5 disruptive technologies that will transform transport

The fast pace of breakthroughs in new technologies and scientific advances is relentless and continues to unfold on many fronts. As the list of “next big things” grows longer, organisations are increasingly finding it challenging to identify technologies which may unleash disruptive changes and impact the growth and performance of their industries

In a recent report by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), “Disruptive technologies: Advances that will transform life, business and the global economy”, the MGI assessed the economic impacts of 12 technology areas with potential for massive impact on how people live and work, and on industries and economies. Disruptive technologies were identified based on four characteristics:

  • The technology is rapidly advancing or experiencing breakthroughs
  • The potential scope of impact is broad
  • Significant economic value could be affected
  • Economic impact is potentially disruptive

This article explores five of these technologies – some emerging and others established but rapidly growing, which in my view will have far reaching impacts on the operations and management of transport infrastructure in our cities over the next decade. My aim is not to make predictions about the specific applications or size of the impacts. Rather, the intent is to identify emerging trends and guide asset operators, leaders and policy makers in considering the reach of these disruptive technologies, and how they might impact future investment in infrastructure

Mobile Internet
The use of mobile Internet technology is already widespread, with more than 1.1 billion people currently using smartphones and portable connected devices. The full potential of the mobile Internet is yet to be realised. Over the coming decade, this technology could fuel significant transformation and disruption, largely from its potential to bring 2-3 billion more people into the connected world, according to the MGI. Ubiquitous connectivity and proliferation of apps will enable users to go about their daily routines with new ways of knowing, perceiving, and interacting with the physical world
In transport, mobile Internet will continue to provide navigation, travel information, public transport and traffic management capabilities, and create opportunities to increase productivity for asset owners. The biggest impact is likely to come from the use of mobile phones for Near Field Communications (NFC) and use of cellular technologies for cooperative mobility applications (e.g. portable to vehicle or portable to infrastructure communications). ERTICO’s Instant Mobility project, based on a concept of virtual “Transport and Mobility Internet” is an example of a innovative effort to integrate “Mobile Internet” into cooperative mobility
The Internet of Things
The Internet of Things—embedding sensors and actuators in machines and other physical objects to bring them into the connected world—is spreading rapidly. From monitoring the flow of water through utility pipes to measuring vibrations on bridges or tracking vehicle fleets, the Internet of Things allows businesses and public-sector organisations to manage assets and optimise performance
In transport, our urban areas are essentially made up of a complex network of systems that are increasingly being instrumented and interconnected, providing an opportunity for better infrastructure management. Going forward, sensors, monitors, video surveillance, and radio frequency identification tags, will all communicate with each other to enhance infrastructure capability and resilience, and capturing volumes of data. Through data mining, artificial intelligence and predictive analytics tools, smart infrastructure systems can help city managers to monitor the performance of vital infrastructure, identify key areas where city services are lagging, and inform decision makers on how to manage city growth and make our cities more liveable
 Autonomous and Near Autonomous Vehicles
The past few years have seen a number of breakthroughs in driverless vehicle technologies. An increasing number of sensor-based solutions aimed at increasing vehicle safety in situations where driver error is most common, combined with connectivity inside vehicles are allowing vehicles to become more self-aware and eventually autonomous
In addition to the safety, environmental and productivity benefits, the developments in self-driving and connected vehicles will have far-reaching implications as the technologies mature and become pervasive. These developments will signal a new trend which goes beyond technology-enabled vehicles and is likely to lead the automotive industry to a significant innovation phase, resulting in significant paradigm changes to the transport ecosystem as a whole … more
 Cloud Technologies
With cloud technology, any computer application or service can be delivered over a network or the Internet, with minimal or no local software or processing power required. In order to do this, Information Technology (IT) resources (such as computation and storage) are made available on an as-needed basis: when extra capacity is needed it is seamlessly added, without requiring up-front investment in new hardware or programming. The cloud is enabling the explosive growth of Internet-based services, from search to offline storage, as well as the background processing capabilities that enable asset operations
The disruptive power of the cloud is that it can also enable entirely new business models, including all kinds of pay-as-you-go services. The cloud will increasingly enable the democratisation of technology, reducing barriers to entry and allowing entrepreneurs and other competitors to disrupt established markets and industries. Cloud services make it easier for new companies with little capital to obtain operating infrastructure and access to markets that has taken global companies decades to build
In transport, the cloud can improve the economics of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) for private road operators and government agencies, as well as provide greater flexibility and responsiveness. For example, operations of Transport Management Centres (TMC) and Emergency Control Rooms can be streamlined through sharing of resources and providing 24/7 operational capabilities at reduced costs compared to investments in new TMCs
Energy Storage
Energy storage technology includes batteries and other systems that store energy for later use. Lithium-ion batteries and fuel cells are already powering electric and hybrid vehicles, along with billions of portable consumer electronics devices. Li-ion batteries in particular have seen consistent increases in performance and reductions in price, with cost per unit of storage capacity declining dramatically over the past decade. On the power grid, advanced battery storage systems can help with the integration of solar and wind power, improve quality by controlling frequency variations, handle peak loads, and reduce costs by enabling utilities to postpone infrastructure expansion
Over the next decade, advances in energy storage technology could make electric vehicles (hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and all-electrics) more cost competitive compared with vehicles using internal-combustion engines

