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The power of storytelling in the 21st century

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Connectivity in rail travel

as long as this service continues to deliver a good user experience the clear winners are us

Consider for a moment how abruptly this article started. You find yourself halfway through the second sentence and barely realise this story has no beginning. What’s going on?

In this article we embark on a journey about the power of storytelling in our digital world and find out how tech giants are spending top dollar just to keep us entertained. 
All aboard! Next stop, India.

If you’re an investor looking to expand on foreign markets or possess a fascination for traveling, India should definitely make it’s way on your to do list. One of the best way to visit this mystic land is still considered to be the train due to the affordable tickets, convenient sleeping wagons, stunning views and recently added complimentary WiFi in train stations.

WiFi wars - for a good cause

According to several media sources there is an ongoing competition between the tech giants Google and Facebook to provide WiFi access to more than 400 stations altogether by the end of 2018. The project that started last year has grown rapidly and it’s no surprise that the two giants are racing to be the largest provider on the market taking into account the 1.3 billion Indian people using trains as a main source of transportation. 

Exactly what Facebook or Google are after in this so called WiFi wars is hard to grasp without indulging in too much speculation but it's safe to assume that providing users with more internet access will increase traffic to their websites.

One interesting aspect about this story is the approach both companies had to the task of providing internet connection to the stations- both teamed up with local providers and are working on offering competitive prices for their services. 

As any good story in the telling we don’t exactly now yet who is going to come out victorious but one thing is for sure- as long as this service continues to deliver a good user experience the clear winners are us, the good people using it.

So go ahead and book your ticket to India without a doubt- this story is set up for a happy ending.

The power of storytelling - in a digital age

Now that you’ve booked your journey and are comfortably rested in your chair, thinking about the adventure to come, why not take a moment to consider the things we take for granted in life. Health for instance is one thing we don’t have time to be grateful everyday- but probably should. How about our family and friend? You get the point. But are we the only ones that take things for granted?What if companies were just as forgetful as people? Here comes the plot twist.

Where I’m going with this- in the last article we were discussing how rail operators are not taking advantage of the potential advertising power they have at their disposal and the immense service they could provide customers by being more engaged. 

What if instead of marketing themselves simply as service providers, train companies presented their product as a time saving alternative to travel (like Uber does). The truth is, a train journey needs to be seen not only as a means of getting from A to B but a story in the making. And with the right services onboard  it’s not hard to see how one can fall in love with the journey and become a loyal customer - now that’s a story worth sharing your loved ones.

Thank you for your time! We’re here to listen to your story .
 

Sharing is caring - meet Commuterhive

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The deal about ride sharing

Taxi rides at a fraction of the usual costs

This week we break the NUMBER 1 RULE in commuting: 

“sharing is not caring-keep it to yourself!.”  Remember the last time you had to share a carriage with a bunch of fellow commuters ? Everything was going smooth and silent until the passenger in front of you starts arguing loudly on the phone with what is presumably their spouse on the other side of the line. All the veteran commuters will roll their eyes in agreement that this type of situation is best avoided. This is a clear example of sharing is not caring. 

But what is the exception?
In our previous blogs posts we pondered the viability of rides sharing as a solution to the inevitable delays that commutes deal with regularly. In this article we will go into more details on the subject by looking at a specific company operating on the market -and how they plan to lure us on board their rides. 

The economics of rides - what’s the big deal?
One of the best ways to predict the future of any market is to start by painting a picture of the main factors influencing it. This is a broad statement but it encapsulates the essence of what economists actually do in order to make predictions.
Since we aim to deliver useful information to you, in digestible doses, we will skip for now the whole “supply and demand” theories that you are by now overly accustomed to and jump to the point (bullet points that is):

Prices go up because

  • Rides haring is a growing market (especially in the US and UK)
  • Increasingly more customers demand rides and few companies supply them thus the price of rides goes up.
  • Gas prices go up and so do ride prices eventually (granted this is a slow increase in price over time)

Prices go down because

  • New companies enter the ride sharing market and force old competitors to remain appealing by reducing their high rates.
  • Specialized companies also offer tailored services targeted to specific public needs. Ex: cheaper rides for people who don’t mind sharing their car with other passengers.

Introducing better options for commuters

Let’s face it, we make hard choices regarding our time and money on a daily basis. It’s the choice between going to work on your bike or taking a cab-because it’s raining outside. Or the choice between cooking at home vs a convenient food delivery -because it Saturday and you can’t be bothered.
The point is that by understanding the decisions we make daily and the reasoning behind them, companies can create better services that cater to our needs. 

One such company is Commuterhive who, in their words
'offer Taxi rides at a fraction of the usual costs by connecting groups of passengers who are traveling to the same destination.'

