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Intelligent Mobility - what's it all about?

New Transport KTN Guest Blogger

In this article, we introduce Mike Schofield.  Mike has recently joined the Transport KTN team to coordinate our activities in Intelligent Mobility.  Mike has long experience of policy and technology dimensions of transport and was a Director at Atkins until 2011, when he formed his own consultancy.  Mike was Chairman of the industry association ITS (UK) for a two-year term from 2009 to 2011.

Mike will work closely with Transport KTN director Neil Ridley, the TSB and wider stakeholders to facilitate the development of Intelligent Mobility. 

Useful contextualisation

As well as reading Mike's article below, those interested in urban mobility might like to familiarise themselves with a few key publications which help to set the scene for this important topic:

  1. The Siemens report “Megacity Challenges” (2006) is a survey of 25 of the world’s major cities. It identifies transport as the most significant single infrastructure challenge and discusses the key issues to be addressed in dealing with urban growth.  Click here to view.
  2. "The Future of Urban Mobility ”, published by Arthur D Little in 2011, assesses the mobility maturity and performance of 66 cities worldwide and finds most not just falling well short of best practice, but in a state of crisis. Click here to view.
  3. The RAC Foundation report “Complete Mobility - Providing Transport as a Service” (2010), explores a new way of thinking about mobility, built around user focus, seamless travel and highly valued transport systems and services. Click here to view


In Mike's scene-setting article (which you can download from the document library here), Mike introduces the concepts and rationale underlying Intelligent Mobillity.  Please comment below (log in and click Add Comment) or email us, to ensure your views are incorporated in the plans and strategy going forwards.

You can use the links listed, or simply scroll down.

  1. Exploitation of data and information
  2. New ways of collaborating
  3. Influencing behaviour
  4. Business innovation


The Intelligent Mobility Agenda

Intelligent Mobility is a relatively new concept to the UK, and thinking is still at an early stage, but we should regard it as being of great importance to the future wellbeing of the country.  The Transport KTN has identified it as a key area requiring the facilitation and brokering of knowledge and expertise in support of innovation.  We are now pulling together an activity plan for the next year. 

Now is therefore a good time to reflect on what we mean by Intelligent Mobility, on why it’s important and to set out where we think our energies can best be focused.  We are keen to have input from a wide range of interested parties in developing our plan, so please tell us what you think.

What do we mean by mobility?

People need to move around to undertake other activity – to go to work, to undertake business, to enjoy social lives and so on.  We also need to be able to move goods around to gain access to food, to furnish our homes, to build new property and to maintain our basic infrastructure.  In essence, mobility is the ease with which we can do these things.  A mobile society is one in which people can undertake a wide range of activity with relative ease at sensible cost and one in which goods can be freely and economically moved around.  Mobility is therefore fundamental to the economic and social well-being of the country.

The challenges to mobility in the UK can be expected to increase significantly in the coming years as population continues to grow.  If the movement of people and goods is increasingly constrained by the limitations of current infrastructure and cannot move around easily and predictably, it will be harder to generate new economic activity.  Failure to address these challenges could hamper the UK’s economic recovery.  Mobility is therefore much more than a nice-to-have.

Views of Transport

Our traditional view of transport is one concerned with the provision of infrastructure (roads, railways, ports, etc), vehicles (cars, trucks, trains, etc) and services (urban public transport, inter-urban rail, freight haulage, etc).

Mobility is about the experience of users and about achieving maximum social and economic value from the traditional transport resource.  Mobility results from the ability, reliability and cost-effectiveness with which transport infrastructure, vehicles and services meet underlying economic and social needs.


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What's distinctive about Intelligent Mobiilty?

Intelligent Mobility brings some new perspectives to bear on an existing problem.  New communication and data technologies are a key catalyst and enable us to do things that were not previously possible, but there is much more to intelligent mobility than simply the application of technology. 

