OPINION: The key to unlocking the potential of smart mobility


Michael Santner, enterprise strategic alliances manager at Wirecard, the global internet technology and financial services provider, gives his thoughts on how payment systems built into cars will form a vital part of the jigsaw that will one day depict a truly smart mobility landscape

At its very essence, mobility is about getting from one place to another as quickly and as painlessly as possible. The destination is more important than the journey.

But with new technology comes greater opportunities to disrupt the status quo, provide new experiences within those journeys and help people move around faster, easier and more enjoyably.

The scope is huge. There were 4.8 billion local bus and 1.8 billion rail passenger journeys made in the UK in 2019, with over 328 billion vehicle miles racked up[1]. That’s a lot of journeys and a lot of potential.

Combining technology with mobility is nothing new, nearly nine in ten smartphone owners (87%) use their phone for travel purposes already, but we’ve only scratched the surface of what can be achieved. The pace of change in the way travel and connected travel experiences are likely to accelerate rapidly in the next five to ten years.

Currently, however, most app developers, vehicle manufacturers, transport operators, city halls, and landowners are working on solutions in isolation. At a macro level, think how inconvenient it is having multiple different parking installed (think RingGo, JustPark and PayByPhone) and having to work out which app services the carpark in your surrounding area – due to each local authority and management company employing a different service. Payments are an integral part of our everyday lives, and technology should be reflecting this, making it as easy as possible to pay.

For truly connected smart mobility, partnerships will be key to connecting the dots and providing connected ‘smart’ mobility. Just imagine your connected car helping you find your destination using Waze, paying for your parking using RingGo, arranging for your car to be washed, and delivering your dry cleaning to the boot of your vehicle before you return. Meanwhile, your phone has seamlessly picked up your journey, guiding you onto the correct train, taking care of your ticket, entertaining you with a free movie courtesy of the train company, and helped you make your meeting on time. You even had a coffee and pastry delivered to your seat.

With the rise in electric cars which take 20 minutes to charge even on a supercharger, the retail experience around charging points is also ripe for disruption. So, how can we make smart mobility a reality?

The breakup of industry silos
To make consumers’ lives easier it’s imperative that we replace the fragmented, siloed and isolated status quo with a streamlined, integrated ecosystem.

With the arrival of 5G, the connectivity is in place, and consumer attitudes have shifted to accept the concept of Mobility as a Service, from services such as Uber and ‘Boris’ bikes. The foundations are already there.

To unlock connected mobility’s true potential however, different apps and companies must work together to join the dots on an entire journey and personalise it along the way.  A tailored experience will allow consumers to smoothly and quickly plan trips which are customised based on individual preferences across all modes of transport. Digital companies and traditional manufacturers, such as automotive manufacturers, need to come together and work with each other in order to redefine mobility.

This is already starting to happen, but more collaboration is required. Here Mobility, for example, has created an open and competitive smart mobility marketplace for all transportation services. Over 2 million vehicles are now connected to HERE Mobility’s Marketplace across Europe, Latin America, and the US.

The role of payments in the future of mobility
As the old saying goes, money makes the world go around and it’s true, for every product or service there is a value exchange required that usually involves money. In other words, payments are an unavoidable element of everyone’s day-to-day life, and the expanding scope of additional services around mobility amplifies both the potential and the need for frictionless payments at the heart

Retailers have already realised that this is a barrier to creating the ideal shopping experience, and have begun replacing cumbersome checkouts and cashier desks, for smart POS and app-based payments.

Payment providers must carve out a role in shaping the mobility ecosystem as easy payments will play an important role in a seamless mobility experience that consumers will expect.

One option is to pay for products and services in the background without having to act at each step. Wirecard is working with Swiss ‘concept’ car manufacturer, Rinspeed, for example, to develop an autonomous car with ‘commerce on the move’ at the centre of it. Imagine pulling into a drive-through coffee house, receiving your favourite drink and wirelessly charging your vehicle at the same time, before paying for it without having to lift a finger via integrated payment solutions.

A frictionless experience, however, is one that not only meets consumers’ needs but anticipates them, providing the consumer with personalisation and efficiency. This will only be possible if payment is considered an embedded solution. In order to fully integrate payments with mobility, close collaboration with everyone involved in the ecosystem will be necessary. By leveraging their current technology, payment providers will be able to navigate the dramatic changes arriving in the future.

How do we get there?
A lot of positive energy and initiative is needed to connect the dots, and luckily over the past few years, connected mobility has become a common discussion topic across multiple industries. Fully connected mobility is not far away as estimates suggest there are at least 3 million vehicles with internet connectivity on UK roads, and 50% of new vehicles are expected to be connected by 2020[2]. In the future, connectivity will not be something which needs consideration but will instead be expected in part of a integrated and smart ecosystem.

Transformative changes in how both people move have begun, and if these successfully brought together could bring enormous benefits. As, Jim Hackett, CEO of Ford has saidFor the first time in a century, we have mobility technology that won’t just incrementally improve the old system but can completely disrupt it…”. The time for disruption is now, and those who don’t leverage technology will be left behind.

Share this story:

About Author


Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).