AWS Public Sector Blog

Re-imagining the future of mobility on islands

Re-imagining the future of mobility on islands

This is a guest post by Louisa Barker, senior research manager in the European Government Insights team at IDC, and Joe Dignan, the European head of government insights at IDC, with contributions from Alex Lima, lead of Amazon Web Services (AWS) public sector Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) sustainability, and Avi Leisner, AWS public sector senior business development manager.

Digital technologies have the potential to make mobility systems more sustainable, intelligent, and inclusive. Several islands, from the Naxos in Greece to the Isle of Wight in the UK, have established themselves as innovation testbeds demonstrating what the future of mobility could look like. Learn how islands are leveraging digital technology to innovate across four of the main trends re-shaping our transport systems: promoting public transportation through mobility as a service (MaaS), active mobility, electrification, and autonomous vehicles.

Islands, like other communities, are working to create effective and sustainable transport linkages. But they are subject to unique challenges, as they are often highly dependent on external transport linkages.

Technologies such as digital twins, artificial intelligence (AI), edge and cloud computing, and open data can help islands ameliorate these challenges. For example, a Finish maritime startup is providing a shipping company in the Aland Islands with a real-time cloud platform to operate their fleets more efficiently, including real-time open weather data, engine performance, humidity, and motion.

Transforming mobility is a central policy lever for European governments to drive their sustainable growth and economic recovery agenda: transport contributes to around 5% of the European Union (EU) gross domestic product (GDP), employs more than 10 million people, but also accounts for around 25% of the EU’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Greening Europe’s transport systems is a central pillar of the EU’s Green Deal as well as the NextGeneration EU (NGEU) funds. This provides a once in a generation opportunity to reimagine mobility systems and transform how we get from A to B with approximately €87 billion of the NGEU EU Recovery and Resilience Facilities (EU RRF) funds being invested in this area. Islands can help us to imagine the art of the possible.

Promoting public transportation through mobility as a service

Supporting a modal shift to public transport and active mobility is key for Europe to meet its climate objectives of halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. To support this shift, the passenger experience across different modes of transports needs to be more intuitive and less fragmented. For many islands, limited integration of different modes of transport, particularly with marine transport, is a significant challenge. The concept of mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) includes connecting the different phases of the door-to-door mobility experience, from planning through to booking, payment, navigation, and customer service, with seamless integration across different modes of transport. MaaS has been around for over a decade, but is now starting to come to fruition as the demand and technology has caught up with the vision.

Data-driven transport solutions such as MaaS face the challenge of scaling operations to accommodate growing demand for services and processing large amounts of data. Increasingly, MaaS service providers are leveraging the cloud to address this challenge. Take for example, the urban mobility app Moovit which offers real-time journey planning across multiple modes of transport, aggregating large quantities of data from service providers and users. The service provider has been able to scale significantly now operating in over 3,500 cities.

A core part of Europe’s vision for MaaS is its ability to connect across regions and even across borders. The Scottish islands and highlands have demonstrated the art of the possible through the creation of the GoHi app which allows users to plan, book, and pay for an end-to-end multi-modal journey in a single transaction. The app covers buses, trains, taxis, car hire, car clubs, bikes, ferries, air travel, and demand responsive transport (DRT). The app received funding from the EU Interreg North Sea Region Programme and the Scottish Government’s MaaS Investment Fund.

Active mobility

Promoting active travel can replace the use of vehicles for short distance trips, increase accessibility to public transport, contribute to reduce emissions and support to better health and wellbeing outcomes. Behavioural change needs to be at the center of any initiative to encourage people to walk, cycle, or use a scooter. Digital twins can be very effective tools for enabling human-centric mobility planning—helping decision-makers to understand people’s interactions with their environment and model the impact of different policies.

For example, the City Modelling Lab is working with transport bodies, such as Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), to create human-centric models of cities, regions, and countries to support more sustainable transport planning. The models deployed by the Lab are centered on agent-based modelling. This means modelling individual people, each with a plan, deciding where to travel, when to leave, and what mode of transport to use. The model can be used to optimize routing for walking and cycling with personalised travel times based on environmental features such as gradient and ground surface as well as an agent’s age and gender.

A similar approach is being taken on the Isle of Wight. As part of the UK’s National Digital Twin Program, a digital twin trial has been launched on the island to demonstrate how the technology can be used to better inform public policy and business planning. The model being piloted combines the behavioural economics model Prospect Theory and AI to predict behaviour, including reproducing human biases. The first use case being piloted focuses on how to encourage islanders to use e-scooters instead of cars, modelling the potential environmental impact and how far measures such as discounted fees can affect people’s behaviours.


The transition to hybrid, electric, and fuel-cell mobility is happening around the globe. Electrification will play a significant part in meeting Europe’s targets for nearly all cars, vans, buses, and heavy-duty vehicles to be zero-emission by 2050. One fast-moving area of innovation is vehicle-to-grid (V2G) and vehicle-to-home (V2H) charging. Bidirectional charging technology means that energy can flow from the house to the car battery and from the car battery to the grid. Not only does this help manage demand for energy and balance the grid but also helps incentivize electric car take-up with cars becoming energy assets.

