The smart mobility system can be conceived as a number of ‘layers’, each of which depends on and adds value to those beneath and above it.
The whole system is underpinned by the physical infrastructure of urban mobility; that is the roads, railways, bike paths, footpaths and other physical assets that enable transport to operate. The data and information that support smart mobility are generated continuously from dynamic patterns of human behavior as people navigate the city using the available infrastructure.
Operational technologies generate the raw material required for smart solutions: the data. They allow real time collection and communication of raw data from physical infrastructure and services, and rapid adjustment of infrastructure management to create additional capacity where it is needed. Such technologies are already installed in many cities to direct traveler behavior and maintain traffic flows, therefore contributing to increased operational efficiency on the network.
Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) encompass the range of operational technologies used for transport management, including the sensors, payment and ticketing infrastructure, surveillance, remote controls and display equipment that are employed along transport routes to monitor and manage travel conditions. Increasingly, ITS also utilizes the mobile monitoring technologies installed in vehicles or carried by individuals.
ITS equipment continuously generates new data and information about the transport network, and allows transport operators to make immediate interventions to manage traffic and travel.
Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G and Bluetooth channels are fundamental for real-time communication of location-based data from machine to machine (the ‘internet of things’), and between human operators, data processors and information consumers. For example, data is communicated from operational technologies to command and control centers, where it can be used to enable instant responses via remote controls.
There are over 6 billion mobile phone subscriptions in the world, held by customers who are already using cellular technologies to give and receive information. More than 1 billion of these are smart phone owners, and this number is growing by 42 per cent each year. In many countries, the speed and extent of wireless network coverage, together with the protocols governing wireless use, are major limitations to the quality of data available from operational technologies. Hard-wired communications will play a role in some cities, where existing fiber installations are more effective than wireless channels.
Data is collected and aggregated by public and private sector actors engaged in data processing, anonymisation, analytics, contextual modeling, simulation and software programming. These specialist data handlers take advantage of the vast supply of city data and information from operational technologies to create innovative software applications and interfaces for users. These applications are pushed out to users via communications networks, providing useful information to influence network operations and demand. The software response to urban mobility is currently the more dynamic area for growth in the mobility market, with many new players proposing innovative ideas to influence travel management. While operational technology is already well understood and adopted by many city governments and transport operators, its role in supplying data for software innovation is only just being recognized. Many cities are only just beginning to embrace the potential of software solutions.
The smart mobility system requires a variety of infrastructure types, including physical infrastructure, operational technologies, and communication and information technologies. Without any single component of this system, smart mobility products cannot meet their full potential to manage operational efficiency and user demand. Coordination and integration between different layers in the structure allow improved operational efficiency, as well as new products for demand management.