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Turning data into information is key to paving the way for ‘frictionless travel’. Here’s how to start.

Mike Dwyer
Jan 17, 2024

In the lead-up to our February ‘Smoothing the way to frictionless travel’ event, we’re unpacking the hot topics, challenges, and opportunities in the travel and transport industry today. Here, Mike Dwyer, VP & Head of the UK Intelligent Industry CoEx, explores the multitude of opportunities offered by embracing intelligent industry – namely, data.

The UK travel and transport system gets a bad rep. Regardless of whether it’s earned or unjustified, “frictionless travel” is not a phrase many, if any, customers of the end-to-end network would use to describe it – whether it’s on the roads, on the rails, or in the skies. Passengers may be beholden to use it every day but that doesn’t mean they enjoy the experience. So how can intelligent industry – by that we mean the convergence of product, software, data, and services – help transform the future of the sector? And how do you make the business case that investment in it isn’t just about getting flashy new technology?

A lot of it comes down to the big challenge many transport operators have; turning data into information that allows them to make predictive, not reactive, decisions.

Data for provisioning

Imagine if an airport was energy-efficient, reacting to the passenger loading that’s going through it. We could see that we’re expecting 100,000 travellers on a particular day, which means X cars, buses, and trains. How is that going to behave as a model and what do we need to re-provision for it? Should we set up different flow lines? Should we adjust the frequency of the lifts? Could we even schedule lifts that are predominantly taking people from the tube concourse up, rather than the regular frequency of a lift going up and down? Intelligent use of data can help us really get into that dynamic scheduling of resources – both people and things.

Data for resilience

We’ve all experienced it as passengers: one issue on the line and the whole system is desynchronised, resulting in serious knock-on effects and having to figure out potentially massive, unnecessary workaround journeys. In the long run it chips away at your reputation as an operator and gets added to the list of reasons why customers are less inclined to use the service.

But if you can learn to turn your wealth of data into useful information and be stronger at how you use it, you can enjoy much better resilience in timetabling and service provision so that when you encounter those problems, you’re fully equipped to fix them quickly.

Intelligent industry can help you accurately understand the state of your assets, dynamically and predictively. Taking a step down into supply chain layers, we can create intelligent assets like geo-tagged vehicles that work from real-time data. Not just so that we can make operational decisions based on rerouting but so that we can understand any diagnostic issues coming off them.

Resilience is a grand challenge many of our clients are facing. They’ve coped with disruption so far – with some good technology and a lot of human intervention and intuition – but with post-COVID staff retention issues, they’ve now lost that operational resiliency that once was built into their people. In response, resilience needs to be in the system and the intelligence of the augmentation layer around the humans that are operating the airport, train station, or shipping port.

With SNCF Réseau, we developed a unique system to drive surveillance and maintenance efforts using data and an application to monitor the railways in real-time. This allowed SNCF Réseau to more effectively predict the need for and perform maintenance to ensure the undisturbed operation of its railway network across France.

Finding the information needle in the data haystack.

Everything above points back to using data and information in two ways:

Picture of a passenger Picture of a command centre 
Inform and allow passengers to make realistic decisions based on accurate forecast and real-time data.

For example, how do they get from A to B with the minimum fuss possible, and how to do they do it on a train with a quiet carriage? 
Send information back into the commander control operational centres.

How, with the driver roster they have in front of them, do they keep as near to the timetable as possible? Where are there asset health concerns and what mitigation plans are in place?  

Too much data leaves you square-eyed! Get the computer to help you.

Much of the data you will ingest is nearly impossible to understand without machine augmentation – whether that is machine learning (ML), robot processing automation (RPA), artificial intelligence (AI), or generative AI. Intelligent industry means both people can look at the same data – or variants of that data – with different types of analytics overlaid to it to create high fidelity models of those scenarios.

Plus, when you have access to the lifecycle data, you can improve resilience of your product based on real operational data. In this industry, we need access to that in a sufficiently high frequency so that we can then upgrade the software on-board. Working in this way means always updating your fundamental capabilities because you’ve thought about resiliency and built in the ability to adapt.

