Stockholm Public Transport transforms its ticketing system with the AWS Cloud
In the Greater Stockholm Area, SL (Stockholm Public Transport) is responsible for public transport services for more than three million citizens – including the metro, trains, buses, and boats. Every day, almost 800,000 people travel by public transport in the city.
Five years ago, SL began plans to replace its outdated, third party-licensed ticketing and digital information system with a new, “future-proof” alternative that could be built and managed in-house. This major digital transformation project is built on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud and using microservices.
The new ticketing system is an integral part of SL’s commitment to make sure everyone who lives, works in, or visits Stockholm, “has access to well-developed, easily accessible and reliable public transport.”
Digital transformation for ‘future-proof’ infrastructure
David Looberger was appointed SL’s chief software architect to oversee the project, which included upskilling staff, and has seen internal digital and IT teams grow from ten people to more than 200 people across 20 teams.
“We needed to build a ticketing system for Stockholm that is easy to understand and use by everybody, with multiple ways to buy tickets, mobile-first solutions to find accurate information, and seamlessness throughout your ticket purchase, onboarding, and beyond,” Looberger explained.
With the objective to make it easier to choose, pay for, plan for, and access public transport, SL has focused on three key areas: traffic information, data analysis, and ticketing.
“We’re focused on reacting to customer’s changing behaviour and exceeding their expectations,” Looberger said. “As the pace of technology accelerates, this means it was necessary to move away from an out-the-box third party product to an in-house solution with dedicated expertise. By recruiting our own teams and building our infrastructure in the AWS Cloud, we have a ‘future-proof’ model that can be adapted and evolved over many years.”
On working with AWS for this digital transformation project, Looberger said, “Building in the AWS Cloud means it is simpler to scale systems, harness the potential of existing products and tools, and now our teams can invest time in maximising the use of AWS services as they evolve.”
Seamless travel across Stockholm
The new system’s features include contactless card payments, automated price reductions for qualifying passengers like students and the elderly, add-on services for those living with disabilities or with mobility problems, and heightened security features for pre-paid amounts on travel cards.
Customers can buy their tickets, manage them, and plan their trips all on their smartphone. SL’s new ticketing system supports the improvement of the accessibility of public transport for groups such as students, the elderly, and those living with disabilities—an integral part of the organisation’s mission.
The city’s investment in digital transformation is also projected to boost Stockholm’s local economy, including the creation of new jobs and skills, higher footfall for retail and hospitality as they recover from the impact of COVID-19, higher income from tourism, and more cost-effective ticket prices for passengers leaving them free to spend their money elsewhere in the city.
“Technology innovation, internal investment, and digital future-proofing will not just drive profitability, efficiency and innovation for SL as an organisation,” Looberger explained. “This will also create improved cost-efficiency for customers themselves, which is hugely important.”
Develop and deliver services at remarkable speed
Focusing on the underlying technology, Looberger explained that building in the AWS Cloud means SL can develop and deliver innovative new services at speed. The organisation has adopted a range of AWS services, from virtual computing to managed database services and tools to aggregate and analyse data.
Amazon CloudWatch, for example, allows teams to monitor applications, optimise resource utilisation, and provides a unified view of operational health – which is particularly important because SL has a number of different databases interacting at any one time.
SL also uses Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC) to give complete control over a virtual networking environment – meaning the organisation can set up and test new solutions in a secure, isolated network.
Other services used include AWS Key Management Service (AWS KMS) to help encrypt and digitally sign for data; Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) for database services; Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) for cloud computing capacity; and Amazon OpenSearch Service, which provides a secure search and analytics suite to provide fast access and response to large volumes of data.
SL is also using the AWS Stockholm Region to deliver its website, applications, content, and more. AWS data centres based in Sweden allow local organisations to serve customers across the Nordics while keeping their data close to home.
“The availability of a local data centre in the Stockholm area was an important factor in our decision to select AWS. One of the key benefits of hosting locally is that our data spends less time traveling to reach the network. We also have regulations here in Sweden stipulating that digital infrastructure for public services must be hosted in a certain geography. Network speed and regulatory approval were vital for this project,” Looberger explained.
Looberger also shared how AWS is helping SL to save money on their day-to-day infrastructure costs by supporting the organisation to scale up or down its usage based on current needs: “We see ‘spiky loads’ in data traffic, particularly during peak travel hours and weekends, so the ability to dynamically scale our infrastructure based on current needs means we can save money, which drives profitability for the organisation and cost-effectiveness for passengers in the long-term.”
Understanding the transport system’s peak hours can help individual passengers avoid crowding or make the decision to travel at a more convenient time. “To help tackle over-crowding and to spread passengers evenly across the transport network, this system also includes data mapping for high-concentration areas of passenger numbers. That means a passenger can visualise busy spots in real-time and plan accordingly.”
Looking ahead, Looberger is excited by SL’s role at the heart of Stockholm’s burgeoning tech and innovation sector. “There is a lot of tech talent in Sweden which SL can benefit from as we build our own team – but we’re also competing with those big players for talent. We know that SL building a modern working environment and an innovative digital system with modern tools and processes will help us to attract, recruit, and retain top talent.”
“Personally, I’ve been an engineer for more than 25 years and I’ve never been so excited by the potential of technology like cloud computing. We can set up and develop new ideas in minutes rather than months. The world around us is changing at an ever-faster pace – but working alongside AWS keeps us at the forefront of what’s possible,” Looberger said.
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Learn more about how AWS powers cities of the future in the City Transformation hub. Read more about how AWS helps support transportation and mobility services in the public sector. For more information about how AWS can help your city digitally transform, contact us directly.
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