Multimodal Trip Planning- Common Payment System


Multi-modal Trip Planning Application

April 15th, 2023

The first iteration of the Multi-Modal Trip Planning application launched in February 2019. Thirty beta testers have been selected to book trips and testing the app for optimization prior to its public release in summer 2019. The minimal viable product includes Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) bus service and The Ohio State University’s Campus Area Bus Service (CABS). 

The final, public version of the Multi-Modal Trip Planning Application will be enabled by Smart Columbus Operating System trip optimization services that will connect with mobility providers, including transit, transportation network companies, car and bike sharing companies and taxis, to create customized trip itineraries for the traveler.

One of the challenges in creating applications with multiple stakeholders and public use is making sure data is secure. Columbus-based firm MTECH with its partner, Etch, is building the Multi-Modal Trip Planning application for Smart Columbus using Open Trip Planner, an open source solution for multi-modal, transit services. MTECH/Etch’s solution also includes integrating blockchain technology to ensure security while maintaining transparency. 

Darlene Magold, CEO of MTECH, says that adding blockchain technology will allow the application to be sustainable for future use in the region and for other organizations looking to use the transit application.

“It's not just a proprietary product that we're developing for one time for one use,” Magold says about the Multi-Modal Trip Planning application. “It's something that will continue to improve over time as cities grow and develop.”

Why blockchain
Hyperledger Fabric Blockchain was chosen for the Multi-Modal Trip Planning application because it is an open-source, transaction ledger that can support more than a thousand transactions in a second. The blockchain program is created by IBM and is used by more than 250 companies. Magold says that this use of blockchain is among the first for a public mobility application.

Hyperledger is a tamper-resistant transaction ledger which can be shared by multiple peer machines across multiple organizations; there is no master or owner organization. The idea is that blocks of transactions are chained together in a cryptographic manner, hence the name blockchain. Every peer that has a copy of the blockchain can validate the chain of transactions and ensure that none were maliciously or accidentally inserted, removed or modified. 

Unlike a traditional database, it would be insufficient for a hacker to go in and change an account balance or other data on a single peer. The entire chain’s validation would break by modifying only one single value. 

Security features
All transactions on the ledger are executed by smart contracts, which are saved to the ledger to detect tampering. Smart contracts are code that interact with the ledger. They are the application programming interface, or API, that all data requests and modifications must pass through. They are designed for trustworthy deal making in a competitive, decentralized environment. 

Smart contracts are used in other industries for recording loans, enforcing the loan terms based on date or automatically transferring assets when certain conditions are met. Peers all have a copy of each contract's code, and the contract cannot change without consensus. 

An example of how this application might use a smart contract is a piece of code that automatically rewards users for commuting one day a week. The transparency of these contracts can provide competitive providers with the peace of mind that the rules are fair and automatic, with no instances of favoritism or side deals.

Interacting with the Smart Columbus Operating System
Because the Smart Columbus Operating System was developed as an open-source platform, Magold said it was also important to choose an open-source blockchain platform to develop the Multi-Modal Trip Planning application. 

“We have several types of organizations that are going to contribute to this application: rideshare applications, the city of Columbus, shared bike and scooter companies, and other providers. We want to make sure the system is fair,” Magold says. 

Within the application, the ledger will be used to store trip history, loyalty program, information, and future functionality. As more data is collected on how people are scheduling trips, popular destinations, and areas of town lacking transit option, it will be fed into the Smart Columbus Operating System. Through machine learning, that data will be analyzed in order to optimize application.

“We can use that information for city planning, to better serve the community,” Magold says.

The beta version of the web, Android and iOS application was released in February 2019, with route planning for the COTA and CABS. This will allow for the application to start collecting user preferences, feedback, and trip history. 

In May 2019, the application will have the ability to support four more mobility providers and the machine learning features will be activated. It will also be able to provide trip reservations and cancellations, accept rides, and manage user-reported issues.

By July 2019, five additional mobility providers will be supported, and trip data collected from the first two releases will be incorporated into the application. Rules for the reward and incentives programs will be implemented and security and testing will be certified. The goal is for the public version of the Multi-Modal Trip Planning application to be available by August 2019.
Learn more about blockchain and how mobility providers will interact with the Multi-Modal Trip Planning application, from the video and presentation below.


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