This technology is moving from theory to practice. Innovate UK recently completed a V2G trial across the UK with the energy supplier Octopus and is now moving towards product commercialization. Centralization and analysis of data from chargers, cars, and smart meters for business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) usage is an integral component of any V2H or V2G solution. Islands are helping to move the needle of innovation in this field. Porto Santo, a small island in the Portuguese archipelago of Madeira, established a pilot for bi-directional charging as part of its strategy to become an emission-free island. The island tested a scheme in which the batteries in electric vehicles are charged by solar power during the day but at night return spare energy to the grid to power people’s homes. One of the most innovative components of the project was the creation of an intelligently controlled central software platform – this was the lynch pin that enabled collaboration between different energy and mobility stakeholders.

Autonomous vehicles

Autonomous Vehicles (AV) are also part of the vision for the future of mobility with the promise of more efficient and more accessible transport. A key milestone for the EU’s mobility strategy includes large scale deployment of automated mobility by 2030. A single AV may generate up to 100 terabytes of data per day; therefore, highly scalable compute, networking, analytics, and deep learning frameworks are critical for developing and deploying AV systems.

Another factor crucial for widespread deployment is the interaction of AVs with existing modes of transport. The Orkney Islands have taken up the mantle of innovation to help tackle this challenge. The Planning for Autonomous Vehicles (PAV) challenge will see four pilot projects running in the North Sea Region. The Orkney pilot will also focus on how AVs can effectively work in remote and rural areas.

Given their geographic positioning, islands also have an opportunity to lead the way in zero-emission and autonomous marine vessels and maritime innovation. Take for example a Menorcan company that organised the first non-stop electric boat trip around the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean this summer. The EU has set a target for transport by inland and short sea shipping to increase by 25% in 2030 and 50% by 2050; islands have an opportunity to lead maritime mobility innovation.


Reducing transport emissions will be pivotal for Europe to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. As highlighted in this blog, islands can be prime locations to demonstrate how our mobility systems can be more sustainable, intelligent, and inclusive. Now is an opportune moment for islands to act, with funds available through the NGEU RRF; for example, Cyprus and Malta have been allocated 1.2 billion and 316.4 million, respectively.

Read more about creating a smart and sustainable island strategy in this IDC InfoBrief.

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Louisa Barker

Louisa Barker

Louisa Barker is a research manager in the European IDC Government Insights team, leading research on smart, sustainable, and resilient cities and communities. She has international experience providing analysis, policy advice, and consultancy to the public sector on disaster risk management, urban building and planning regulation, and smart cities. Previous roles have included Urban Resilience Consultant at the World Bank, focused on projects in the Caribbean and East Africa, and as a researcher at technology and innovation accelerators such as the Future Cities Catapult and the University College London City Leadership Laboratory. She is also a specialist advisor to the International Building Quality Centre. Barker holds a bachelor's degree in Geography from Durham University and a master's in urban studies from University College London.

Alex Lima

Alex Lima

Alex is currently the sustainability lead for Amazon Web Services (AWS) public sector sales in Europe, responsible for helping customers and partners meet their sustainability goals through the application of technology. Alex works in close collaboration with the broader AWS and Amazon sustainability teams to help organisations leverage AWS Cloud services in delivery of their strategies and supporting them on their sustainability journey and move to Net-Zero Carbon. Alex is passionate about sustainability and working towards a greener and more resilient world. Prior to AWS, Alex worked across different sectors and countries for multi-national organisations covering a broad range of topics including energy and environment, corporate social responsibility, cloud procurement and strategy. For over 25 years, Alex has led multiple projects from idea conceptualisation to implementation with a high level of drive, enthusiasm, and determination to deliver on vision

Avi Leisner

Avi Leisner

Avi Leisner, a senior business development manager at Amazon Web Services (AWS), brings two decades of leadership experience from the defense industry. With a background in biotech engineering, he seamlessly merges technology and scientific insight to drive innovation. Beyond his current role, Avi actively contributes to technological and sustainability initiatives, embodying an unwavering commitment to advancing the tech landscape. His passion lies in empowering the public sector and governments, elevating them as technology-driven customers and guiding them to the forefront of innovation.

Joe Dignan

Joe Dignan

Joe Dignan is the European head of government insights and a recognized smart cities subject matter expert with over 30 years of international experience in the digital transformation arena. A professional hybrid, at home in both the public and private sector, he has a background in local and regional government, universities, technology vendors such as Microsoft and EDS, and technology accelerators such as the Future Cities Catapult. He has experience of being on the World Bank’s Smart City Expert Framework, a member of the Stakeholder Group for the European Commission’s Smart Cities and Communities Group, and the EU-China smart city expert group, and is a research fellow at Kings College London Centre for Urban Science and Progress.