Greg Alcorn of Synectics discusses the considerable progress the transport industry has made when it comes to collaboration and data-sharing, and explains why the dark days of the past 18 months could give way to a bright new dawn of innovation.
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Passenger experience is one of the highest priorities for transport operators and authorities – how has the changing nature of connected technology in the last few years helped to push that narrative?
Greg Alcorn: As consumers, technology has become part of daily life. More specifically, technology that enables us to simplify decisions and actions by connecting us to the information we need quickly, and by putting control at our fingertips. Without doubt, this has had a massive influence on what we expect from the world around us. We assume service providers will leverage technology in the same way to improve our experience of the world around us.
Transport operators are most definitely responding to this. Not just in how they communicate with passengers – improving engagement points and information flow – but also in how they operate.
This is something we are witnessing first-hand with our customers. Technology is being adopted that enables deeper connections. Between workers. Between different operators. Between the transport industry, police and city authorities. A more transparent view…or rather a more wholistic view…of live data and the actions taken by individuals and teams in response to that data, is starting to transform the passenger experience operators can offer, and the nature of passenger communications.
You’re talking about data sharing here, what kind of data?
GA: Firstly, I’m not talking about personal data. This is a hugely important point to make. I’m talking about operational data. Real time data showing what’s happening across a network; where trains are, any security alerts, how many people are coming through stations, what queue levels are like at ticket offices, the status of connecting transport services, maintenance and service activity, what the weather is doing and how this is affecting provision.
Secondly, you’ll notice the kind of data I’m talking about is not exactly ground-breaking. But what you can now do with it really is.
Connective technology is enabling departmental silos to be broken down by making sure individuals and teams can receive, send and act on information – visual, audio or status data – in such a way that it enables them to do their job better. Previously this was incredibly difficult. Processes were very reliant on the personal relationships of different individuals within different departments. Now, with data behind them, you see different departments gaining better insight and better information, which is fuelling the opportunity for them to communicate and collaborate more effectively. What we see as a result is improved efficiency and better service, ultimately leading to better experiences for passengers.
Does that mean we’ll see transport operators start to think differently (and more dynamically) about data?
GA: Yes, I think so. And I also think this switch in operational mentality will be supercharged as a result of the pandemic.
When we get back to the norm, we’re going to find that people want to be able to move around freely and have a good experience doing it; to be able to get around easily while also being more conscious of the environment and their footprint. This demand fits with what was already a growing focus on delivering connected, multi-modal urban mobility. To make this future happen. And happen seamlessly. Secure, proactive sharing of information to bring about collaboration between all stakeholders invested in safe, efficient urban mobility, will be essential.
The environment is no longer the typical nine to five with massive peaks around those times as people go to work and come home, and operators have had to adapt to this. For the public transport sector, police and urban authorities, there is a very real opportunity to break the mould, progress differently, and – using the technology at our fingertips today – adapt and explore how to move forward in the right way.
Do you think there is an appetite for this type of system convergence within the transport industry? Is there a strong desire on everyone’s part to go on this journey?
GA: Yes, I really do think there is. Inevitably you see some hesitation – that happens with any kind of technological disruption. Just think of Uber as an example. There are some that are nervous about the idea of what a similar disruptive technology could do to the transport industry if operational silos would no longer exist. But at the same time, there are many operators and transport authorities already embracing this at a very early stage. We are certainly seeing this with a number of customers, especially in Europe.
Public and private sectors are beginning to share, engage and be part of the mobility discussion together. They are embracing innovation and are open to exploring the opportunity technology provides.
And really, the nature of connective technology already available presents a win-win. Seamless multi-modal provision – joining the dots between buses, metros, trams and rail – is the logical future of connective technology. But the practical present application is operators able to break down barriers to efficiency and effectiveness in their own organisation; to unlock the power of data sharing to make
incremental operational improvements that add up to better service. One day, they will be able to be part of an incredibly sophisticated city-wide digital ecosystem. Until then, they can still benefit from improvements to efficiency, safety, security and, increasingly, hygiene across the transport network.
Do you think that we’ll see new technologies emerging that better reflect new passenger priorities, such as cleanliness and occupancy?
GA: I have to answer 100 per cent yes. Do I know what all those new technologies are? Not yet, but certainly AI will play a part here! There’ll be a hundred innovations that don’t really add value but get us to think differently and then there’ll be half a dozen that really start to break the mould and disrupt the industry.
We have an industry that is ripe for innovation and disruption. We’re starting to see more transport authorities embrace approaches and the ‘start-up attitude’ saying, “Let’s explore, let’s take a look at it.” We’ve not seen that in this industry very much until the last three or four years, but that mindset shift is bringing great change.
I don’t know what that next piece might be, but the industry is ripe for that disruption to come through and take it to another level. What I do know is that operators are getting the building blocks in place right now to be ready to adopt these game changers and that’s incredibly exciting.
You have a webinar coming up on 6 July, what can our readers expect?
GA: The ‘Make Your Connection’ webinar is very much linked to what we’ve been discussing here and will look at how operators can get on board with some of these developments in ways which meets their needs now and as they move forward.
Essentially, establishing a safe and efficient environment for both the workforce and passengers relies upon a robust ecosystem with a collaborative and forward-thinking approach. So in the session, we’ll be investigating how integrated command, control and communication solutions are helping to deliver this vision.
To do this, we’ll be running through a series of site-based scenarios to demonstrate how transformative technologies are improving efficiencies and helping to minimise risk for complex urban transport environments, as well as ultimately delivering a better experience for the passenger. It really does promise to be a really interesting session – I’m looking forward to it.
You can learn more about the event and register your interest, here.
Greg Alcorn is Director, Global Sales and Customer Success, Synectics. A talented strategist with over 20 years’ experience in the security industry, he has a passion for delivering value for customers. From securing high-profile contracts with major urban transport operators and airports, the Government, construction firms, and prominent UK sporting stadiums, to launching a consumer-driven, state-of-the-art product that is transforming the security and business intelligence industry, Greg approaches every opportunity from a customer-focused perspective.
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