Key characteristics of Intelligent Mobility
Exploitation of data and information
  • There is vastly more data around now than even recently, with a much wider range of sources including crowd-source data, and with the possibility of distribution through broadcast, corporate and personal media.  The government’s Open Data agenda underpins an aspiration to enable data exploitation in this way.  There is the opportunity for a step change in the level of information to consumers and to transport operators enabling considerable improvement in both personal and freight mobility.
New ways of collaborating
  • A new way of looking at the mobility challenge means new partnerships and interconnections between stakeholders, industries, technologies and processes – optimal freight distribution requires collaboration between infrastructure owner, service provider, shipper and perhaps broker.  By coming together synergies are realised, markets aggregated and barriers can be overcome.
Influencing behaviour
  • The decisions made by personal travellers and freight managers may not always be optimal.  Understanding decision-making is key to Intelligent Mobility, both in designing transport services and in influencing users to make efficient decisions.
Business innovation
  • A mobility view of the world, unlike a pure transport view of the world, requires us to consider the interrelationship between movement and the activities that people and businesses undertake.  Goods transport is a manifestation of wider business activities and processes and we cannot design or enable efficient mobility without understanding how businesses work.  The change in the logistics of distribution associated with internet purchasing illustrates this.  Ownership and payment models, not just for freight, are potentially similarly open to innovation.

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Commercial opportunity

One of the most significant facets of Intelligent Mobility is the potential it has to create commercial opportunity.  The more that mobility delivery can be closely aligned with what people and businesses really want and need, the more likely it is that mobility can be delivered through commercially attractive and profitable services.  In the current climate of restricted government spend, this is a very attractive proposition.


Main dimensions of Intelligent Mobility

The diagram below sets out a provisional view of some of the main dimensions of Intelligent Mobility.

Dimensions of Intelligent Mobility

Where can the Transport KTN best focus its energies?

There is a clear need to get the concept of Intelligent Mobility more widely understood and so we will spend some time on developing a vision for Intelligent Mobility – what it might look and feel like in the future and what benefits the country and the commercial world might derive from it.  It’s important that such an exercise is not constrained by conventional transport thinking and we intend to involve a range of consumers of mobility and potential providers in developing the vision.  In addition, it might be useful, if difficult, to stimulate the development of some broad measures of mobility which could be used for assessing needs and future provision.  It might also be helpful to encourage the development of a strategy for the future development of Intelligent Mobility.


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Intelligent Mobility in the UK

Although there is not yet a well-established UK view of Intelligent Mobility, there is a good deal of related activity ongoing and a key task of the KTN must be to ensure maximum leverage and exchange of the knowledge that is being generated.  The Transport Systems Catapult and the Future Cities initiative are sponsored by TSB.  In industry, the Automotive Council, the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) and the Marine Industry Leadership Council (MILC) are all looking ahead at future needs.  The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) is active in this area.  Much of the transport preparation for the Olympics, described by Daniel Ruiz for the Transport KTN, is Intelligent Mobility. 


Intelligent Mobility in action...worldwide

We are not confining our engagement with related activity to the UK.  We have identified good practice overseas, for example in the Netherlands and Canada, and already have developed some eagerness to exchange learning internationally.

Behavioural change

The five key features of Intelligent Mobility identified in the diagram (exploiting data, collaboration, influencing behaviour, business innovation and new technology) all potentially warrant stimulation.  Of these, we think it is particularly worthwhile to explore the behavioural dimensions.  Demographics and personal preferences, including towards car ownership, are all subject to significant change.  Failure to address the opportunities from behavioural preferences and change could be a significant limiter to what can be achieved by Intelligent Mobility. 


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Moving forwards

Communication and opportunity for engagement will be fundamental to developing a wider understanding of and participation in the Intelligent Mobility agenda.  As a baseline, we intend to maintain a flow of news and thought-provoking pieces through the KTN website, so make sure you join this group, and follow us on Twitter (click the button below).  We will also facilitate and promote knowledge exchange by other appropriate means - let us know what you think.

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