In transport, the collective application of these technologies will promote smart mobility in our cities through:

  • Advanced network operations management and control systems that utilise field sensors to detect and respond quickly to equipment and infrastructure faults. Vital infrastructure downtimes will be cut using sensors that monitor the health of critical infrastructure, collect data on system functioning, alert operators inside an integrated urban control centre to the need for predictive maintenance, and identify potential breakdowns before they occur
  • Smarter vehicles, trains and public transport systems which sense their surrounding environments, and slow down or stop without human intervention in emergency situations. On-board public transport, a range of GPS, position fixing, video surveillance, and communications equipment will provide accurate and reliable multi-modal real-time passenger information, resulting in better informed travellers and ensuring a smoother, safer and more reliable experience for customers
  • Back-office and cloud systems that leverage sensors, web, mobile, and GPS technologies will utilise smart algorithms, data mining and predictive modelling tools to reduce delays to passengers by optimising schedules and capacities in real time
  • Electric vehicle charging infrastructure that will be integrated into a smart grid network, providing consumers with access to sustainable and equitable forms of connected mobility

Technology and innovations will continue to surprise. There will be disruptions to established norms, and there will be broad societal challenges. Nevertheless, many technologies on the horizon offer immense opportunities that could transform infrastructure investment and operation. By determining when and how to take advantage of these technologies, organisations will have unique opportunities to realise rapid improvements in infrastructure productivity and asset operations


3,203 total views, 1 views today

10 Powerful Policies to Successful Smart Mobility


As part of a more interconnected world, our cities are playing an increasingly active role in the global economy. Whilst this urban growth will be largely driven by economic development and the search for a better quality of life, the resulting success will dramatically change the scale and nature of our communities, and put a tremendous strain on the infrastructure that delivers vital services like transport, electricity, water, and communications.  Already, ageing infrastructures in many cities around the world are at a breaking point with governments’ budgets for major infrastructure projects under increasing pressure

In transport, the reform of urban mobility remains one of the biggest challenges confronting policy makers around the world. According to the United Nations, it is estimated that 1.3 million people are killed on the world’s roads each year. If left unchecked, this number could reach 1.9 million fatalities worldwide by 2020. The human cost  is profound – unimaginable suffering and grief. The economic cost is a staggering $100 billion a year in developing countries alone. The World Health Organisation has described road casualty figures as being of ‘epidemic’ proportions, with road-related trauma being the biggest single killer of those aged between 15 and 29. It has also been estimated that the social, economic and environmental costs of congestion account for more than 1 percent of the GDP across the European Union, and currently cost the United States more than $115 billion each year. In addition, road traffic continues to account for around 80 percent of transport CO2 emissions and is expected to reach 9,000 Megaton per year by 2030 if the current mobility trends are not curbed

Examples of smart technologies which can allow us to make significant, positive impacts on the safety, efficiency and environmental performance of our transport networks already exist. Collectively known as Intelligent Transport Systems, these technology-driven urban mobility systems are now widely recognised as a cost-effective solution for enabling smart transport infrastructure outcomes

