The smart city is here (not quite)

Service Design
One of the best things about living and working in London is that when crazy pop-ups happen, they usually happen on your door step.

One such example is London-based Startup CityMapper - who on a sunny Tuesday afternoon gave me a perfect excuse to escape the office by telling me all about their new 'secret project' they've been working on: Project Smart Bus; or in other words a cute little green bus that's buzzing round London trying to shake up the way buses do their routing.

Needless to say I had to check it out!

It's a cool concept. Gather tonnes of data about the way public transport works (or doesn't work) - come to the conclusion that it's a bit crap, and improve on it. Few companies are quite as audacious as Citymapper though, going as far as putting their theory to practice by launching a free bus route! It's the perfect example of building a live prototype - and testing it out!

So, how does it work? Well, they've basically built a new platform to support a whole bunch of new actors - not just the commuters but also the drivers, the conductors, the operational centre. I spoke to CityMapper's Head of Product for the new bus project - and he explained that everyone involved has their own unique view of the data. Drivers can see how they're performing in real time, and schedule changeovers. Passengers get a glorious high-resolution readout of where their bus in on the route. The operational guys back at HQ get to monitor all the busses and initiate live detours - which they can ping through to the drivers. It all sounds fabulous.

"So what though? Shiny green buses instead of red ones? I don't get it?"

Well - If you had this level of tech across multiple platforms (imagine Uber tying in to the same data exchange) coupled with properly integrating emergency services and all the other forms of transport - you're basically talking about the Smart City. Reduced congestion and increased access for all.

And the fact is CityMapper are working with TFL to make this happen. That means that it should stay rooted to one of the core principles of public transit - that while we must improve the quality of transport around inner cities, less lucrative and well-connected services (think suburbs) remain plugged in to the mainstream network. So, full steam ahead!

Enough words then. As I said, I took a ride, had a chat with their Product Manager - and I got the badge to prove it!

Tom Morgan


Tom's skills lie in service design, culture change and customer experience, and facilitating sessions and workshops to create new products, services and ways of working.