Recognising and addressing change are the hallmarks of any successful organisation. Road net-work operators are no exception — their environment is increasingly influenced by significant tech-nological and societal change.
In particular, the internet, smart devices and wireless connectivity are having profound effects. The prevalence of personal technology and shifts in online buying and other habits have resulted in a population which has a much greater level of expectation of the quality of online services.
Project description and goals
These societal changes are challenging the traditional roles of mobility providers. In addition to building and maintaining physical infrastructure, road operators must also establish and maintain accurate real-time navigation, travel information and payment services which are easy to access and use, and fully multimodal in nature.
A new concept, MaaS (Mobility as a Service), is rapidly taking hold in developed countries and the true possibilities are being realised by governments and individual travellers alike.
Governments are looking for alternative means with which to address the increasing demand for mobility. Acknowledging that unrestrained road-building is environmentally and financially unsus-tainable, technology is seen as a means of providing additional capacity. This is pushing the need for multimodal solutions and reliable, dynamic information services, as well as applications which enable informed choices of when and how to travel, payment for services on the move, and the ability to make mid-journey changes to itineraries as and when necessary.
The monetary and environmental penalties of owning and running a private vehicle nourish individ-uals’ desire for MaaS, which is the product of an increasingly shared economy. The younger gen-eration of travelers, for whom car ownership is less and less relevant, wants to be better informed of multimodal choices. This attitude is also reflected among the older generations and the socially disadvantaged, for whom MaaS dramatically reduces mobility’s cost-of-entry threshold.
New data solutions
Established methods of gathering data, using in-road and roadside monitoring technology, will con-tinue to play a major role for the foreseeable future. But we are already seeing the increasing effect of a widening range of non-traditional data sources. Mobile devices’ Bluetooth and WiFi MAC ad-dresses, for instance, are used to gather anonymised crowd-sourced data, while that derived from electronic transactions can also be used to ascertain travellers’ movements and intentions — both in the moment and predictively. Connected devices/individuals and, soon, an increasing number of connected vehicles will make huge contributions to the data concerning movements, the state of infrastructure and other related influences such as weather conditions.
Road operators — public and private — will no longer have sole influence over their domains. However, they will benefit from engaging more readily and cooperating more fully with established and emerging partners, reaching across geographical and jurisdictional boundaries and becoming cognisant of the wider effects on their networks of travelers’ and other operators’ aspirations.
This is not good news for closed systems. Data systems need to be modular, scalable and enthusi-astic adopters of open standards in order to cater for the widest possible range of sources, provid-ers and users.
We have entered the Data Century, and its first decade has seen Brisa Group and its subsidiary, A-to-Be (see Sidebar, ‘Broadening the mobility portfolio’), provide Portuguese mobility operators with a comprehensive service offer which reaches far beyond the parent company’s established exper-tise in tolling and fully embraces the MaaS concept.
National asset, international relevance
The Brisa group’s mobility offer is based on a series of complementing elements (see Sidebar, ‘Functional elements’) and the scale of the capability provided and the amounts of data handled an-nually in Portugal are impressive — devices managed number in the tens of thousands, and some 320 million transactions are processed each year.
By virtue of its open, modular and scalable nature the solution is readily transferrable elsewhere. A-to-Be is already making inroads in the US, where it has an established office, and it stands ready to become a MaaS provider in other geographic locations around the world.
Broadening the mobility portfolio
A-to-Be brings to the mobility sector a multi-faceted portfolio which fully reflects the pace of change in technology and travel habits.
The offer includes technological solutions for both traditional and electronic tolling/road pricing; inte-grated payment, ticketing, enforcement and access-control solutions for road, rail and public transport including ferries; value-added payment services for fuel, convenience food and other ap-plications; smart parking services; and vehicle-sharing.
These provide network operators and travelers with single sources which address the vast majority of contemporary mobility needs. They reflect the growth of MaaS and service providers’ desire to supply holistic solutions which are safe, environmentally responsible and reliable. All are under-pinned by proven, state-of-the-art data-gathering and back office systems and are readily deploya-ble in countries right across the world.
Although it is still a relatively new name, A-to-Be has an impressive heritage.
Five years ago, senior executives from Brisa came together to consider mobility’s future. Since be-ing founded in 1972, the company has risen to be Portugal’s largest operator of tolling concessions. Along the way, it has worked to build and maintain a reputation for innovation and early adoption. Nevertheless, it was decided that major change was needed. In order to reflect the increasing di-versity and complexity of the sector, Brisa would transform itself from an infrastructure manage-ment specialist into a provider of a much broader range of mobility services.
Set up as a subsidiary, with the express intention of injecting a distinct and distinctive brand into the market, A-to-Be therefore came into being with the financial and intellectual backing of a parent with over four decades’ experience of road network operation.
The Brisa group’s mobility offer is based on three complementing elements.
Via Verde, which is the result of over 30 years’ experience in Portugal operating a unified network of more than 10 different road operators, caters for electronic toll collection and other electron-ic/wireless fee-paying applications. For different service providers — tolling concessions, parking operators, fuel stations, ferries and drive-through restaurants such as McDonald’s McDrive — it provides an integrated, full-spectrum solution for customer account management, handling and val-idation. By providing a unified central payment system, complexity is reduced. Both service provid-ers and paying customers benefit from the increased clarity resulting from integrated invoicing and reduced investment/operational costs.
A-to-Be MoveBeyond is an advanced, modular mobility platform. It is scaleable, enabling it to han-dle large quantities of data from a diverse range of sources. It supports multiple secure payment options, including pre-and post-paid, and is available in own-premise and cloud-based forms. This combination simplifies extension or improvement.
It is the central software ‘brain’ of MaaS provider’s applications. Designed in line with smart city trends, A-to-Be MoveBeyond fulfils the task of providing a seamless mobility experience to the traveller across all transportation modes — walking and cycling, private vehicle and ride-share, as well as mass transit.
With an emphasis on the end-user experience, A-to-Be MoveBeyond manages and implements business rules to guarantee operational, commercial and operational capabilities. In the palm of the hand, travellers can journey plan, purchase tickets and use route guidance services. Feedback and user-assistance services are also provided.
A-to-Be LinkBeyond provides at-the-roadside connectivity with the physical elements of MaaS pro-vision — all of the devices, apps and gadgets that gather and provide the data which supports mo-bility services, as well as the hardware which governs applications such as access control. A-to-Be LinkBeyond’s open nature enables existing infrastructure to be optimised to serve the purposes and deliver the vision of a seamless experience for each individual traveller.