Half the technology industry is making driving nicer. The other half, says Nick Booth, is driving us off the road. If only they’d make their minds up.
My last car crash put me off car ownership for life. The physical impact was minimal – his front bumper met my back bumper. It was the customer experience that scared me. Insurance companies now assume that every accident reporter is preparing a fake whiplash injury claim, so they get their retaliation in first. They do this with a bamboozling combination of virtual departments, distraction and sinister home visits.
The Internetworking of motor trade stakeholders can be very aggressive and unpleasant.
On the other hand, the Internet of Things is relatively humane. The IoT industry is creating an environment that makes driving more of a pleasure.
In Helsinki, where the tenders for running bus services are keenly contested, the IoT allows service provider Helsingin Bussiliikenne Oy (HelB) to improve customer satisfaction. It does this by monitoring the performance of drivers. Leaden-footed bus drivers, who accelerate too quickly and stamp on the brakes, have two terrible effects. They use more fuel for one. Secondly, they make the journey more dangerous and stressful for passengers, especially those who might be standing, drinking a coffee or trying to read.
HelB’s machine data – gathered by an SQL Server database, processed by CGI and presented on a Microsoft Power Map – is used as feedback for drivers. The charts illustrate how they’ve accelerated too fast in some areas, and braked too quickly in others. (You’d think they’d notice that by the screams of the passengers as they are thrown around the bus. Then again, feedback doesn’t work that way. The driver’s line manager has to tell them, and they in turn get briefed by a computer).
Still, it’s working well for HelB, which has used IoT and incentives to create safer driving habits, lower fuel consumption and more happy passengers.
In the UK, IoT service provider Zipabout is offering its services free to local authorities to help them get better use out of the transport infrastructure. Its core business is the personalisation and optimisation of transport networks but the biggest blockage is the people involved in an IoT project. Which is why it has created the enticement of free licences for local authorities, who often blow their budgets on bad advice.
IoT vs Waste
The big problem in Transport IoT is the lack of understanding, says Zipabout’s managing director, Alex Froom. This has led to a culture of waste as authorities spend millions on failed projects. It’s not because the projects are particularly difficult, but because they’re being built by the wrong companies.
The public sector is under pressure to deliver Smart Cities, but they are often making really dumb decisions, using generic data from dated systems from digital agencies that know only marginally more than them.
Insurance company Aviva created a brilliant Drive App, which sits on your iPhone and monitors how efficiently you drive. If only this genius could be adapted for the ‘directors’ who drive ‘traffic innovation’ at our local authorities.
The author of this blog is Nick Booth, freelance IT and communications writer