Last summer, SNCF, RATP, Blablacar and Transdev signed a highly confidential partnership agreement. The aim of such a partnership is to propose a multi-transport service-offer and fight back against Google’s new services. For this to happen, these leading players are developing a data warehouse able to deliver a service that is both centralised and adapted to consumer journeys.
A single platform
The news went by practically unnoticed: the four big leaders in France’s land travel are in the midst of developing a data warehouse. Using this tool means that they will be able to pool together their technical and working data. Trains, cars, the RER (or Paris suburban railway), busses, soft transport modes, shuttles, underground trains…All these trips, above or below ground, can be found on the same shared platform.
The progress of the data warehouse is still a secret and has been since last summer although we can easily imagine completion in 2018. But what will it look like? The perfect match of startup innovation and the means offered by big business should offer an attractive service offer to 21st century consumers. Such a promising avant-garde offer will have some nice surprises in store, with a UX design-led platform, fluid customer experience, adaptations to new uses and responsive tools.
So what could the data warehouse deliver? Beyond its use internally, the platform will share journey planners, real time journey information and times, as well as fares for each mode of transport. Each Internet user will be able to create their own door-to-door journey with just one single tool, by switching up the transport mode according to their needs/requirements. Gone are the days of conducting separate searches and price comparisons, as everything will be across the same site.
A plan to fight back against GAFA?
Information won’t be the only service on the platform. Users, after finding the information, will be able to buy their ticket directly from the website. The idea behind the eCommerce service is the ability to offer a single ticket that groups together all the chosen options. Whilst using the single ticket will allow loss and waste to be limited, a digital, paperless format is also easy envisageable.
When the data warehouse is online, it will be the biggest database for land transport offers to date. This semi-merger is the physical embodiment of an overhaul in the way data is exploited and used: Big Data is making a new name for itself.
Towards an Open Data project
The only downside concerns the French government. Since August 2015, the Macron Law requires that all companies offering a public transport service make their data available. So as to abide by the Open Data laws, through their merger the four corporations will have to publish their data without any control over the hands it may fall into. For now, at least, the government’s “threat” is not a concern since the decree has not yet been published.
So why is the law on Open Data worrying for transport companies? Simply put, the data runs the risk of falling into the hands of Google, and let’s not forget that this project was specifically created to counteract the use of the search engine.
With Google openly displaying a willingness to globalise its services via Maps or Google Flight, those in charge of land transport have started to worry about the consequences of such a decision. Whilst the data warehouse was created to meet a global need, its existence can also be explained by the competition.
The Open Data requirement is therefore threatening the handle that these corporations have on their market and the access to data that could be re-used by Google or Amazon. Up until now, the response has been formed around access to the platform. The medium-term goal is to open up the platform to other providers for free, except to Google and its partners who will have to pay to be granted access.
The moral of the story? Certain ex-competitors can partner up in order to fight against a bigger threat. In the competition, companies are moving towards the startup/big corporation and public/private double partnership model. Depending on the proposed structure, the challenge will be centred on offering consumers an innovative service whilst keeping its data away from the competition.
Whatever the outcome, the data warehouse is the sign of business prowess and brand spanking new technology. With the encouragement and attention paid to French Tech, we can, without a shadow of a doubt, hope for the (almost) total support of the Macron government.