We sit down with London Connectory member – Ash Wheeler, the Senior Vice President for Europe at Chordant to discuss the company’s oneTRANSPORT platform and the mobility revolution happening in the UK.
Hi Ash! Please can you introduce yourself and what you do for Chordant?
Hi George – I work for Chordant, as Senior Vice President for our business in Europe. I also lead the company’s product strategy in this Smart City space. Chordant is a global company, and our business in the UK has been growing strongly for the past couple of years, which has really helped to shape the company’s overall direction and it’s products for Smart Cities. We are always looking for opportunities where Chordant can help regional authorities, city operators and smart city service providers benefit from sharing data more effectively.
That leads me nicely to my next question. What does Chordant do?
Chordant helps communities with solutions and services built on shared real-time information. Organisations involved in improving urban environments – both public sector and private sector – are collecting increasing amounts of data about how cities are operating, both from their own systems and also from others. In order to tackle some of the more complex problems with urban living, especially those relating to mobility, organisations need to share this data with each other in an equitable and controlled way. We try and solve this problem through our cloud-based platform called the oneTRANSPORT Data Marketplace.
Our technology helps organisations share real-time data (for example sensor data), control who has access to it, on what terms, and at what price. Similarly, we also help organisations to access and consolidate multiple different data sets from different 3rd party sources, in order to develop new services that help improve the efficiency of cities and the lives of the citizens that live there.
This data sharing service is focused on the transport sector as there are increasing volumes of data from infrastructure, vehicles and transport services that are massively under-exploited. Chordant provides this neutral “data marketplace” hub that connects organisations and enables the flow of data that is essential for the development of new mobility solutions.
So transport seems to be a busy sector for you at the moment. Can you tell me of any interesting projects in the pipeline?
The transport ecosystem in the UK is going through a transformation – this is a really exciting time to be working in this space. We’ve just signed a contract with Transport for West Midlands to help them share all of their traffic, parking and road-use sensors across the region. For us and for the West Midlands, it’s a great opportunity – as the platform will be ingesting information from the second-largest urban region in the UK, which is a huge amount of data.
We are then exposing that data to any organisation – public or private – that wishes to use this information to understand the operation of the road network and develop new mobility services that can adapt and react to network operations in real-time, based on this data.
Where this data is really beneficial is with organisations developing Connected & Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs). We’ve been working with Amey’s civil infrastructure consulting team and the Midlands Future Mobility consortium to build a customised version of our oneTRANSPORT data marketplace specifically to support CAV testing, by enabling different datasets to be shared with CAV OEMs when they are running testing and certification activities on live, public UK roads.
I know that you have a presence in the US. How does that market compare to the UK?
Yes, Chordant also has engineering and business activities in the US. There are similar transport digitisation and autonomous mobility agenda unfolding there, though it is developing differently due to the way US states, cities and transport networks are managed. Actually, the UK is a global leader in many aspects of the transport revolution and we have been able to showcase our UK business to the US and other countries, to open opportunities there. We are developing our products and services to support a global market – so what we have developed here, we are now deploying in multiple other countries around the world.
So the adoption rate of mobility technologies is much more complicated and at a slower rate than the UK?
In the US, each state and sometimes each individual district has distinct laws, budgets and organisational boundaries that have to be respected. This makes the adoption of new smart city and mobility technology that much harder to do on a national scale. Having said that, we see some very exciting opportunities for our business in the US, as the number of large cities with significant Intelligent Mobility programmes is growing.
In the UK, even with significant transport budgets and decision making devolved to regional bodies like TfWM, there is a much more ‘joined up’ and coherent approach being taken across the country. Thanks to the UK’s top-down Industrial strategy, and especially the Mobility Grand Challenge, the UK government is actively encouraging new approaches to mobility and alignment of regional initiatives through bodies like the Transport Data Initiative (TDI) which we helped to set up. This, coupled with the fact that there are far fewer regions and less landmass than in the US, means new approaches to mobility that make a difference to society can happen more quickly in the UK.
And finally, how are you enjoying your time at the London Connectory?
It’s good to be here. I think in terms of the key benefits we see is when we talk to our customers we can boast that TfL are generally in the office every Friday and that Bosch has a permanent presence here. It gives us a certain amount of credibility and it shows that we have a finger on the pulse of urban mobility innovation and we have a seat at the table. We have more exposure than most and we enjoy utilising this.
Other than that, we love hosting guests in the London Connectory, as it truly is a lovely place to meet and work. For us, it’s a central location to meet our clients for meetings, so it works well and we always receive great feedback about the place.
Thanks for your time Ash!