Technology Record - Issue 33: Summer 2024

114 them simple, unified payment options as well as apps to help them plan the best possible routes to their destinations and track the real-time status of their transit options.” One example of such an app is Switzerland’s Rhaetian Railway (RhB) generative AI-powered chatbot Flurina, which was developed in collaboration with Microsoft partner ParetoLabs. Built on Azure OpenAI, Flurina is available any time and can communicate with customers in German, English and Italian to provide reliable information about reservations, travel itineraries and more. “It complements RhB’s existing customer service channels, allowing the company to handle more customer enquires while freeing employees up to focus on more complex tasks,” says Priest. “Employees in other departments can also use Flurina to find all kinds of relevant information.” To make this enhanced customer experience a reality, city leaders can develop a digital ecosystem that ingests data from public transport operators and other relevant stakeholders, such as the government’s department of transportation. “By sharing this data to a central platform, transport operators would gain real-time, in-depth insights into both their own operations and those across the entire public transit system,” says Priest. “This would allow them to better understand what is working well, what needs improving and how they can adapt services to ensure seamless travel experiences.” AI technologies should be at the core of these platforms, advises Priest. “Anytime we talk about data, we need to talk about AI,” he says. “AI tools help organisations to automatically analyse, organise and make sense of the vast volumes of data they capture – and at a much greater speed and scale than would be possible for humans working alone. New generative AI-powered assistants and chatbots built on tools such as Microsoft Copilot and Microsoft Azure OpenAI Assistant help workers to quickly interrogate this data and get useful information back in simple language, so they can make better informed decisions.” This data is particularly helpful for keeping services running smoothly at all times, even when an incident occurs. “If a metro track is blocked and is expected to be closed for several hours, people will likely switch to other forms of public transport, such as buses,” says Priest. “If all transport providers share their data, other transport providers will be automatically notified about the problem, allowing them to prepare for and react to the sudden influx of passengers, for instance by adding more buses to certain routes. Similarly, they could plan for days when there will be a sudden influx of visitors to the city, such as for a sporting event or music concert.” FEATURE Passengers want to be able to use apps to pay for public transport easily, find out the status of their bus or trains, and more Photo: iStock/Halfpoint