Thank you to ‘You. Smart. Thing.’ for sharing a fascinating insight into the history and innovative process behind their ‘Travel Assistant’. Read on to hear about their fantastic impact on our region, as well as a chance to see a sneak preview of their Travel Assistant…
Since 2015, ‘You. Smart. Thing.’ (YST) has pioneered a new approach to personal data management. Its application in the field of intelligent mobility has led to research and development contracts with Arriva UK Trains, the Rail Safety Standards Board, Rail Delivery Group, the West Midlands Combined Authority and Transport for London, amongst others.
Whilst continuing to deliver R&D consultancy to this established public-sector client base, during 2019, YST launched its ‘Travel Assistant’ Software-as-a-Service platform.
The company was created as the result of now CEO, Chris Thompson, being unable to finalise a partnership agreement between a well-known mobile network operator and train ticket retailer. “The idea was to give people better travel advice based on their location”, explains Chris, “…but neither party could agree on who ‘owned the customer’. ” This was pre-GDPR, but it was the catalyst to form a business that prioritises the end-customer as the ultimate data controller. Chris then put together a software team to build a platform that would enable people to share their travel plans with destinations, venues, events and transport operators, based on their own privacy preferences, in return for a better customer experience. ‘You. Smart. Thing.’
After consulting with and producing prototypes for major venues including Edgbaston and Wembley stadiums, the business has gone from strength to strength. Its cloud-based Travel Assistant service, easily embedded in websites and social media, enables the delivery of bespoke routes to events, improves venue accessibility, keeps potential visitors updated and gives them the confidence to attend.
Like Google Maps, the Travel Assistant is easy to add to a website, social media post or mobile app. Unlike Google, it offers destination and transport operators a valuable ‘travel forecast’ of people’s intended travel plans.
The Travel Assistant provides a creative and engaging way of helping to ensure public safety and manage best-practice in respect of social distancing, whilst providing visitors with the assurance of an enjoyable overall experience. It can ration trips to venues by different transport modes and deliver detailed real-time and forecast travel demand by event. This information allows for advance planning, staff management and risk mitigation. The service complements all major ticket retail platforms, effectively delivering bespoke advice to visitors in-situ and en-route based on their circumstances, travel preferences and location.
COVID-19 & RECOVERING THE REGIONS CULTURAL SECTOR
Due to the outbreak of the pandemic, YST developed a COVID-19 Essential Travel Assistant. Working in parallel with regional facilities managers, the service used YST’s existing web-based travel assistant service to advise people on essential travel to critical services. It utilised the systems’ configurable technology, enabling the inclusion of bespoke ‘access points’ to regional hospitals, test centres, pop-up and re-purposed care facilities and allocated parking areas for care workers. Read more about it here.
YST is currently helping to restart the cultural sector by working with destinations and events to deploy the Travel Assistant service. Research from Indigo Ltd from 258 organisations captured over 100,000 audience responses on their views about what would (and would not) encourage them back to events. When asked if needing to travel of public transport would make them more or less likely to consider attending a live cultural event, over 54% of respondents said less likely. “The need to manage capacity en-route as well as in venues has never been more critical.” observes Chris. The full National Audience Research report from Indigo can be found here.
Alongside a UK wide roll-out and plans for international expansion, the team at YST are currently working with Coventry City Council and Coventry City of Culture Trust on a bespoke Travel Assistant deployment for their 2021 programme of events. Jacob Gough, Production Director at Coventry City of Culture Trust, says, “The major events planned throughout our year as UK City of Culture will attract diverse audiences from the city and beyond. Effective travel planning is essential to help these audiences connect with our world-class programme. Working with ‘You. Smart. Thing.’ will help us make sure people travelling to, and around, Coventry will be able to do so both smartly and safely.”
Courtesy of YST we’re able to publish a sneak preview of the City of Culture Travel Assistant here.