Much of Ruter’s activity is at the cutting edge of our sector in terms of thinking about technological development. There are several reasons for this. We are located in a very technologically advanced part of the world, with a very high adaptation speed when it comes to technological solutions. We also have rich customers, and labour is costly. Thus there is a willingness to invest in technology because you reap quicker rewards in our corner of the globe.
Meanwhile, there are not very many available solutions that match Ruter’s needs. When we try to buy something, the market isn’t where we would like it to be. Most suppliers want to sell us gizmos and boxes – which we stopped using three years ago – while we want to purchase expertise and services.
This has led us to produce a lot ourselves. Preferably open source and module-based, so we can buy software off the shelf. Instead of buying exorbitant corporate tools that you have to attend a training course to use, we can create an architecture in which we can put together components and open up, so we will never again be dependent on a supplier. In this way we can test, fail quickly and cheaply, and roll out improvements each night.
This kind of digitalisation expertise is luckily not something that can only be applied in Norway. There is a misguided perception that digitalisation is only for rich and well-developed countries. For me, digitalisation means that those who do not possess the technology today can obtain access to the same solutions at a fraction of the cost.
For example, our old ticketing system cost us an arm and a leg. Now you can move everything to a mobile phone and be entirely cloud-based – something we are hoping to do in a few years. This is ridiculously less expensive than the technology that has existed until recently. Imagine that you’re going to pay to ride a minibus somewhere in the world – there’s no cheaper way to do that than by mobile phone. And soon everyone is going to have a smartphone, regardless of where they are.
This kind of technology is going to totally change the world. It’s almost overwhelming when you understand what a fundamental game changer it is – in every area. When other markets realise that they can catch up to developments that we’ve used decades and billions of kroner on, for a fraction of the cost, they will be thrilled. And it’s here where I believe The Explorer has an important role to play in bringing smart solutions to the attention of potential customers around the world.
Photo, trams: Bonanza/Grim Evensen. Illustration, vision for a new bus terminal: Placebo Effects. Photo, Oslo by night: Redink/Krister Sørbø.