Making Mobility as a Service truly Multimodal

Boyd Cohen, Ph.D. CEO IoMob
5 min readJun 7, 2019


Image by Brett Sayles

Many transit agencies and private companies are trying to support more seamless travel for users going from A to B. Mobility as a Service promises to enable users to experience more seamless journeys, providing access to public and private mobility services in one smart application.

A fundamental assumption in the MaaS market is that mobility users should get optimal routing options that may frequently include more than one mode. For example, takes a scooter to a metro station. However, at Iomob we have found very few (as in I can count them on one hand) truly multimodal MaaS implementations. We just finished our participation in the annual ITS Summit in Eindhoven. For those not familiar with it, ITS stands for Intelligent Transportation System and is a global movement to support the digitization and transformation of the global mobility ecosystem.

Boyd Cohen, Ph.D. CEO IoMob stands with COO Elizabeth Chee at ITS Summit in Eindhoven.

At the event in Eindhoven I was able to demonstrate how our algorithms and application layer are able to provide truly multimodal options for users. The presentation was well received as Iomob received the Public Choice award for best pitch by the 24 selected startups who were invited.

The screen shots below are from the current version of our app and not the final UI which will be released in a private beta starting as soon as July! But what it does illustrate is how we believe multimodal really needs to be. For Iomob, multimodal is not showing a list of different modes of travel from A to B like Google does. Google shows time for travel in a car, time using public transit and time to walk. In some markets they are starting to add new modes like scooters.

Multimodal (or some refer to it as intermodal) should be optimizing user journeys from A to B combining the best options together when it makes sense for the user.

Last year when I was on the train from Sant Cugat to Barcelona on my way to the Smart City Expo and since Iomob was not yet ready for use, I opened my Google Maps to get my options to get to the Fira which is in between Barcelona and the airport. I quickly realized that the public transit only option in Google was a bad choice for me as it would have taken me another 45 minutes or so from where I was on the train to get to Plaza Catalunya and then take 2 more public transit services to get to my destination.

I started trying to figure out my own multimodal option and in the end discovered that perhaps the best option for me was to get out of the train along the way, for example in the Sarria stop (like 6 stops before the Plaza Catalunya station) and look for a taxi. This truly was my best option for me as it was the best of affordable (the train was only about 2 euros instead of a taxi the whole way) and speed (a taxi the whole way in rush hour is longer than the train by a lot).

Different Options Generated from Iomob’s Algorithms

When our algorithms team began refining our algorithms to improve the multimodal results I challenged them to make sure that a natural result of the journey I customized would show up as an option. There was great celebration when this option of train to Sarria to taxi emerged in our search results. When I had completed my own journey with Google and then finding my own multimodal option without Iomob, Google’s public transit option was similar to the 82 minute journey in Iomob’s search results above.

As you can see that is roughly 20 minutes longer than combining the train with a taxi. For me at that time saving 20+ minutes was something I valued.

My Favorite Multimodal Journey to the Smart City Expo

When multimodal algorithms can explore and combine the best of all services available, plus allow the user to book and pay for those services in the app, we believe you have a winning combination.

On the journey above, Iomob can book a taxi for the user if they have selected that journey so that it is waiting for the user as they get out of the train. In my case last year I had to go find a taxi costing me 10 minutes so the time savings was not as great as it could have been.

There are a growing number of mobility services in cities around the globe. We believe choice is a good thing and cities and consumers can benefit. But if one goal of MaaS is to make it easier for people to ditch their personal cars and choose access to mobility services instead, as an industry, we must make it easier for users to seamlessly discover, book and pay for public and private services including supporting the combination of multiple modes in optimal journeys.

About us:
Iomob is working to decentralize and build the Internet of Mobility, by incentivizing and facilitating the use of alternative transport. By using the blockchain, iomob plans to minimize fees and allow mobility providers and end-users alike to connect on a peer-to-peer basis. In their own words: Iomob is “a system which produces a useful output at the lowest possible marginal cost.”

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Boyd Cohen, Ph.D. CEO IoMob

Boyd is a researcher and entrepreneur in smart, sustainable & entrepreneurial cities, He´s authored 3 books & is CEO of IoMob.