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Open Transport Aims to Shake Up the Transport Sector

Moya Sutherland



Open Transport is creating a standard way that transport customers can securely integrate their accounts together and share some transport data. 

Transport information, such as tickets purchased and locations travelled to, is typically accessed via an online account for each transport mode and operator. Meaning that, over time, customers build up a scattered collection of transportation data, from bus and rail tickets through to car share scheme usage and even micro scooter hire.

Open Banking standards caused quite a disruption to the financial services sector when they were introduced in early 2018. By securely allowing a customer to integrate their different bank accounts together they opened up the financial services market.

The result has been a positive outcome (for the customer at least), giving them greater choice of account providers and a much better view of their banking data. Putting them more in control of their own finances.

The Open Transport Initiative is a group of transport and technology experts led by Ideal Interface, a strategic and digital consultancy based in Glasgow, Scotland. Having created a similar standard for transport account interoperability to Open Banking, the aim of this group is to now transform the industry and unlock the data stored in so many different accounts.

Launched earlier in 2019, the initiative has been gathering interest from mobility industry vendors, public transport authorities and operators around the UK and Europe. It has also had wider input from rail, ferry, subway, bus and parking representatives, as well as academia.

Monday 14th October, International Standards day, was therefore chosen as the date to publish the draft standard for review and request wider input by all transportation practitioners and observers.

So what would an Open Standard do for the transport sector? – “Peer to peer transport account data sharing and interoperability”.

Open Transport has created a standard way that transport customers can securely integrate their accounts together and share transport data. The standard still allows each transport organisation to maintain their relationship with their own customers, but also provides the means for them to link their separate accounts together to create a united view of purchases, usage and even discounts.

Traditionally, technology solution providers have attempted to lock-in their clients with proprietary standards and bespoke integration. But Open Transport creates a standard and free-to-use specification for any transport application to “talk” to another.

Why does the Transport & Mobility sector need an Open Standard?

There are various parties who would benefit from the adoption of an Open Standard for transport account integration.

Firstly, the customer. Currently, there is no way for an individual to link their online accounts across the different transport providers. As an example, there are 26 different train operators in the UK alone, most with their own online account. Plus the countless bus, tram, river bus, taxi & ride-sharing operators, all with online accounts or apps. Added together it that can pose a lot for the regular traveller to manage.

Secondly, the solution provider/vendor. When they want to build functionality to integrate their product account to another vendor’s, with an open standard they do not have to start from scratch as at least part of the analysis and interface specification has already been done for them. Plus then, when implemented, the integration of successive accounts is a doddle!

Thirdly, larger MaaS (Mobility as a Service) initiatives. Typically implemented on a city-wide or regional basis, these programmes aim to provide a single technical platform and account for managing many different transport services, usually public ones. However, these MaaS platforms don’t allow the customer to manage every transport mode. So what better way to create a wider account footprint than to allow the customer to integrate to those other providers who have also adopted the open transport account standard?

So what’s next for the Open Transport initiative?

The draft standard has been published in the form of a near-complete API specification. This document is now out for peer review to the wider transport community. The aim is that a ratified standard and accompanying documentation will be delivered by the Open Transport Initiative before the end of 2019.

The Open Initiative invites any interested party to join in the peer review and welcome feedback.

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moya sutherland

Moya Sutherland

Senior consultant and director at Ideal Interface

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