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Tue, Oct 4, 2022
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Realizing vision of smart transportation with AWS: How Metropia makes Taiwan's MaaS smarter

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MaaS (Mobility-as-a-Service), which combines cloud computing, AI, big data, and other technologies, is regarded by national governments and businesses as necessary for realizing a future with smart transportation. Taiwan's MaaS project, which will go online in 2022, integrates various transportation services into a single, convenient platform. The development of this platform was led by Dr. Yi-Chang Chiu, the Founder, and CEO of Metropia. He believes that MaaS needs to aggregate and compute a large amount of information and provide various innovative functions that can quickly respond to user demand. To meet these requirements, Metropia adopted AWS cloud services with the assistance of CKmates.

Metropia was founded in the U.S. by a primarily academic team nearly ten years ago when Dr. Chiu was teaching at the University of Arizona. Its core innovation was the creation of a MaaS smart transportation platform that combined mathematical models and modern artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms. They set out to help plan operating models for system integrators, and as such, Metropia has robust technical ability in the field of smart transportation. Since its establishment in 2012, Metropia has been devoted to R&D. In 2015, the first version of Metropia's behavior engine was launched, upon which the company was ranked in the Top 100 Government Technology companies by GovTech in the United States. After a decade, Metropia has expanded to many cities in the United States and was invited by the Taiwanese Ministry of Transportation and Communications to return and assist in planning and constructing a smart transportation platform. Currently, its MaaS platform is the largest such platform in the United States and Taiwan.

Dr. Chiu further explained how a MaaS platform works. The platform will integrate various traffic data into a single location. If users want to travel to a certain destination, they are presented with information regarding driving, cycling, public transportation, walking, and other modes of transportation. The platform also considers transfer times and the tradeoffs between time and money. While this concept sounds relatively simple, building a service that can accurately and efficiently fulfill this design is incredibly complex and difficult. For example, Dr. Chiu provided an example of a group of students that wanted to travel with a small budget but plenty of time. The platform would provide them with options that mostly included public transportation, such as the Taiwan Railways or passenger transport, with low fares but longer travel times. Conversely, the options would focus on High-Speed Rail and ride-hailing for business professionals with larger budgets but tighter time requirements. In addition, Metropia's MaaS AI engine can learn from its users' travel histories, recommend suitable modes of transportation, and meet travelers' on-the-road payment needs via the integration of third-party cash services and mobile payment platforms.

A powerful MaaS platform that integrates food, accommodation, travel, shopping, and transportation can create diverse business models. For example, lifestyle MaaS operators understand users' travel behavior, meaning their data can be used to recommend more accurate products and greatly increase transaction rates. Tourist-type MaaS operators can offer packaged itineraries that combine transportation plans with meals/accommodations/travel/shopping/etc. By working with overseas travel companies, this platform can greatly expand the foreign tourist market and boost revenue.

Integrating these technologies has many more applications, such as understanding consumer travel behavior and instantly pushing discounts to consumers for food, accommodation, travel, shopping, and travel. In its latest report, the market research organization Juniper Research predicted that MaaS platform providers would bring in US$53 billion in revenue by 2027, which shows that the appetite for MaaS will only continue to grow.

Dr. Chiu pointed out that a fully functional MaaS platform must integrate a large amount of continually updated traffic data and execute AI algorithms that typically require many computing resources. At the same time, the service has to be able to connect with third-party platforms. This all involves very high requirements for IT system performance. In its early days, Metropia's US office used AWS cloud services to deal with rapidly increasing traffic data volume and the computing needs of MaaS. The Taiwan office was originally set up with an onsite backend system. In order to smoothly connect with the US branch, AWS was later imported with the assistance of CKmates.

Metropia chose to use AWS mainly due to its focus on diverse services and scalability. Dr. Chiu pointed out that MaaS uses a huge amount of real-time traffic data that can change rapidly. Therefore, it requires an IT system with sufficient storage and computational resources. Building an independent system that can operate smoothly would require a hefty investment of both time and money. Organizing a professional team to develop various functionalities and upgrades and maintaining the software and hardware is quite burdensome for new startups. It is in these very circumstances that AWS helps tremendously.

Since AWS already has its own hardware resources and various functional modules, Metropia only needed to select the appropriate software and hardware according to its current needs, which could be immediately brought online. If the user load changes in the future, the service could be increased or decreased accordingly. This feature helped optimize the IT budget efficiency of Metropia, allowing them to expand their IT system according to demand flexibly. Dr. Chiu mentioned that Metropia frequently used the AWS Auto Scaling expansion plan. This function allowed Metropia to automatically search for relevant resources and set expansion plans within a short period of time. This functionality would take a lot of time for an onsite system to develop. The AWS platform comes completely ready to use. In addition, the stability and information security offered by AWS is virtually unmatched.

Dr. Chiu advised how to start using AWS based on his experience introducing it to Metropia. He said that with AWS' many functions, it is inevitable that first-time users may be overwhelmed by the many choices. He suggested that businesses cooperate with vendors with professional experience in this area. Metropia sought out CKmates, a business familiar with AWS with long-term experience coaching enterprises to build IT systems. They assisted Metropia in choosing suitable software and hardware services to maximize ROI.

With the assistance of CKmates, Metropia has been able to make good use of the various cloud services provided by AWS. Ever since it has focused its enterprise resources on its core business. For future planning, Dr. Chiu revealed that he would continue using AWS's power to improve Taiwan's MaaS platform and provide a convenient and smart transportation service for the people of Taiwan.

If you want to know more about metropia, please click the link. https://www.metropia.com/

Credit: Company

Metropia's Director of Mobility System Jeff Lin (left), Metropia's Technical Director Sibu Wang (middle) and CKmates' Senior Sales Representative Chun-Cheng Zhao (right)