By using complex machine learning and ride sharing algorithms, Commuterhive is able to anticipate surges in demands for public transport services by monitoring interactions between mobile devices and various sensors on train platforms. They then deliver the most cost effective ride for the commuters by splitting the fare price between the total number of passengers.  

We hope that this information will help you see the potential value of the people surrounding you, on your commute home, even if they are at times a bit rude and loud on the phone with what we can only assume is their spouse. And the money you’ll save from ride sharing you can now enjoy buying that fancy new chocolate you’ve always wanted to try. 
 

Travel inspiration

This week we will be spending our time onboard a virtual high speed train in order to find out how to make the most out of our travel time- up next we will be looking at a couple of  technologies that are sure to turn your travel frown upside down. 

Praised be those who can sleep on trains, cars and planes; for we are not able to. Sincerely, 99% of travelers. Let’s face it folks, most of us are not able to sleep while standing upright in a chair. Arguably this can be a little upsetting to some, as there are few better feelings in known to man than waking up refreshed after a long train journey.  

Truth is, if you are anything like us, you will try substitute sleep for a little entertainment -as the thought of waking up with a neck cramp and numbed legs is not entirely appealing to you. 

Without further ado, here’s what we think traveling should look like:

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Mobile AR games
If by any chance you’ve been caught up into the trend of playing “Pokemon Go”, you probably don’t need to have us explain mobile augmented reality. For those of us having to do serious things for a living-here is what mobile AR is and why you should try it: 
Mobile AR is a fairly new concept that mobile developers have been working on for the past years, that involves interacting with the environment around you in unique ways -using your smart phone. Taking a step forward we have seen the release of several AR games (ARG) that transformed some of our favorite 2D games into intractable 3D ones. 

Take pool for example: instead of bringing a pool table along, you can now recreate and play with a virtual pool set on the table in front of you -just by using your smartphone. Pool is just one example as 3D ARG versions of: chess, cards, and pretty much anything you can think of, are being developed.

Ordering goodies on the go

Perhaps games are not for you and instead prefer to spend your time doing more serious things. We thought you might say that. What if you could order something online and have it delivered to your house by the time you get there?  Arguably this is a realistic option with some products but in recent years companies like Amazon have been working around the clock to change the way we experience deliveries. 

Take for example Amazon’s Alexa- the intelligent personal assistant capable of voice interaction. Alexa is designed to perform tasks for you that include ordering online. 
Another example of a company pushing the boundaries of online user purchasing experience is the Swedish giant Ikea. Ikea has developed an AR app that let’s you preview how the furniture looks before you buy it. With thousand of models to check out you can virtually decorate your house (or train compartment) on the go.

As this virtual train journey is reeling in towards it’s end, we would like to take this time to thank you for choosing to dedicates us your attention and urge you to come up with a few ideas of your own about “how to enjoyably spend time on a train”.
e’d love to hear them.

Data + Wi-Fi = Win

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You can look back on trips

and find out where you went, share those moments you captured with friends

Guest post: Shawn Low, co-founder, Firef.ly

Data + Wi-Fi = Win.

Project SWIFT at its heart is a way to offer both high-speed wi-fi on ScotRail trains as well as use this wi-fi to enhance the passenger experience.

How?

When passengers sign up for the free wi-fi, they will be offered an option to get enhanced services. The pilot will look at offering services such as discounted event tickets, taxi bookings to connect with train journeys and of course travel recommendations.

The Open Innovation Challenge invited five SMEs to explore the potential of Superfast Wi-Fi and open data APIs on a train to enhance onboard passenger experience. Each of the five have been through an 8 week programme to concept, validate and create a solution which will engage passengers, create incremental revenue streams for ScotRail and/or improve customer satisfaction.

Data helps travellers

It’s no secret that data is king. Harnessing, analysing and using that data in relevant ways to help the traveller is one of the holy grails. For example, Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam has hired data analysts to assess heat maps in order to better manage human traffic flows.

There are a myriad ways that data can be used to help travellers across various stages of their travel life cycle. Here at Firef.ly (one of the SMEs pitching at demo day), our goal is to use our technology and content to give travellers a helpful way to record their journeys as well as get recommendations customised to their needs and interests.

Take for example, a customer’s trip to Glasgow. We understand that Frank is in Glasgow with his family (instead of business) and will recommend the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum as one of the things they should do. The interactive displays are great for kids and adults alike. If it’s a rare sunny day, we would recommend Frank take his family on the open deck of the City Sightseeing Bus Tour around town.

Taking this further, we know that it’s dinner time and Frank and his wife have a rare night alone (the kids are with some relatives!). We know that they love trying good local produce and will send a push notification for him to check out Cail Bruich, a fantastic restaurant that serves up modern Scottish fare. Our iOS app goes beyond recommendations: it uses all the smarts in your device (GPS, motion sensors etc) to record your journey into a travel journal.

