We asked Corethree’s Ashley Murdoch and Richard Kershaw about their vision of smart retailing and mobile for passenger transport

Smart retailing and mobile technologies are changing fast, presenting the passenger transport sector with challenges and opportunities.

Corethree,a provider in mobile ticketing and data solutions for the transport industry, has been rolling out innovative smart ticketing products for Go Ahead Group around the country for the past two years. At the same time, it is working with some of the world’s largest smart city innovators on urban transport projects.

We talked to the company’s CEO, Ashley Murdoch, and CTO, Richard Kershaw, to talk about their vision of smart retailing and mobile for transport.


Given your position in the transport technology sector, how do you see smart ticketing evolving?

AM: A lot of our business is on the ticketing side of things, which we’re immensely proud of, but we see it as the tip of a huge iceberg. Ticketing is a perfect first step to get passengers used to smart retailing, and it’s that comfort factor that’s initially crucial.

RK: It’s all about comfort and familiarity, and building the customer’s muscle-memory in the first stage. Transport for London have been trailblazers to an extent with Oyster, because it’s moved them into a position where they can start to make use of the new benefits, like valuable journey data. The data that Oyster has enabled them to collect has been a boon for demand planning, but there’s so much more untapped potential now that smartphone technology’s matured to the point where over half of the population carries one.

AM: The next step is better use of data. Smartphones are basically becoming, among other things, point-of-sale devices in passengers’ pockets and they are giving operators a window into their journeys and everything around them.We are at a really unusual time right now, where the wishes of the retailer and the customer are in alignment: customers want better services and are willing to trade information for it, and retailers want better customer insight and are willing to incentivise passengers to get it. It’s perfect really but you need the right tools to make it work.


How are you tackling the tools issue?

AM: Well, for a start it’s not going to happen without more accessible technology from vendors like us.Take reporting, for example: our clients have a handful to a few dozen different software packages running HOPS, CRM, inventory, demand management and so forth. Every system shares some data with another bit of software, and each tries to cover the same territory with its reporting tools, often shoehorning business intelligence in where it doesn’t belong.

The big problem is that no-one builds those features for their audience, who generally don’t have time to learn to use complex software. It might be great for the sales people, but once it’s installed it just holds up the industry.

The single most important quality here is ease of use and relevance, so our team focuses on designing really powerful reporting tools that can be learned in about five minutes and don’t include anything our clients don’t need.

RK: Our clients actually end up using our simple tools almost exclusively over the complex legacy software. We’ve given them a simple layer on top of their other software, and that’s the one they use most of the time. We do the same for the underlying information itself – our systems unify data to make the whole process much simpler and solve real problems, as with the unified real-time information system we built for Southeastern’s staff. That’s exactly what IT should be doing across the board.

AM: That’s where our focus is as a company – customer and staff experience solutions partnered with our platform for analysing all of the data which comes off the back of it, along with data from all the other parts of the transport industry, like live rail data and historical demand data. We’re now looking to tie all of it together, with the help of partners like IBM, EIT and DeltaRail, to improve every part of the process, both front and back office. The Technology Strategy Board is running several competitions to get our colleagues in the industry collaborating, which is definitely a great way to kick-start the process. Operators should be embracing these opportunities, otherwise they’ll be left in the dust as things advance – it doesn’t have to be a painful process.


What are the challenges involved?

RK: As a tool for providing the best possible customer experience, we’ve already got a multitude of information around the whole journey. It’s locked-up in many, many other systems, but given the right circumstances it’s a huge resource. Getting to that data is the big challenge right now.

AM: We see working on the relationships between operators and technology vendors as key to unlocking the potential. We’ve got the toolkit to work with the data and produce really exciting solutions, so our efforts are partly focused on getting everyone working in concert to combine resources and data for the whole industry’s benefit.

RK: Absolutely – there are a lot of people lobbying for open data and common specifications, but our view is that the quickest way to get there is to just build stuff! It’s much easier to sell the owners of the data on the big vision by putting it right in front of them and letting them see the value first-hand.


What is that big vision for all of this data, then?

AM: A better experience for everyone, in a nutshell. Operators can get a much more unified picture of their customers, down to individual journeys, but also up to their overall travel patterns across various modes. Passengers should and will be able to plan and purchase the means to travel in one simple way without all of the encumbrances of the transport industry’s history holding them back. The great thing is that all of this is achievable right now – we’re building these systems today.


There’s an obvious knock- on to activities around transport, isn’t there?

RK: Yes, absolutely. To take a really simple example, say you’re waiting for a delayed train from Paddington, and you’ve pre-booked your ticket. This is idle time for hundreds of passengers. The nearby coffee shop should be able to offer you a deal in partnership with the rail operator. Everyone wins.

AM: At the more advanced end of the scale, we’re working with IBM as part of their Smart Cities initiative to tie together urban planning, centralised transport control, civic facilities and so forth. You’ve got to remember that no journey stands alone; the passenger’s always coming from and going to somewhere, and we want to join that all together. If we connect transport systems, parking and retail we can deliver a killer customer experience.

Imagine planning a journey, paying for rail station parking and your ticket at once, and then travelling to the city centre using a smartphone-based ticket. When you arrive, nearby retailers can talk to you directly and give you rewards for using public transport, incentivised by the local authority. All of the data about your journey can also go to the urban planners to anticipate demand and plan their solutions to real-world problems.

That’s our long-term vision – democratising this technology to make it accessible to the organisations who can use it best, and we’ve designed our platform, Core Engine, to be in pole position to trigger all of this.


For further information about Corethree visit www.corethree.net


This article appears in the latest issue of Passenger Transport.
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