In transport, we have seen a shift in the thinking during the past 20 years on how to provide the infrastructure required to support our mobility needs. For example, instead of building additional road capacity, there is more reliance nowadays on using technologies to optimise the performance of existing infrastructure and sweating of assets. Support for these technologies is expected to increase in future years given the limited budgets available to governments, and the increased awareness of their role in optimising asset performance

Not surprisingly, a number of countries around the world – QatarIndonesia and Vietnam to name a few – are currently progressing ambitious nation-wide plans for ITS deployment. Qatar, for example, is in the final stages of planning a country-wide fully integrated multi-modal ITS which is expected to be fully operational before FIFA World Cup in 2022

So what can these countries learn from the experiences of other nations which have been successful in deployment of ITS?

In a study conducted by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) in the U.S., the ITIF examined the promise of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) and identified three nations it considered as global leaders in ITS: South Korea, Japan and Singapore

One thing that struck me the most when I visited these countries is how widespread their ITS technologies were, and the impact they had on the quality of life of people in terms of ease of travel, reduced congestion, and improved safety and reliability of transport services. The ITIF study examined these countries’ remarkable journeys in ITS and looked at both policy and non-policy variables to determine the factors which contributed to their success. Although non-policy factors such as geographical constraints, cultural and political issues played some role, the study found that it was ultimately their national ITS policies which made them successful in mobility innovations

What were the recurring ITS policy themes in these leading nations, and how can they be adopted by countries aspiring to become successful in ITS?


1. National ITS Vision. South Korea, Japan and Singapore have all demonstrated a national level commitment to ITS. From the outset, their governments articulated and owned a clear vision for ITS and linked it to national Information Technology policies and long-term strategies for improving road safety and the quality of life for their citizens. Governments in these countries also demonstrated strong leadership in convening relevant stakeholders and spearheading implementation of ITS

2. Commitment to Funding. At the time of writing their report, the ITIF found that as a percentage of GDP, South Korea and Japan each invested more than twice as much in ITS than the United States. Not surprisingly, this level of annual spending (around 0.016 percent of GDP) allowed South Korea to provide 100 percent coverage of ITS on all expressways (around 4,000 km), and 20 percent ITS coverage on national roads (2,500 km out of 13,000 km)

3. Partnership and Collaboration. The public and private sectors in these leading nations played an important role in co-developing platforms that enabled government, industry, academic and professional associations to collaborate on development of ITS at both local and national levels

4. Private Investment. The three leading countries were all successful at forging public private partnerships within their nations, and viewed their investments as creating a platform through which the private sector can develop value-added products and services

5. Planning for Deployment. A big portion of the  funding available to these countries was allocated to supporting ITS technology development, test-beds and proof of concept demonstrations as a precursor to wide-spread deployment. This approach also helped to inform and educate their citizens about the tangible benefits of smart technologies in transport

6. Standardisation. Leading countries developed national ITS architectures which provided the basis for interoperable ITS applications and assisted in the delivery of consistent, cohesive and cost-efficient services to citizens. For example, establishing common standards for electronic toll collection (ETC) in Japan encouraged high market penetration and uptake of on-board devices in more than 70 percent of vehicles. In Singapore, the single national standard of ETC also facilitated the implementation of a city-wide congestion charging scheme from early 1998

7. R&D and Education. The three leading nations recognised from early stages that ITS will not reach critical mass unless they commit to funding large-scale research and demonstration projects. For example, in June 2007, the Japanese Cabinet announced a long-term strategic vision for the country which articulated policies on R&D and set a goal that: “By 2025, ITS will have been constructed that integrate vehicles, pedestrians, roads, and communities; and that have made traffic smoother, and almost eliminated all fatal traffic accidents”

8. Innovation and Competition. This policy principle recognises the role of the private sector in developing and making available to governments and citizens innovations and technologies to improve their lives. Examples include alignment between the transport and telecommunications industries, where ITS was recognised as being inseparable from wireless technologies (for cooperative mobility applications) and high speed networks (for video transmission)