You can look back on trips and find out where you went, share those moments you captured with friends and in a future update, connect with other travellers in an online community
For Project SWIFT, we are offering travellers customised content via the in-train web portal. Passengers who connect to the in-train wi-fi can browse our travel stories (courtesy of ScotRail) as well as get recommendations around their destination.

Data helps companies.

Travellers aside, data can also help organisations. Increasingly, companies in the travel space are using data to inform their marketing decisions and offerings. Take for example how the Accor Hotel Group is using data to ‘hack’ growth. They use data to extend customer lifetime value, create APIs for local General Managers to find local businesses of interest to their guests and of course optimise pricing and demand. Casino’s such as Cesear’s have been using data to extend customer life value to big profits.

Organisations now need to better understand their customers beyond basic numbers.

Firef.ly is working on a SaaS product that offers client deep insights into travellers while off the train and around the world. The applications for this platform are varied: from analysing tourism footfall traffic to getting demographic data on travellers, to offering personalisation in their marketing messages. This data also helps with targeting for social media marketing, SEO and email re-marketing with tailored messages.

The five SMEs invited to be part of Project SWIFT open innovation challenge are pitching at a demo day in Glasgow on Tuesday 3rd October. If you happen to be in town, why not drop by for lunch and watch some demos and pitches?

Free tickets are available here.

Regarding Friday night’s eventsWhat happened to the EUROSTAR passengers stuck in London. Let’s talk train delays.

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We decided to create a new blog post in response to the events from Friday night where thousands of travelers were left “stranded” due to an unexpected halt in service from Eurostar.    
In this post we will cover delays in travel and what are some practical solutions that passengers have at their disposal to deal cut out their lost expenses.

Eurostar delay London-Paris

If you live in London, where Friday night's events took place, there’s a good chance you have used the London underground system more than once- it simply is a fast and convenient way for tourists to see the city on a time budget and for commuters to get to work on time. 

However if you stop any regular commuter on his tracks and ask him if he/she was ever experienced delays, you will probably not be disappointed with the response. Just as any network, with such a large infrastructure, delays are inevitable- this is common knowledge. What is in fact interesting about delays (if anything) is the effect this type of event has on the passengers. 

We aim to offer you some information about how to deal with train delays better in the future. For this reason we will cover Friday night’s events from the perspective of the travelers who were unfortunate enough to experience it.

The passenger's side of the fence

Coming back to the passengers stuck in London on Friday night, it is not a difficult mental exercise to put ourselves in their shoes. As soon as the London-Paris Eurostar seized it’s service at 3:15 PM, they found themselves waiting for “something” to happen in order for them to resume their journey as quickly as possible. But things did not turn out in their favour as the service took more than 3 hours to get back online and even then with severe delays. 

In order to be able to empathize with these passengers let us stretch our imaginations and assume a couple of realistic scenarios of who these people might be. Picture first the businessman that has a deal to close in the morning in order to keep their company going;
Picture the mom with young toddlers going on vacation; the elderly couple; the disabled and the lists goes on. You get the picture.

What all the above people have in common is that they were firstly starved of vital information about what their options are after the seize in service happened. As a result, the majority of them resorted to either calling or accessing the Eurostar website and Twitter in a desperate search for information - but as you can expect, due to the great volume of requests, both the lines, website and Twitter crashed. Our travellers were now stuck and had to figure out their own food and accommodation.

Shedding light on the matter

Below we compiled a list of useful information anyone should know about train delays and how to at the very least cut your losses:

  1. When delayed you can usually use your ticket to hop on another train
  2. In most cases you can claim money back after 30 minutes of being delayed
  3. You will usually get at least 50% back
  4. Most ticket types are eligible for a refund
  5. Rules may differ with seasonal tickets
  6. Most companies will pay out for strikes

Regardless of how we look at it, we can all agree that train delays can represent a serious problem and that in the future train operators need to make sure that they provide their customers with vital information of what's going on- at the very least. 

We would also like to take this time to encourage you to read our first article in which we discussed how a taxi sharing service (substitutable with other services, for example Deliveroo) can ease the pain of a disruption and help you save even more money and precious time (and hunger) in situations like these.
https://www.1to1.link/blog/why-is-wifi-inadequate-and-barely-usable-on-trains-lets-talk-business

To sum up Friday night’s events; they London-Paris route was reopened at 6:15 PM and is still running. Not all passengers were able to claim food and/or accommodation vouchers on time from Eurostar. 

For those of us that had a good night sleep, this event should be considered a wake up call so that we can start planning how to prevent future inconveniences.