Arup: Intelligent connectivity reshaping urban mobility

01 April 2015 Consultancy.uk

Intelligent connectivity, which enables the mutual exchange of data between individuals and smart systems, will reshape urban mobility in the future, research by Arup and Qualcomm Technologies shows. According to the study, the increasing amount of data will allow for a smarter, healthier and safer urban mobility.

Professional services firm Arup, in collaboration with Qualcomm Technologies*, recently released a new report into future urban mobility, titled ‘Intelligent Connectivity for Seamless Urban Mobility’. In the research, the two firms highlight the current challenges of urban mobility, suggest technological, infrastructure, and policy solutions, and distil explorations of the future. Their main conclusion: future mobility will not only be safer, but will also come with better experiences, enhanced safety and a near zero environmental impact. 

Arup and Qualcomm Technologies, Intelligent Connectivity for Seamless Urban Mobility

Changing urban mobility
In the world of today, cities struggle with the challenges of the rapidly increasing urbanisation, density growth, resource constraints, evolving expectations for liveability and resilience, technological convergence, and the progressively volatile climate. All of these issues need to be considered in the planning and development of “efficient, resilient and scalable mobility systems.”

According to the report, these challenges can be surmounted by the increasing availability of data on the patterns of city life. As a result of this data, a more efficient and accessible urban existence can be shaped through new choices for individual trip-making, better information for smarter decision-making, and system optimisation to utilise infrastructure efficiently. This new vision combines a wide range of emerging technologies to enable smarter, healthier, more resilient, and economically robust urban life.

Intelligent connectivity reshaping urban mobility

Intelligent connectivity
The researchers indicate that key to this vision of urban mobility is ‘Intelligent Connectivity’, which refers to “the sum of the systems, services, and technologies connecting people, data, and infrastructure” that enable the symbiotic exchange of data between individuals and smart systems. In their report, four examples of user’s experiences of an Intelligently Connected city of the 2030s are detailed, projecting possible ways in which the future of mobility is likely to differ from today’s systems. Consultancy.uk offers a brief summary of each of the four scenarios: 

Usership vs. ownership
Challenges coupled to the exponential increase in urban populations, such as air quality, traffic congestion, and inefficient parking systems, are becoming more pressing. As a result of this, the researchers expect concepts like bike and car sharing, integrated door-to-door transport solutions and intermodality, activated through intelligently connected devices, to become commonplace.

Usership versus Ownership & Real-time Data Ecosystem

Real-time data ecosystem
The second scenario is the ‘real-time data ecosystem’, which refers to the dependency of people on technological advancements for the right information at the right time. According to the researchers, the invisible systems that accompany people will become an extension of their decision-making processes, referring to it as a “digital sixth sense”. Cities and service providers in this scenario will deliver services that utilise smart technologies to meet the demands on infrastructure and be alerted to deficiencies in the system. 

Bridging the Digital Divide
In the digitally connected world, an increasing aging population may have greater difficulty navigating the digital infrastructure intended to make their lives more convenient. The researchers highlight a scenario in which personal devices and wearable technologies are manufactured at a lower cost in order to provide basic services to a wider demographic, with an emphasis on seamlessly connected experiences. As an example, they describe mobility as a free service, where value becomes subsidised in the price of other targeted services to which users subscribe, and telepresence concierge services to span the generational divide. 

Bridging the Digital Divide & Safe Travels

Safe travels
(Cyber) security and privacy are becoming more and more an issue when providing for a seamless user experience through networked systems. A balance between physical security and ease of access, and between data security and appropriate transparency is crucial. When this is achieved, the researchers note, such networked, integrated systems have the potential to reduce congestion, optimise climate and health conditions, and reduce the number and severity of physical and digital threats.

The report concludes: “To achieve these [scenarios] by 2030, a diverse range of stakeholders need to expand how they think about integrated mobility as well as how data is generated, secured and used, while ensuring that infrastructure and policy are continuously upgraded. [...] We will need ubiquitous, secure data generation and collection, while supporting data co-dependency. We will need a commitment to getting more out of existing hard infrastructure, including an accelerated upgrade pace. And we will need to incentivise good behaviour, through policies that acknowledge both the rapid evolution of technology and urban citizens’ habits and expectations.”

* Qualcomm Technologies is subsidiary of Qualcomm, an American global semiconductor company that designs and markets wireless telecommunications products and services. Qualcomm Technologies operates all of Qualcomm’s engineering, research and development functions, and substantially all of its products and services.

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