Is data the real moneymaker in the future of mobility? Peter Ballard and Rob Hall make a very compelling case…

We’re all generating and contributing data, either passively or actively, as we go about our busy lives. It’s transpiring from the devices we carry in our pockets to the sensors that are built into our homes, our chosen modes of transport and the streets we travel on.

This data - and the partnerships that are possible if it’s wielded in the right way – is the key to changing current business models and creating innovative and genuinely valuable new products or services.

The opportunities are particularly strong in the mobility space, where environmental consciousness and shifting attitudes towards a sharing economy, are having an impact on the way we manage inner-city transportation and the emergence of electric and autonomous vehicles.

With the advancements in today’s technology, vehicles are increasingly being designed to be continuously connected to the web. They communicate with the devices and environments around them. This means more data, which provides greater opportunities to rethink how they serve the passengers that drive them, and the communities that they pass through, across multiple touchpoints.

Whilst the use of this data has obvious immediate customers, such as the manufacturers and insurers of these vehicles, this rich data also provides a golden opportunity for companies on the periphery of the mobility space to benefit from it.

Imagine Netflix knowing the typical length of your commute and planning a playlist to keep you entertained or informed based on your normal viewing preferences. Or Deliveroo being able to bring you food at a particular point in your journey.

In using the various sources of data available, brands can move from an episodic relationship with customers, where they wait for customer demand to ‘trigger’ their service, to a continuous and proactive relationship where the brand uses its knowledge to provide always-on value to customers.

This vision is not a fantasy, but it is hard to achieve with one brand alone. Vendors, tech partners and governmental bodies need to work together to form a coordinated and connected data strategy with the objective of improving mobility for all.

For some years, the big oil companies have been planning for a world that uses much less fossil fuel. If you’re not selling much petrol from the forecourts of petrol stations, what is your business?

Major electric vehicles. fuel companies, such as Shell and BP, are prototyping new stores, with more emphasis on retail, alternative fuels, and the support of fast-charging points for

They’re also funding and backing research into batteries and charging technology, chasing the prize of a fast-charge that takes only a little longer than filling up with a full tank of gas, this will secure the future of their network of filling stations.

Other opportunities that come with the vast array of data they receive each day are from the millions of fleet and fuel loyalty cards they have issued to customers globally. This data provides unique insight into the behaviours of drivers and their journeys, their mileage, and even their snacking and refreshment habits.

This gives them the competitive edge in a variety of scenarios, such as knowing more about customers and their vehicles rather than car manufactures or motor insurers. Also, knowing more about the food and beverage choices of people on the move than the big food and supermarket chains.

This opens other possibilities such as becoming software providers, fleet owners or consultancies with the data they have in their own right. Or partnering with brands that want to access the millions of drivers at the point of purchase.

Smart devices (whether phones or cars) are mines of data. One sure fire way they create value is by intimately mapping the minutiae of our inner-city infrastructure. The mining of data can – if shared with city planners – provide new ways to consider how people move around a city, including traffic flows and the way people walk. Particularly, when combined with other smart city technology (such as road traffic cameras or carpark barriers) - the data is ripe for the picking.

This will augment the future driver experience when electric and autonomous vehicles become the norm, reducing pain points and time wasted in traffic and offering all new ways to traverse spaces based on the most effective routes.

When combined with more tactical nudging, such as smart recommendations to devices or in-car systems, providers will deliver customer value in the form of improved experience.

For example, your EV alerts you to the fact that you need to charge within 50 miles. Your car knows there are 10 forecourts in that radius, each of which has been notified of your need to charge. Your in-car map tells these providers that you’re on your way to your mother’s (who you frequently surprise with a box of Milk Tray) so they offer a 30% reduction off the price of a box of chocolates at the forecourt store.

This heightens forecourt competition - whether electric or combustible - with providers aiming to outbid each other to curry consumer favour and grow revenue by delivering timely, personalised experiences.

There are bountiful tactical opportunities for service providers, governmental bodies and tech firms to gather data and many already are. But none of them nail revolutionising mobility.

One option outlined by Gov UK is creating one-step interfaces integrating various APIs from multiple providers to create personalised travel experiences. However, initiatives based on this like City Mapper's travel card are geared towards densely populated inner-city areas reliant on public transport and/or non-self-driven ride heralding.

That said, data about journeys taken via these cards is still valuable - the more people use them the more tailored recommendations they will receive. For example, we’ve noticed that travelling on a bike is 7 minutes quicker than your typical tube ride, there’s a rank outside station X. Or, we notice you exit here often have you thought about visiting this café for coffee, here’s 25% off.

Ultimately, we advocate for joined-up market offerings from manufacturers, insurers, fuel providers and governmental organisations, each sharing the customer relationship and augmenting and improving it with the data they have.

Each can help move people away from the episodic instances, of buying (or renting) a car, fuelling a vehicle, taking out insurance or navigating around space via public transport. This means they can impact and influence how people experience the spaces they move through.

Monetising data isn’t going to go anywhere fast and serving responses to it in an intelligent way is the next step into connected products and services. Achieving this is crucial.

The future of mobility hangs in the balance. It needs coordination between existing siloed providers to create a connected approach to mobility grounded in data. That said, brands need to establish digital trust strategies to keep customers on-side and sharing data – the very possibility of changing mobility is enabled by the fact people share data willingly.


Peter Ballard is the co-founder of Foolproof, an experience design agency with offices in London, Norwich and Singapore

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