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7 Smart City Startups Improving Transportation

The world’s population is increasingly urban, but we’ll leave judgments about hipness up to you. According to a 2014 UN study, 66 percent of humanity will be living in cities by 2050. Combined with overall population growth, another 2.5 billion people will be added to urban populations by that same year. This intense concentration of people has a myriad of implications, but one of the most pressing is transportation. How do you effectively move masses of people from point A to point B? Some of the best minds in tech are working on the answers, designing connected solutions for smart cities that use big data to make them more efficient. Our recent piece on smart cities was so popular that we decided a deeper dive into one of the categories was merited. So here’s a closer look at some of the startups working to make trips around your smart city faster and easier.

Smart City Infrastructure

At its very core, traffic and public transit hinge on infrastructure. Using Waze to avoid tie-ups is a stop-gap solution, no matter how well the app works. There are several interesting companies tackling traffic where it counts: building systems that avoid or subvert it.

Swiftly, founded in 2014 and based in San Francisco, has raised $3.3 million in four rounds to fund development of software for transit agencies and cities. Built by transportation experts, the Swiftly platform harnesses billions of data points and algorithms to improve transit system performance, service reliability, and real-time passenger information. Analysis of punctuality, a project usually lasting three months, is delivered to operators in a day. And its Transitime software enables cities to deliver real-time status to riders. Swiftly is currently used by more than 30 cities in the United States.

Miovision Central is a multi-functional platform for traffic engineers. And it’s free. Credit: Miovision

MioVision has raised $30 million since its founding in 2005. The Ontario, Canada company calls itself the world’s most trusted traffic data platform and is used by more than 650 customers in 50 countries. Multiple products cover the spectrum of traffic management, from planning collaboration software to video-based data collection, traffic data processing, and signal management. With over three billion vehicles counted around the world, MioVision’s data and consequent planning tools make the company a key player in this space.

Smart City Commuter Tools

Public transportation is wildly disparate around the nation. Rather than placing the burden on cities to innovate, many companies provide tools directly to the consumer, enabling them to streamline the transit process.

The mother of all transit apps. Credit: Moovit

A huge player in this space is Moovit, an Israeli company founded in 2012 that has $81.5 million in funding from the likes of Sequoia, Nokia, and BMW. Moovit has a dual focus on commuters and their ensuing data. The company’s app coalesces all local transit options in one map, providing the best routes to anywhere in a city, including step-by-step guidance and estimated time spent walking and riding. Over 70 million riders using the app in 77 countries equates to a mountain of data—and Moovit isn’t just sitting on it. The Moovit Public Transit Index is reputedly the biggest repository of transport data and analysis in the world, providing statistics and analytics for public transit based on Moovit usage data, surveys, and commuter travel patterns. Named the Top Local App of 2016 by Google, Moovit looks to be a company at the forefront of public transportation.

Citymapper also merits a mention in this category, having raised $50 million since its 2011 founding in London. Much like Moovit, Citymapper’s mobile apps use open transport data to help humans “survive and master” their cities (at least as far as traffic is concerned). While Moovit generates its own data, Citymapper taps into analytics from a variety of other tools including Yelp, Foursquare, Google Maps and Uber.

Credit: Ridlr

Megacities in developing countries have more complex challenges when it comes to traffic, like avoiding livestock in the road, so it makes sense that their commuters need a little extra help. Ridlr, based in Mumbai, India, has $6.38 million in funding, most notably from Qualcomm. Founded in 2010, the public transport app aims to make public commuting in India simpler, smarter and more efficient. Its Birds Eye System gives riders up-to-the-minute info on when the next bus or train will arrive, providing live traffic updates, schedules, and even cashless ticketing to streamline the journey further.

Smart City Business Innovation

Daimler, the company that invented the automobile in 1886 and owns Mercedes-Benz, spun out moovel in Stuttgart, Germany in 2015 to reinvent the concept of urban mobility. So far, that has meant the development of three products: moovel app, moovel transit, and RideTap. The moovel app, available in Germany, allows users to search for and book multiple ridesharing services from one app. Moovel transit focuses on mobile ticketing, offering white-labeled payment solutions for transit companies. And RideTap is an SDK integration enabling any app to offer its users multiple real-time transportation options.

Last but not least is StreetlightData, a San Francisco company founded in 2010 and specializing in geospatial business intelligence. We previously talked about them in our article on “3 Big Data Companies That Are Watching You“. With $9 million in funding, StreetlightData transforms big data into accurate, comprehensive, and precise transportation analytics for companies and governments while (of course) protecting individual privacy. Its technology powers a variety of information: informing brick-and-mortar retailers about the groups of people that spend time near or drive by their stores, scanning entire metro areas to find the most pressing transportation challenges (and help rank potential solutions), and running origin-destination studies for transportation engineers.

StreetlightData used geospatial data created by mobile devices to analyze how many Americans still go to work on Labor Day. The answer? Only about 56 percent get the day off based on traffic patterns of commuters that visit the same place each day.

In one case study, using “trillions of data points from millions of mobile devices across hundreds of congested road segments” in Northern Virginia, StreetlightData was able to analyze the likely effects of 24 traffic projects that were under consideration. For example, the experts found that one corner of the region experienced heavy traffic that involved a significant number of short trips (five miles and under). A plan to improve pedestrian and bicycle options, as well as add shuttle services, could remove as many as 3.8 million vehicle trips per year from that area.

Conclusion

INRIX (another key company in smart transport solutions that we’ve covered before) is known for its traffic scorecards, in-depth analyses of congestion in more than 1,000 cities around the globe. Scanning through its 2016 scorecard presents a compelling picture of a world in dire need of innovative thinking about traffic. (Los Angeles traffic, the most congested in the world, costs the city $9.7 billion per year, for example.) Moving people through the smart cities of the future so they can do value-added work while robots do all of the real work will require innovations in traffic and transport data. This market sector shows no signs of slowing down. We’re hopeful they’ll keep drivers from doing the same.

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