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Intelligent Solutions Beyond Technology: Three 'Collective Decisions' to Help Maximize Technology BY MATT COLE

President, Cubic Transportation Systems

As companies in a multitude of industries seek to solve problems of the present and future with new solutions, there is always an emphasis on “intelligent options:” creating tech­nologically advanced versions of established infrastructure. From smartphones to smart refrigerators, these products join the Internet of Things and provide invaluable data and insight that allow us to streamline and improve our daily lives. I cannot think of an industry that is not currently discussing the impact new intelligent devices will have on their future.

But while we consider the various ways through which smart technology will change the way we live, we must also focus on making our decision-making as intelligent as possible. For as much as we can rely on the information provided by smart devices to inform our choices, it is also critical that we do everything possible to maximize the impact of our enhanced infrastructure.Intelligent transportation systems should not just refer to the technology involved. Rather it should also apply to the vision and choices of industry leaders. As the world gets smarter, from strategic innovation to technological advances, we must ensure that the word “intelligent” can apply to the complete picture of our work and not just a few new gadgets.

With that in mind, here are three collective decisions that we can commit to that will allow us to draw more from our technological advances.

Maximizing Previous Investments

While many in our industry are inspired by the prospect of creating new and revolutionary transportation systems, we can arguably find as much value in bringing new operational capabilities to established systems.

The first version of any new infrastructure is never flawless, and leveraging the lessons learned from the unintended consequences of our infrastructure development allows us to fine tune solutions that amplify the efficiency of existing equipment.

Is it necessary to construct an entirely new highway system when they could see substantial improvements in performance just by implementing small tweaks like lane changes or intelligent speed limits? When we complement our existing systems rather than replacing them outright, we can deliver improvements and solutions that are faster and more cost-effective than sweeping changes.

Every decision we make should have the end user in mind, and there is definitely something to be said for incremental improvements that will benefit the customer in the short term as opposed to complete overhauls that occur only a few times.

Collaboration Over Competition

While a great number of technological advancements have come as a result of competition between companies or governments, we have reached a point where our developments in the transportation industry will benefit far more from collaboration and integration than from rivalry and competitiveness.

Many cities rely on multiple transportation agencies and companies to serve their citizens, and the potential benefit of integrated information and communication technology grows as more organizations are involved. We can see the potential for unproductive competition in many cities where citizens are served by multiple transit agencies that are not integrated. For example what incentive is there for a regional commuter rail system to promote the train line serving the urban core?

The key here is to understand that the more companies work together to provide improved solutions to customers, the more likely that they are to choose public transit options over their own private vehicles. Powerful examples of successful collaboration can be seen in cities like London and Berlin where travelers benefit from integrated systems for efficient service and real-time information.

And as more organizations get involved in a single transportation ecosystem, the benefit of integrated information and communication technology grows. When a London commuter knows that they’re being provided with accurate, up-to-date information, they’re more likely to choose the public transit option. And this way, all of the transport agencies involved—from Chiltern Railways train to a London city bus—benefit from that customer’s business.

Of course, there is also a strong incentive for collaboration on the business side: Cubic has benefited from many partnerships. We are able to travel further together, and I’m certain that there is more untapped potential in these collaborations.

Innovation Fueled by Combined Data
In addition to establishing industry partnerships, our transportation community can create a spirit of collaboration by sharing and integrating data throughout the industry. I cannot overstate the benefit of this: The value of combining data is not in the commodity of data itself, but in the tools that can be developed from the knowledge of data in aggregate.

If each individual transportation operator and government agency were left with only their own data to make decisions for the future, we would be forcing thousands of organizations to “reinvent the wheel” with regard to many upgrades and innovations.

By combining data, we allow travelers throughout the world to reap the rewards. We must recognize that regardless of what agency or company we’re serving, the end user is the customer in any transportation environment.

Combined data will undoubtedly lead to improved solutions for the end user, and any individual’s reasons for hoarding their own data do not surpass the benefit of pooling our resources to serve a world of travelers.

A rising tide lifts all ships; so too will combined data propel all innovations in transportation.

This “Commentary” was originally published by Cole as a post on LinkedIn Pulse. The expanded version is published with permission. Based in part on the CTS white paper, Intelligent Travel Systems: Making Cities of Tomorrow a Reality Today.

Commentary" features points of view from various sources to enhance readers' broad awareness of themes that affect public transportation.
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