New technologies and digitalization have affected all sectors. And the case of public transport is no exception. Looking back on 2009, although Spain had over 51 million mobile phone customers, only 2 million had a smartphone.
Back then, it was unlikely to envision the growth we would witness in just seven years. However, some brave entrepreneurs encouraged the development of digital channels beyond a Facebook or Twitter profile. In an Internet environment, social networks, relationship marketing and mobile devices have changed the whole evolution process.
In the field of public transportation, we first witnessed the integration of systems of monitors, which were modest at first, through an entire infrastructure offering information to users (estimated times, countries, incidences, etc.). But providing real time information at each station was not enough. The information was important but it was necessary to redesign processes. And this is where the web came into play, along with mobile portals, social networks and, as mentioned before, relationship marketing. The key was not only to provide information, but to establish what information had to be offered and on which channels.
The levels of social penetration and Internet users as well as smart mobile devices have dramatically increased in the last 5 years, which has forced the public transport sector to continuously adapt all the digital transformation processes. Thus, the commitment was based on four clear basic principles:
- The user. It is vital to provide products and services that meet the user’s needs and interests.
- Specialized channels. Use the appropriate channels based on the user’s purpose and use of each channel.
- Customization of information. Provide fully customized information with a clear commitment to the mobile channel.
- Optimization of web space. Focus on providing a practical and user-friendly experience.
Today, the main challenge is the mobile sector. The goal is to make secure mobile payment a reality and to make mobile devices the main gateway to mobility services.
In this regard, many companies have already decided not only to adapt the website to such devices, but to include options such as apps that allow users to have a customized experience by creating routes based on their usual journeys. Some are even working on real-time customer service through instant messaging through the application.
A good example of this is the application of the Barcelona public transport:
As for the mobile device payment, the main technology is perhaps the NFC (Near Field Communication); a short-range wireless communication technology that is a tool for identification and collection/data sharing between devices, and has its greatest potential in the payment via mobile phone. Companies like Xerox Seamless™ have taken advantage of this open platform technology to develop their own solutions. In the case of this company, it involves the installation of NFC tags in transport lines.
Users just need to download the company’s app, register and activate their account. In order to travel, all they have to do is touch any NFC tag on their smartphone to perform the transaction. Follow the link to watch a video of the latest updates in the public transport in Valencia.
This technology is already implemented in some pioneer cities and will probably become a standard procedure, according to experts, which will also contribute to boost the payment via mobile phone in other areas and sectors, thus becoming a role model in the public sectors.
Like in other fields, we expect some exciting months and years ahead.