Take Capgemini’s work on Airbus’ Skywise platform, for example. Based on a cloud-hosted data lake (a large repository for data storage), the platform allows airlines and other aeronautics players to store, manage and analyse their data and that of their ecosystem more efficiently. Offering visualisation, alert management, predictive and machine learning capabilities, Skywise makes it possible to manage a fleet of aircraft over its entire lifespan, integrating its operations and maintenance. One of the tangible benefits of the platform is to maximise the availability of a fleet of aircraft, increasing the operational and economic performance of the airline.

How do we get there?

  1. Fundamentally, you need a digital-first culture.
    Everybody in the organisation needs to understand and be fluent in what digital is and why you really need it. It requires a built-in mindset that when you need to solve a problem, you look at it from a digital angle first. To do so, the whole business needs to align behind a clearly defined digital and data strategy.
  2. Turn data into information with the right analytics.
    Cementing this digital-first culture leads you further down the road of understanding how data gets turned into information and how to give your customers that information through a window/format that’s digestible and useful. It can start very simply with one or two different channels and over time grow into different portals and windows, but ensure you keep the data progression and growth under control with your strategy.
  3. Assess the intelligence requirements for your assets.
    Ask yourself the big questions. What levels of intelligence do you need from your moving assets? What augmentation can you give people as they move around big workplace areas? Do they need body cameras, tracking devices, or over the shoulder support like remote workers? How smart can you make your infrastructure like pumps, air bridges, or the airport/train station/ferry port building itself? Assess how smart they are now and measure it against the levels of operational resilience and efficiency you need to get to
  4. Balance sustainability and resilience.
    Sustainability has become a top priority for businesses across all sectors and decisions about energy management are important. Ask yourself how you can make those decisions about use of energy and materials while also making sure you can hit your mission and be resilient when something goes wrong.
  5. Be clear on the value of digital.
    This one is vital. If you structure the business case and narrative well, we can help you measure the success of your investment. Instead of seeing the benefits of digital as “this shiny new app looks nice”, we can drill down into the value digital is giving you back. How is it moving the needle on customer satisfaction, timetable adherence, or cost of fuel savings? Exactly how many tonnes of fuel have you saved? By how many minutes have you slashed passenger delays? And what did those things cost you operationally before the investment in digital? Yes, you may need to raise the cost of capital to buy a new piece of expensive kit, but what you get is higher operational resilience capacities, increased customer satisfaction, and the capabilities to keep driving results from your investment.
    There’s lots to do, but the steps are there to tangible and intangible passenger happiness.

Smoothing the way to frictionless travel

Key to meeting any common challenge head-on is to unite and start sharing. We believe there is a great opportunity for the industry to collaborate, think, and reflect with like-minded peers, focusing on some key opportunities facing the industry, including: sustainability, customer experience, multi-modal transport, intelligent industry, and 5G.

You have the opportunity to explore these industry themes at our exclusive breakfast workshop on Thursday 1st February 8am – 12pm.

Click here to register now as spaces are limited!

Hear more from our experts in the Smoothing the way to frictionless travel blog series, linked below:

Listen, understand, and build a relationship with your passengers to improve their customer experience by Dominic Corrigan – Engagement Director.

Mike Dwyer

Head of Intelligent Industry, Capgemini UK
Mike leads the Intelligent Industry Centre of Expertise (CoEx) in the UK and brings a deep knowledge of Industry 4.0 and how it transforms the worlds of engineering, manufacturing, service, and operations and through the process, systems, data, people & culture change. Mike is an experienced digital engineering consulting and delivery lead with 25 years of working in R&D, engineering development and digital transformation for Rolls-Royce Defence and Siemens Germany. Mike has worked in other organisations across a variety of sectors including Aerospace & Defence, Power Generation, Rail, Oil and Gas, Formula 1, and Electronics & High-Tech.