Integrating digital technologies to deliver environmental benefits through Smart Mobility Solutions

by Avinash Lunj - UK Head of Climate and Environmental Sustainability
| minute read

Climate change is arguably one of the biggest threats facing humanity and the consequences of climate change are becoming increasingly evident. The world is at a critical place where the transition to net zero isn’t a lofty aspiration, it’s a need. The road to net zero is a journey we’re all in together. By 2030, digital technology can cut global emissions by 15%. Digital technologies therefore have a vital role to play in supporting the transition of key sectors such as transport to net zero.

Urban mobility presents a complex, ever-changing challenge as the way people travel within their home city or region is unpredictable. As populations rise, people are seeking the best transport options for their daily lives from commuting to work and picking up the kids to coming home from a night out.

Cities are increasingly seeing a mix of public transit, private vehicles, and modes of active travel such as walking and cycling. To meet this demand, many Mobility Service Providers (MSPs) have emerged- from ridesharing to other on-demand services, to offer people greater access to end-to-end transportation.

Smart mobility integrates various modes of transportation and urban infrastructure to create a more efficient and sustainable mobility ecosystem. Digital Mobility Services focus on the use of digital technology and integration to provide optimised and more sustainable transportation services and solutions. Together they can improve the performance of public transportation. Smart Mobility – intelligent traffic systems – represent a significant opportunity area for driving down emissions. Smart solutions allow for a better distribution of passengers on the various modes of transport, enabling greater environmental and health benefits. Different technologies will need to come together to achieve this, the application of connectivity with big data and AI with Internet of Things (IoT) devices, monitoring and tracking what is going on.

We worked on the COMMUTE project with the city of Toulouse in France to help address challenges around congestion and local air pollution. The project focused on integrating disparate data from across the mobility network to enable collaborative and holistic decision-making between local, regional and national stakeholders.

The collaboration offered a digital platform that aggregates many technologies including cloud, big data, cybersecurity, data visualisation and AI. It is dedicated to the collection of data to develop a new and common understanding of employee mobility.

Data: the engine of a Digital Mobility Solution

Mobility-as-a-Service is a data driven model and data is the engine of an effective digital solution. For the COMMUTE project, a wide range of data from many different sources was needed including:

  • Bus and train timetables,
  • Location of one-way systems,
  • Weather forecasts,
  • Measurements of local air quality,
  • Real-time traffic information,
  • Location of cycle lane networks and more.

Open data access was key to bringing all of this information together and empowering stakeholders to collaborate.

The Internet of Things

IoT enabled data collation from disparate sources. This is where objects (such as smartphones and traffic cameras, which are fitted with sensors and software) are able to connect and exchange data with other devices and systems over the Internet. Using an API which allows different software applications to talk to each other, the digital platform uses Big Data to analyse and systematically extract information and trends from large and complex data sets. So, it’s able to ingest and compute more data about congestion, bus and rail performance, weather, roadworks, poor air quality and much more.

AI enabled modelling

AI is used to simulate scenarios and predict the impacts of potential policy choices and actions as well as analysing, in real-time, the knock-on effects resulting from adverse weather conditions, incidents, and planned events such as concerts and sports events. This helps to relay important information, more speedily, about incidents to local councils, emergency services, customers and companies to keep the transport network flowing.

The platform gives those - managing and using the transport network - a unified view of everything that is happening on the network –giving project stakeholders the ability to monitor and evaluate up to 85 mobility indicators (such as modal shares, average travel times).

Realising positive environmental outcomes

This project has demonstrated how digital technology is a key enabler in helping to realise sustainable outcomes which include:

  • 9% decrease in sole-occupancy car journeys
  • 4% increase in car-pooling
  • 10% increase in cycling
  • Avoidance of 90,000km of car travel and 17 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per day
  • A reduction of local air pollutants including a reduction of 12kg of volatile organic compounds, 52kg of nitrogen oxides, and 3kg of particulate matter per day.

One technology component in isolation will not provide the silver bullet - we need a whole suite of solutions and technologies, and beyond that, we need policies and finance to be lined up.

Policy makers and local governments face an increasingly complex challenge in providing citizens with safe, efficient, accessible and reliable mobility. By integrating the data from disparate sources, extracting real-time insights using digital technologies, Digital Mobility Solutions can enable data-driven decision making to achieve positive outcomes including improved operations and reduced costs. This provides a clear pathway to developing the next generation of sustainable transport solutions.

Read more about sustainability here.

Read more about why employee engagement is a cornerstone to a sustainable future

Read more about our three-step approach to achieving net zero

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