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From Gallons to Gigabytes: The Currencies of Future Mobility

The cost of travel is currently assessed in several ways, whether it be mpg, cost per journey or electrical range. But as forms of transport develop, the currency of mobility is changing.

The cost of travel is currently assessed in several ways, whether it be mpg, cost per journey or electrical range. But as forms of transport develop, the currency of mobility is changing. That is not to say that pounds and pence/cents and dollars/euro and euro cents won't finance transport, but the way in which consumers assess which mode of transport to take and where to commit their time investment are changing.

These currencies will not be fiscal or material, but instead will be representative of factors that are of imperative importance to those who travel in the digital era:

Trust - The Currency of Entry

As forms of mobility develop, consumers are being made offers of modes of transport to which they are unfamiliar - car sharing, carpooling, and app-based taxis - to name a few. These are a departure from the traditional modes of transport to which we are accustomed. The most notable departure is that the owners of transport modes are shifting from personal ownership and local government to shared ownership and private enterprise. This seismic shift means that consumers are being asked to change a historically rooted perspective regarding who owns their means of travel. As such, new mobility options in the digital era need to earn the trust of consumers as a basic cost of entry - without this, their offerings will likely have extremely limited uptake.

Connectivity - The Currency of Function

One of the defining characteristics of the digital era is society's need to be online capable on an almost permanent basis. Online necessity whilst travelling has two key functions. Firstly, many of the technologies that are being made available to enhance travel experience are online enabled - whether this is mapping technology, multi-modal transport planners or public transport information services.

Secondly, the time poor nature of digital society means that the need to be multi-functioning is more important than ever before - not being able to email on the move or document your journey on social media is simply not acceptable in the current era. Resultantly, the need for online access whilst on-the-move is becoming a tangible asset for transport providers - American Airlines, EE and London Underground and First Group to name a few.

Data - The Currency of Feedback

The rise of data based marketing and the data rich nature of our digital society means that transport providers are looking for consumers to give data back to the travel systems they use. This has long existed in the form of satisfaction surveys and the like. However, the increased role of mobile in the way we move means a greater impetus is being placed on location data. Likewise, the increasing role of trust in peer and shared services means that feedback data is often the consumer's assurance of quality and safety. Resultantly, such feedback can be a core contributor to the equity of a mobility service - Uber being the core example. This has meant that forward looking and future transport providers will be as dependent on feedback as they will be financial input to run effectively.

Integration - The Currency of Complexity

With the modern consumer owning many digital devices and travelling across multiple modes of transport, the future of mobility has the potential to be very complex for the everyday traveller. As a result of this, mobility providers will come under great pressure to allow travellers to have all these facets of their life interconnected and therefore permit them to have a more seamless and stress free journey. The challenge within this is that there are many providers of both digital devices and transport services - making these dots harder to join. The device or mobility providers who become dual purpose across these areas or who collaborate most effectively will in essence become the 'chief bankers' within this area of mobility currency. The emergence of Apple and Google into the transport space is reflective of the potential this position holds.

The development of these currencies should be noted by all those in the business of mass-transportation. They represent how decisions regarding time, and of course monetary, investments will be made by digitised travellers. As such, they need to be considered when designing, implementing and marketing mobility solutions for the future.

For more mobility related insights, watch Northstar's forthcoming Beneath the Surface seminar 'Transportation for Future Generations' by going to on Thursday 30th April from 9:30am - 1:00pm BST.