Improving interconnectivity and interoperability in transportation

Klaus Dieter Rennert, chief executive for EMEA CIS, Hitachi Ltd, discusses how thinking socially about interconnectivity and interoperability in transportation is the most meaningful way to create smart cities

Improving interconnectivity and interoperability in transportation

Public and private sectors are increasingly seeing connectivity and interoperability in transport and infrastructure as the future of cities. Edinburgh and other local authorities are submitting a bid to government to secure £1 billion of funding, partly to improve connectivity through transport links and the internet, and Highways England recently announced that it is going to test ‘electric highway’ technology in the UK later this year.

Developments such as these are vital to support the increased demand for electric and hybrid vehicles over the next five years. In recent research undertaken by Hitachi and Frost & Sullivan on opportunities for business and society in the transport sector, we have forecast that the number of electric vehicles will grow from 190,000 in 2014 to more than 1.5 million by 2020.

Those who use cars – electric or otherwise – are also increasingly looking for innovative solutions such as smart parking, car-sharing and connectivity with public transport networks.

This marks a shift from owning modes of transport to using transport as a service, which shows that technology and behaviour, such as individualism and environmental stewardship, are moulding new ways of travelling.

The question to address is how business will empower our increasingly urbanised global population with door-to-door, multi-modal transport solutions that will be affordable for all of our citizens.

Transport and connectivity
The interaction between transport and connectivity is where the opportunity lies. Products, concepts, services, partnerships, and digitally enabled platforms are improving city transportation, making the city more mobile.

With a forecast 80 billion connected devices by 2025, the Internet of Things (IoT) phenomenon is expected to increasingly impact all aspects of our transportation network, particularly automation in the network, and connecting vehicles to infrastructure and devices.

This has already started to improve the customer experience – for example with new application-based services to hail rides, taxis, and to check real-time status of our trains, but importantly also to provide operators with the insight they need to improve their business, whether obtaining people’s perceptions via social media, load levels on the road or rail, or through smart train signalling that vastly improves efficiency and safety.

Connectivity is driving innovation because, in order to reduce issues such as congestion, people need to be compelled to switch to public transport.

As such, journey planners, for example, have emerged as a way to provide a reliable and recognisable service to consumers, and thus transfer a sense of familiarity in public transport. One of the largest is Israeli start-up Moovit, which has already gained more than 20 million users and is already available in 600 cities.

Intelligent mobility
‘Social innovation’ in transport concerns applying technological innovation to travel in order to solve societal challenges. There are several areas where this is already improving transport.

One is shared vehicle solutions such as DriveNow, car2go and ZipCar – more than five million customers use shared vehicle solutions globally, and this is forecast to grow to more than 26 million by 2020 according to our latest analysis.

Other innovative solutions based on connectivity include smart parking solutions; the development of electric vehicles and connected cars; traffic management systems associated with re-routing, and infotainment on trains – increasing productivity and comfort levels during travel.

The interplay between transport, infrastructure, information and automation has been dubbed intelligent mobility. Intelligent mobility does not always result in social benefits, which is why social innovation needs to be tied into the business model to achieve connectivity.

For example, 7% of the cars on the road are involved in an accident per year (DfT), each costing a minimum of $3,000 in damage and repair costs. The move towards more automated and intelligent mobility has the potential to reduce accidents by 25%, but more importantly it could reduce social damage.

Vehicle communication
One of the key opportunities to enable social innovation in transport is through connecting public and private transport, by allowing communication between vehicles (V2V), and from vehicles to infrastructure (V2I).

Collectively this is known as V2X. Communication and cooperation between vehicles and connected transport-related infrastructures (such as traffic lights and parking lots) is a relatively new phenomenon where real-time data can help improve road safety, traffic efficiency and passenger comfort.

By installing V2X communications – basically a variant of Wi-Fi – in vehicles, car manufacturers can interact directly with other vehicles and provide advanced applications by exploiting real-time data from vehicles and infrastructure. These systems can be used to improve road safety, traffic efficiency and passenger comfort.

Hitachi is working as part of a consortium to deliver vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications, initially with pilots for full electric vehicles, as demonstrated in its role in the EU project eco-FEV.

This includes the invention of an electro-mobility platform that combines information from full electric vehicle-related infrastructure systems, with intelligent telematics services. This could allow a whole ecosystem of clean electric vehicles, and allow communities to measure and track congestion and transport use.

Connectivity then, only becomes possible with interoperability and intermodality. The interoperability of transport systems is the smooth interoperation of different modes of transport, increasing integration of different modes of transport and efficient use of infrastructure.

Intermodal transport is using multiple modes of transport – the compatibility of different transport (rail, ship and truck). It applies to passenger transport as mixed mode commuting and freight transport – transporting freight using multiple modes without handling the freight itself when changing modes.

For example, to improve train maintenance and service delivery at its flagship train maintenance centre in Ashford and on other fleets in future, Hitachi Rail is planning to use real-time data management solutions, for advance planning of necessary repairs and to log the distance travelled by each vehicle. This will improve work efficiency, and maximise fleet reliability and availability for the operators – a demonstration of intermodal transport.

Transport convergence
A key enabler for a city to become ‘multi-model’ is smart ticketing. Being able to access transport seamlessly with a smart or credit card saves time for the user and increases their confidence in the service, but also then allows them to be linked to several other services within the city.

The key pioneer of this was the Octopus card in Hong Kong, allowing payment for public transport initially, and subsequently used to pay for retail goods. This now processes more than 13 million transactions a day, almost double the city’s population.

Connected traffic signalling systems are another way that cities can become multi-modal. Systems, such as Waze, are quickly becoming reliant on probe-based and crowd-sourced data from road users to deliver a more cost-effective and reliable overview of traffic conditions, enabling dynamic re-routing where required.

When you combine road-based solutions and prioritise IT integration services as part of this, businesses can increase the way modes of transport and surrounding infrastructure speak to each other, which in time creates smart communities.

V2X communications, rail interoperability and transport convergence are examples of social innovation because they have positive impacts on lives, societal change, and the nature of commuting. They allow time to be spent more productively for business or social purposes and for travel to be less stressful or confusing.

With more than 80 billion devices expected to be connected to the internet in 2020, passengers are demanding changes in architecture that borrow heavily from other industries, products, and technologies. This calls for disciplines to work together and see transport as connective.

Connected, interoperative transport is an opportunity worth billions if a social imperative and outcome is placed at the heart of the business model. Delivering technological innovation to improve quality of life is summed up as the Business to Society (B2S) trend. Working on the connectivity and interoperability of transport networks in urbanised areas, adopting a B2S model is the most poignant approach to smart cities.

To read more about social innovation in transport, see Frost & Sullivan’s latest whitepaper, in conjunction with Hitachi, at



Leave a Comment