March 28th, 2019

Disruption Management: Why it’s so Crucial to the Smart-Travel Ecosystems of the Future

Disruption management will be one of the core functions of smart-transportation initiatives connecting travel providers and people on the move.

Why? Because everybody with a place to go gets interrupted. A parade creates downtown gridlock, or a hurricane upends a thousand vacations. Disruption management uses technology to analyze travel patterns in real time and develop predictive capability to keep people moving.

In a smart-transportation system, disruption management can reroute people around problem zones and deliver services that ease the sting of delays. That can make travel safer and encourage people to trust smart-transportation technologies. Safety and trust bolster the reputation of the smart-travel system, emboldening more people to adopt the technology.

Disruption management needs to be on the radar screen of all the incumbents of a smart-travel project:

  • Cities adding sensors and applications to streamline traffic flows and improve emergency services.
  • Airlines and airport vendors providing services to travelers.
  • Transit systems connecting to roads and airports.
  • Regional commuter bus and rail systems.
  • Ride-hailing providers that can tap into smart-transportation systems.

At DMI, we envision holistic smart-transportation ecosystems that use IoT sensors, APIs and advanced machine-learning algorithms to help everybody manage travel disruptions in real time. The technology to make this happen doesn’t exist just yet, but we expect it to emerge as smart-transportation initiatives evolve.

What Disruption Management Looks Like Today

Every winter, blizzards cause expressway crashes that stall thousands of drivers. Some savvy commuters miss the mayhem because their navigation app provides an alternative route. Unfortunately, that route uses a city street not built for thousands of unexpected cars. What’s good for the commuters is bad for everyday users of that street.

Another common travel scenario: You’re sitting at an airport departure lounge when the PA announcement states that a flight to your destination has been canceled. Before you even realize it’s your flight, a text beeps on your smartphone, offering to help you reschedule.

You’re grateful for the assistance at first. But then you realize you have three hours in an airport to fill with nothing to relieve the annoyance or fight the boredom.

These scenarios underscore the limited scope of today’s disruption-management apps. They can solve a few specific problems but often miss the logical consequences. Clogging secondary streets is a so-so response to expressway crashes. Airline passengers feeling listless and frustrated is not good for the brand.

In a smart-travel ecosystem, drivers could receive alerts before they ever leave the house providing multiple alternatives to commuting on a crash-bound expressway. Perhaps they’ll be better off calling a ride-hailing service that drops them off at a light-rail station. In the airport, airlines could partner with on-site vendors and streaming-media services to provide offers and coupons to ease the sting of flight delays.

Disruption Management and the Democratization of Data

The smart-travel ecosystem we envision is an immense technical challenge, given the millions of travelers, billions of data sources and unlimited potential for disruption. At a glance, it almost seems like trying to design a car before the invention of the internal combustion engine.

We’re optimistic nevertheless because we see power shifting away from institutions and into the hands of individual mobile device users. Their everyday activities generate data that will put them in the digital driver’s seat for years to come.

This democratization of data requires a profound shift in the perspective of IT organizations. Instead of pushing services out to users, we’ll be pulling their data in to personalize their travel experience.

This shift underscores why we’re committed to user-centered system design at DMI. The disparate players in a smart-travel ecosystem have so many competing or conflicting priorities that it’s all but impossible to build a monolithic application that keeps everybody happy.

But thanks to the rise of APIs, microservices and open-development technologies, all these players can share data and create partnerships that build value for everybody. The key to making this work is starting with the user, interpreting the signals their data generates and constantly iterating to improve the user experience.

Disruption management is a complex proposition — the math alone boggles the mind. But staying zeroed in on the user experience will be the best route to simplifying it.

— Michael Diettrick, SVP of Digital Stratey, Chief Digital Officer

Tags: airlines airports cities logistics smart cities smartcities

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