Huddle allows researchers around the world to better collaborate.

Imperial College London is consistently ranked as one of the best universities in the world. It ranks 2nd in the QS World University Rankings (2014) and 9th in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings (2014).

The Railway and Transport Strategy Centre (RTSC) is a specialist research group within the Centre for Transport Studies (CTS), part of the faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Imperial College London. The RTSC has 20 years of successful research into rail and urban public transit systems, including transport operations and engineering, statistical modelling and economics. One of the RTSC’s main tasks is to benchmark public transport services around the world. Here, transport operators share experiences, compare performance metrics, identify best practices and learn from one another. The Community of Metros, for example, comprises 32 metro systems from 30 cities around the world. The International Bus Benchmarking Group (IBBG) comprises 15 large and medium urban bus organizations, and the International Suburban Rail Benchmarking Group brings together 15 major suburban rail operators covering six continents.

With such geographically dispersed groups, the RTSC needed a quick and secure way of sharing content within these groups worldwide. The previous platform that the research group relied on was lacking new features and becoming expensive to maintain. It was time to find a new solution. Any new system needed to be completely secure to protect teams’ sensitive data. While there is complete openness within the RTSC’s benchmarking groups, data must remain confidential. This ‘closed group’ model leads to honest and open discussions, such as discussions about operator strengths and weaknesses, where improvements are most likely achievable and what has and hasn’t worked elsewhere. Any information that is subsequently published externally is done so anonymously.

The RTSC’s search for a suitable platform began with a list of 22 potential collaboration platforms, quickly narrowed down to one candidate: Huddle. Mark Trompet, Head of Bus Benchmarking at the RTSC at Imperial College explains why Huddle made such a compelling proposition. “NASA uses Huddle so we certainly didn’t have any concerns about security,” he says. “Huddle gives the benchmarking teams all the features they need to share content, wherever and whenever they want. We were also particularly impressed by the professionalism and vision of the entire Huddle team.”

Some 75 transport providers in 55 cities worldwide are now using Huddle (700 users in total) to help benchmark their transport performance and changes in performance. Huddle gives them one centralized, cloud-based environment to share content and discuss ideas. There are no firewall limitations, and version control, clear permissions and audit trails keep the content organized.

 

"NASA uses Huddle so we certainly didn’t have any concerns about security.”

 

“Some of the benchmarking groups have existed for 20 years and have collected vast amounts of data over that time. Huddle gives everyone a quick and easy way to search through this content and find what they need. Importantly, it allows them to look inside documents, not just search by title,” says Trompet.

The other important use case for Huddle is a forum for online discussions. Individuals can post questions and they anticipate fast, expert responses. For example, London Buses may ask for other contributors’ opinions on the cleanliness of bus fleets, or employee time lost due to accidents; while the New York Subway may ask how operators in other countries coped with loyalty schemes or contactless fare cards.

“Huddle online discussions are a great way to share information like this in a fast, reliable and confidential way. Within a week or two, each post will have received maybe a dozen topical responses,” says Trompet. Over 2,800 forum questions have been posted within these five benchmarking groups so far. The forum is making a real difference, whether it is saving money, reducing accidents or cutting pollution. For example, a South American Metro saved $1 million annually on turnstile maintenance as a result of a forum question, while the International Bus Benchmarking Group used ideas to focus efforts and increase staff training to cut the accident rate. As would be expected of a team of transport experts, Huddle is also used on the move.

Trompet remarks: “The C-level executives find the mobile functionality really useful. From the Huddle app on their smartphone or tablet, they can review content and contribute to the online discussions wherever they are.” Unlike most other cloud collaboration platforms, Huddle enables the RTSC participants to share content through their firewall. There are no complex configurations to worry about. A group or new member is accepted into a workspace and can share any type of content—such as Microsoft Office documents, presentations, video and graphics—very quickly. “Huddle is accelerating research projects in a way that would be impossible through email or a less secure file sharing platform,” finishes Trompet. .

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