MaaS Congress 2021: The time for MaaS is now. Or is it?
Read more by Joy Jansen
Now, a (remarkable) year and a whole new MaaS Conference later, we’re all dealing with the effects of COVID-19 and getting used to the ‘new normal’. Of course, COVID impacted public transportation – mobility as a whole, actually – tremendously, but we’re curious about the effects on the progress of MaaS? What’s happened in the past year and can the ‘new normal’ be the perfect time to realize a behavioral change, and with it MaaS?
This year, we kicked off the conference with a seminar about governance. There’s a real need for collaboration between old and new players and between the market and the government. For the past year, the ministry has been working on national pilots with different parties. They wanted to research how to put an ecosystem to work together, and how to use it to solve social challenges. The pilots were deliberately focused on the social level – level 4 in Jana Sochor ‘levels-in-MaaS’ model. This level is all about realizing social goals, creating policies and stimulating the end user to start traveling differently. This is interesting, because during last year’s conference, people were mostly talking about integrating the complete range of services (level 3). So, we’re looking at a higher level here.
Presentation Eric Mink – Integration levels of Jana Sochor
The government plays an active role; they’re introducing principles and standards to increase the positive influences and minimize the risks. Their goal is to collaborate. To share data to learn together and by doing so, realizing optimal impact. During his presentation at the conference, Erik Mink took a closer look at this: “We tend to solve infrastructure problems by building more infrastructure. We’re still seeing that data and the travelers are not top priorities when problems are being analyzed. If we put the traveler and data at the center, we can turn our attention towards coming up with integral and better solutions, which will help us centralize sustainability and social inclusion.”
Even though the government expected the market to “do its thing” and a commercial party to jump at this opportunity, that’s not how it went down. The need for standardization, preferably centrally managed by the government, remained. The TOMP-API is a big part of this; by standardizing data traffic between transportation companies and MaaS providers, you can create an anonymized, standardized and shared learning environment.
The use of these standards also reveals important nodes, which makes it possible to build an ecosystem with different carriers, payment systems and/or planning systems. This way, you avoid a ‘the-winner-takes-it-all’ situation and there’s still room to compete and learn (from each other). As was often concluded during the conference, the focus is on building an ecosystem, not an “ego system”.
The ultimate goal is to create an ecosystem that allows users to easily switch between providers. As Krista Huhtala-Jenks mentioned during her keynote, you don’t want to create a system like we’ve seen with data roaming in the past. Data roaming meant that during a vacation, you would have to pay extra for roaming and that it was a lot harder to switch providers. We wanted wide roaming with which we could easily switch between providers, without additional costs. Decentralization and the TOMP-API are already helping by making switching between providers easier, meeting the wishes of the traveler.
Presentation Krista Huhtala-Jenk – Flexibel wide roaming
Another widely-discussed theme during the conference was technology, and how you can use it to instill a feeling of trust and security in travelers, like with the TOMP-API.
To be able to learn from MaaS and to improve the system, we need data. But how do we get it? For this, you need to win the trust of the traveler. He needs to be free to choose whether or not he wants to share his data and with whom. We’re seeing that data is becoming more valuable and is actually turning into a type of currency. A possible solution would be to introduce incentives to make sharing data more appealing, like discounts in exchange for information.
To make sharing data as safe as possible, privacy and security must be taken into account at all times. Mind you, however, only setting up GDPR usually isn’t enough, and not just because GDPR may seem like the path of the least resistance, even though it very rarely actually is. The system has to be built in a way that the security of the data is guaranteed at all times and that it’s handled properly. This is where the term Security by Design was introduced. The system has to be designed in such a way that the data can be disconnected and anonymized as soon as it’s retrieved, so that it can’t be traced back to a specific individual.
During his panel discussion with Daan Wijnants (Felyx), however, lawyer Danny Hoekstra explained that this is not as easy as it seems. Data always comes with context and you only need three data points to identify an individual. So, the question remains: is anonymization the right solution? Chances are that for the years to come, GDPR solutions will work fine, but in ten years they will be overtaken by the technology we have available then. Maybe we, as a digital society, should start to recognize that the data that we’re retrieving belongs to actual people and no longer store it centrally. This, together with drawing up clear agreements between the carriers and the travelers, would be a much more practical route. We could then employ third parties who act as intermediaries and store the data.
During the closing remarks at the conference somebody spoke about which behavioral changes were possible within the traveler once their trust is gained. However interesting, this remains a difficult subject to fully grasp, because many companies are still focused on the technique, while they should be focusing on solutions that pertain to the end user. To understand what the traveler really wants and to be able to use that to realize a (permanent) behavioral change, extensive research must be done about the context of the trip and the underlying goals of the traveler. We’ve seen, for instance, that, in addition to personal preferences, social factors, like the climate, influence choices and behavior of the traveler more and more.
The COVID pandemic showed how adaptive we have to be when it comes to these user wishes: where there used to be a great need for efficiency (being on time for an appointment), you can see now that travelers are more concerned about their health. People don’t want to get on overcrowded trains or run the risk of getting sick. How do you respond to this? These cultural shifts will always exist, so it’s up to us to put together the offer in such a way that the traveler experiences sufficient flexibility to choose what he/she prefers.
Presentation Giancarlo Scaramelli – Cultural shifts
By understanding the needs and wishes of travelers, we can ultimately offer better solutions for them. And those better solutions are desperately needed. After all, the traveler’s expectations are very high and not exclusively based on experiences in the mobility sector. MaaS is a digital service, which means the traveler will most likely need to use an app to use it. This app or platform must be just as user-friendly and readily available as other global digital players and services that travelers use (Spotify, Netflix, etc.).
During last year’s conference, the use of incentives to change traveler behavior was discussed. This year, it was more about the role of the employer. Due to COVID-19, flexibility is more important than ever before and the personal needs of the traveler are also coming to light more. Employees are only traveling to work when it’s strictly necessary. Many employers have made agreements with their employees about working from home and it seems like (partly) working from home is here to stay. It could be interesting for MaaS providers to connect with large employers and try to facilitate a different way of thinking and planning in order to increase personal efficiency. No more traveling in large numbers at the same time, but rather spreading the crowds. This is also an opportunity to try and motivate people to travel differently and to use other modalities, such as the shared scooter. At the moment, we’re seeing that even the biggest car aficionados are enjoying the lack of traffic jams. To keep them from coming back (with a vengeance), various shared mobilities, for which the employer offers a subscription, may be the solution.
So… Is this the right time for MaaS?
A year ago, at the conference, people were wondering whether or not travelers would really change their behavior. The pilots and first MaaS products were supposed to prove (or disprove) this and allow us to learn. Unfortunately, COVID reared its ugly head and most pilots are on hold. We did learn, however, that a single press conference can be sufficient to bring about a society-wide behavioral change. It will still be a question of how MaaS will develop further in the future, but with more digitization, standardization, data, collaboration and awareness, a change in mobility and behavior has to be afoot.
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