9. Performance Based Transport Systems. Nations leading in ITS recognised the need to move from a political or jurisdiction-based system of allocating transport investment to one that uses performance and cost-benefit analysis as the basis for investment decisions. ITS promotes this principle by providing quality data needed to make sound performance-based investment decisions. This data can also be used by the private sector to provide value-added services

10. Recognise ITS as a ‘Force Multiplier’. Decision makers must be informed to recognise the importance and high benefit-cost ratios provided by ITS. For example, benefit-cost ratios between 3:1 and 62:1 have been reported for various ITS. This is far above the traditional physical expansion of roads which has, on average, a benefit-cost ratio of 2.7:1. Also, the levels of capital investment in ITS are much smaller than investment in new roads enabling governments to extract more value from their constrained budgets and meet road user demand for better services with relatively small levels of expenditure

To drive change, governments must also move beyond a project-by-project view, spur close coordination between agencies, and provide clarity about effective engagement between the public and private sectors

In summary, the policy principles highlighted in this article apply both to nations embarking on new smart infrastructure projects, as well as developed economies looking to make the most of existing assets. But to be successful, these systems must be viewed as part of a holistic vision that addresses key strategies for integrating broad social, environmental and economic goals

7,769 total views, no views today

5 Fundamentals for Globally Competitive Cities


As the world becomes more interconnected, our cities will play an increasingly active role in the global economy. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, just 100 cities currently account for 30 percent of the world’s economy. New York City and London, together, represent 40 percent of the market capitalisation today. Going forward, it is anticipated that 600 major cities around the world will together generate 58 percent of the global GDP in 2025. Not surprisingly, the 21st century appears likely to be dominated by these global cities, which will become the magnets of economy and engines of globalisation that drive the fortunes of entire nations

The resulting success of these cities will dramatically change the scale and nature of our communities, and put a tremendous strain on the infrastructure that delivers vital urban services like transport, electricity and water. To create a sustainable future for next generations, we must make careful choices and take decisive actions now around urbanisation, and how we want our cities to function in the future. How we shape the development of these mega cities today will impact the well-being, quality of life and prosperity of the people living in them well into the future

But how do we achieve this? How do we develop globally competitive cities which sustain, renew and transform themselves for future generations?

Here are five fundamentals to developing cities of the future:

1. Global Appeal

For our cities to become competitive globally, they must be welcoming, safe and secure, and improve the quality of lives for people living and working in them

2. Human and Social Capital

Cities must provide the economic and cultural environments that allow citizens to play a role in realising the city’s potential. This is where education, training and fostering of human achievements in all aspects of life come together to form the city’s DNA

3. Good Government

Cities must have governments which are inclusive and high performing. City leaders and decision makers must also have a clear vision and vivid picture of where they’re going, as well as a firm grasp on what success looks like, and how to achieve it. Given the constraints on government budgets, this success is more likely to depend on private sector involvement particularly around funding models, public-private partnerships and innovations

4. Smart Economy

Sustainable cities must provide long term prosperity and growth for the entire city, building success on innovation and socially responsible business models

5. Resilient and Adaptive Infrastructure

The infrastructure that delivers transport, water, electricity and communications services will need to become smarter, greener and cleaner. This is not only the physical infrastructure, but also the soft infrastructure around information technologies, instrumentation, data integration, and innovations to reduce risk and vulnerability and improve preparedness, security and healthy living

It is now widely accepted that cities will become “smart” through ubiquitous infrastructure technology. But the key to unlocking a city’s greatness lies not in technology – rather in its generative ability to use technology to create enabling infrastructure for connectivity and creativity, providing an opportunity to modernise city infrastructure and drive economic growth

The benefits of investing in our cities are compelling, particularly given the improvements that can be made in terms of providing innovative solutions to support economic growth and competitiveness; and decision making and societal coordination which in turn will help drive economic growth, modernise infrastructure, and create jobs for the 21st century

If we are serious about encouraging the conservation and promotion of our urban environments as a legacy for future generations, then the time to act is now. If we adopt new strategies and put in place long-term plans to make our cities smarter and more sustainable, we might still have a chance!

2,671 total views, 1 views today