UrbanThings partnership: Littlepay chats with Carl Partridge
Littlepay chats with… Carl Partridge, CEO, UrbanThings
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Littlepay chats with… Carl Partridge, CEO, UrbanThings

Self-confessed transit technology geek, Carl Partridge, chats with Littlepay about his beginnings in public transport app development, how far along the road to MaaS the industry has travelled, and the exciting journey ahead for UrbanThings as it embarks on a new era within the Paragon ID portfolio.

As a developer, what inspired you to focus on solutions for the public transport industry?

UrbanThings has been developing apps for public transport for more than 10 years. We began with the Bus Checker app, which has now grown to become the largest UK independent bus times app. One of the factors that inspired me to focus on this area was the exciting move to release large amounts of Open Data for transport.

It was clear to me that this could be used to considerably improve passengers’ access to transport information, offering them a pleasant experience and ultimately encouraging them to use sustainable and shared transport more. For operators and cities, the B2B offer was just as exciting – the ability to use all this data and these new handheld platforms to improve the passenger experience and optimise services.

How does a public transport app earn a place on thousands of smartphones – and how does it stay there?

It’s important to move with the times – this means keeping apps relevant and up-to-date, embracing new design trends and smartphone features. For example, we’re going to be supporting the iPhone’s new ‘lock screen’ widgets so that passengers have quicker access to transport info and tickets without even opening their home screen. 

User experience has to be at the centre of everything – we shouldn’t be frustrating users, we should be inspiring and delighting them!

In your mission to “create the most comprehensive and powerful integrated MaaS platform available to transport authorities and operators worldwide” what is left to do?

There is still so much left to do, but a lot of the groundwork towards MaaS has been slowly gathering pace. It started with Open Data, ensuring that there are digital representations of transport infrastructure and actors, freed from silos. Then, the industry turned its attention to smart solutions for everything, from vehicles to fares and schedules across all modes.

Political blockers have gradually been resolved too, via instruments such as Franchising and ELPs.  And, of course, commercial issues around MaaS, such as how to share and apportion revenue without damaging business models or breaching confidentiality, are being addressed by Littlepay’s multi-operator fare collection and broker service.

UrbanThings, together with other industry partners, has been central to this process of change since 2011 – starting with our work to unlock Open Data and bring it to a wider public to increase adoption of public transport.  Ultimately, our creation of UrbanHub, a centralised account-based travel platform that brings all of these things together in one place, can act as a foundation for a MaaS ecosystem that serves all stakeholders.

What’s the most exciting thing on the product roadmap for UrbanThings?

There’s too much to list!  I’m excited about the work we’ve been doing with Littlepay to bring mobile and contactless payments closer together, so that a bridge is built between cEMV and ABT. 

We’ve also recently enhanced our passenger apps to provide greater accessibility, better vehicle tracking, journey planning and fare information. The new version of UK Bus Checker shows nearly every bus in England. It’s thrilling (in a very geeky way) to see them moving around the map in real time! Our support for coupons and deep links is another new, exciting way for operators to roll out near-instant discounts to passengers to encourage people to take the bus more.

The rest of the roadmap is under wraps, but I can confirm I’m equally excited about it!  We have ever more clever, personalised travel assistance to help passengers plan the best route and pay the best fare. Platform ABT enhancements to help operators and cities get better at leveraging all their account-based data to improve services and increase adoption.  And, of course, lots and lots of lovely smartphone UX enhancements too!  Everything from widgets to mapping improvements…

How important is real-time rider information in helping riders understand the benefits of open loop payments?

Real time transport information is essential to getting more people to use shared transportation.  For example, informing passengers when they have reached their capping limit might help them make more sustainable decisions on their choice of travel. Passengers could decide to take public transport home instead of a taxi, as they would be fully aware the journey would be free.

These sort of near-instant notifications are something we’re exploring as part of our partnership with Littlepay. Littlepay can share with us travel and payments data linked to a tokenised cardholder ID. By matching that card with a card registered within an ABT back office, we can deliver helpful push notifications that give passengers total clarity on payments and fare caps, so they can maximise value.

Why did UrbanThings partner with Littlepay?

We are both passionate about account-based travel and the benefits it brings to passengers, operators and cities. Contactless EMV card payments are a game-changer for everyone; and, when you combine them with ABT, things become even more interesting! 

Our work with Littlepay allows passengers to register their contactless cards and tie these into a wider account-based platform. Passengers can start to see benefits such as loyalty discounts, journey history. Plus, by sharing their anonymous travel data they’re helping to feed back into the network planning process too, so public transport can be optimised and serve them in ever more useful ways!

About Carl…

Carl Partridge is the founder and CEO of UrbanThings, a UK-based technology company offering digital solutions for operators and governments.  These include UrbanHub, a MaaS platform for digital ticketing and real time passenger information, and Bus Checker, London’s first live bus times app, now rolled out internationally and powering more than 30 million journeys each year. In addition to his role leading the strategic growth of UrbanThings, Carl also has over twenty years of software development experience in sectors as diverse as broadcasting and transportation.

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