. It also means opening the ticketing system so that third party aggregators should be able to offer the full range of transit ticketing fares assuming the aggregator meets some justifiable service level agreements (SLAs).  We believe transit operators should also remain open to innovation and transparent regarding the regulation of the mobility ecosystem and MaaS platforms operating in their jurisdictions.  We have been impressed with the national ticketing standards that have emerged in Spain that support this vision of open transit as well as Switzerland standardizing transit APIs across the country. Less impressed with transit authorities who decide to create their own walled garden for their own MaaS deployment whereby no other aggregator has the right to include public transit into their MaaS application.

  • Open, Agnostic Mobility Marketplace

For us the next step in openness is supporting an open, agnostic mobility marketplace.  Here there are two key elements:

  1. Enabling any mobility service provider (MSP) who is legally operating in the region, to be connected to aggregation platforms.  This democratizes access to the mobility ecosystem so that SMEs and startups have a shot and are not squeezed out by behemoth venture capital backed companies who are able to monopolize the users and the ecosystem
  2.  Agnostic multimodal routing algorithms, at least as much as humanly possible since algorithms are built by humans with their own biases.  But what we mean here is that an open MaaS platform should not impose the founders (or investors) own values or profit drivers into the journey options provided to customers.  The customer should be the one to decide what´s best for them. Having said that we are all for nudge theory where residents and visitors are encouraged to choose healthier and more sustainable options through carrot and stick policies and gamification.
  • Open MaaS

While lots of people talk about open MaaS we don´t believe anyone has delivered open MaaS to date, at least how I define it.  For us Open MaaS builds off of the first two layers already discussed but goes another level to open up the whole integrated ecosystem to public and private actors who would like to offer seamless mobility to their users.  We believe Iomob’s project in development with Skanetrafiken in Sweden is the first of its kind in the world to test this model.  Iomob will deploy our SDK into the Skanetrafiken public transit app but at the same time, we will make the SDK (or the API that feeds it) available to other local, regional or international organizations who might want to offer a MaaS experience to their customers or employees.  To learn more about this innovative project check out this great post from Scott which goes into much more detail.

  • Interoperable MaaS/MOD

The next layer of openness is to open this ecosystem in ways that permit “global mobility roaming”.  What we mean by this is that we move away from isolated instance deployments and towards interoperable MaaS or Mobility on Demand platforms for seamless people (and potentially last mile goods delivery).  With this model a user of the Skanetrarfiken MaaS app could travel anywhere else in Europe (or the world for that matter) and access the local open ecosystem of mobility services in other cities and countries.  This may sound farfetched but Iomob has already built our architecture to support this and in 2021, we will be enabling this capability in different cities and countries of Europe.

  • Decentralized MaaS/MOD

Arguably the holy grail of openness in software platforms is decentralized.  Decentralized platforms are not under the control of any single company, eliminating the risk of walled gardens and monopolistic behavior by the platform owner.  Initially Iomob intended to build a decentralized MaaS protocol but we discovered the market was not ready, nor was blockchain ready to support this at scale.  Aside from Iomob, our partners, Travelspirit had the same vision and encountered the same market and technical barriers.  Maybe some day. In the meantime, Iomob will continue to embrace our vision of open, interoperable MaaS via our Mobility on Demand platform.

 

Zoom Meeting Recording (Audio)

For those who couldn’t join today’s webinar, we’ve provided an audio recording in the link below:

 

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