I know hundreds of people who know and love the Citymapper app, but they did something recently which really impressed me. As you know the app uses a number of public data streams to help you navigate your city – London being a good example. So you just have to say ‘get me to work’ or ‘get me home’ or any other destination and it tells you the best ways across buses, trains, walking, cycling, or driving. It also helpfully offers an Uber connection and for good measure includes a futuristic option such as ‘catapult’ or ‘teleportation’ to appeal to your quirky side.
They work across about 40 cities across 4 continents currently and base future cities expansion on a popular vote. Needless to say, they collect a ton of data about where people are travelling to and from. But the really interesting thing is what they do with all the data they collect.
In my recently published book Doing Digital, I proposed the model of Connect/ Quantify/ Optimise for digital. The model suggests these 3 stages for digital. Designing something that is easy and frictionless to use, allows you to get to Connect. Having thousands, or even millions of people use your app gives you the data which allows you to Quantify – for example, Citymapper can see where it’s most commonly visited areas are, where they have or lack coverage and market their app accordingly. They can build revenue models with Uber which allows commercialise the traffic they send to Uber. But the last step is where the magic often is – this is where you start to see new value and tweak your business or commercial model based on the opportunity that the Connect & Quantify stages throws up.
In the case of Citymapper, this is a bus service. According to CityMapper they can see based on their patterns, which areas and routes are underserved by public transport. Using this knowledge, they have launched a bus service in coordination with Transport for London to launch a small, green bus which runs on a fixed route. It’s called CMX1 and it’s a ‘pop-up route’ which presumably means that they will validate the route based on the data it generates over a trial period. What is even more fascinating is to consider some of the underlying assumptions that the CityMapper model is challenging. One of them being that bus routes are cast in stone and have to be long term commitments. But what if these routes could be intelligently introduced in response to shorter term needs and changes? The team are even trying to improve the experience of the bus journey by redesigning the bus outside and inside.
I love that their blog exhorts customers to ‘come and watch an app company fumble around with learning how to run a service with real vehicles and drivers’. This ticks the box of building learning organisations in the classic Eric Ries model. It is also an excellent example of ‘Connect / Quantify/ Optimise’. And I fully expect CityMapper to be thinking about Autonomous Vehicles in their R&D room – as they will probably be in a position to unleash an autonomous fleet in a few years based on their accumulated lessons from this exercise. Yet another Connect-Quantify-Optimise cycle at work.