Q&A: Getting to know CNA General Secretary, Ralph Gambetta

In our latest Q&A blog, we speak to Ralph Gambetta about his role as CNA General Secretary, discussing the important role that CNA’s partnerships with global institutions play in enhancing the transport ticketing ecosystem, fostering sustainable, reliable and secure technology based on open standards.

1. Please tell us a bit about yourself, and your role as CNA General Secretary? My involvement in the transport ecosystem goes back to my time at the University of Konstanz. I graduated with a degree in business administration, within which I focused on a sectorial analysis of road and rail infrastructure investment in the Visegrád countries (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia). From here, I went on to complete a PhD in sectorial IT policy implementation and was involved in various academic associations dedicated to transport and mobility. This academic background laid the foundation for my career in transport, ultimately preparing me for my current role as General Secretary of CNA. This is a role that requires constant communication and collaboration between a multitude of transport industry stakeholders. I work closely with our Working Groups to ensure that their work aligns with our philosophy of open standards and with CNA’s mission of supporting open, seamless and secure ticketing experiences. I’m responsible for our institutional relations, asking questions of Working Groups on timelines, potential market impact, the creation of unique selling points (USPs) and ensuring developments makes sense for the CNA community and the wider market. The role of General Secretary also means that I am accountable for the legal and financial wellbeing of CNA. As CNA is headquartered in Brussels, the organisation must follow Belgian laws and codes, and so it is my job to work with our Chair, General Manager and Treasurer to ensure that we abide by our obligations. 2. Why is collaboration important in the evolution of the Calypso technical specifications? The mobility ecosystem continually evolves. We must therefore ensure that Calypso technologies evolve too. Specifications must be able to navigate an unpredictable ecosystem to meet the needs of transport networks and the passengers they serve. To keep pace, collaboration with a multitude of engaged stakeholders is imperative. Within transport ticketing, there are two key pillars of responsibility: technical and political. Technical responsibilities include the technological offering of Calypso, primarily driven by our collaborative Working Groups and underpinned by our core principle of open standards developed for the transport ticketing community by the transport ticketing community. Political responsibilities are equally reliant on close collaboration between stakeholders. The clear benefits of Calypso mean that it has global appeal as PTOs and PTAs worldwide seek to enhance their mobility offer, but this success means that we are geographically dispersed. This means that our specifications must be mindful of numerous cultural and economic differences that directly impact how transport is used, and so we are reliant on our community of members to champion the voices of their region and its passengers. Our Working Groups, and the Advisory Board of adhering members – representing providers of Calypso-based ticketing solutions or consultants supporting transit networks implementing Calypso – offer a comprehensive view of the ticketing ecosystem. Taking an active role in stakeholder dialogues means that CNA can recognise evolving trends and ensure it is always in the best position to naturally evolve specifications according to market and user needs. 3. Who does CNA partner with and what value do these partnerships bring to the Calypso ecosystem, as well as the wider sector? CNA works on behalf of its members to optimise the Calypso standard and maximize its potential. A key part of this is engaging with other industry bodies to combine expertise and effectively achieve common goals. Each partnership brings value to our community and helps us achieve our goal of interoperable ticketing for all. One such partnership is with the Smart Ticketing Alliance (STA). Our role, which currently sees us holding the position of Chair, allows us to protect CNA’s interests across Europe and beyond, helping facilitate the advancement of cross-border travel through political collaboration. Similarly, our participation in the European Commission’s Multimodal Passenger Mobility Forum (MPMF) allows us a seat at the table for discussions on Multimodal Digital Mobility Services (MDMS), giving us the platform we need to protect our member’s interests while advancing the need of inclusive services, or “MaaS for All”. Similar partnerships include our close relationship with the International Association of Public Transport (UITP) which allows us to connect directly with PTOs and PTAs from around the world. We also work closely with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to help finance many ticketing projects. Meanwhile, our collaboration with Codatu gives us a holistic perspective that allows us to consider various socioeconomic requirements in specific regions such as Africa and Latin America.

I’d also like to highlight our work with NFC Forum, which, like CNA, is a community-led organisation, focused on technical specifications and the future of NFC technology. Our joint focus is on how to expand NFC infrastructure to provide passengers with secure and seamless end-to-end ticketing services, particularly in support of emerging mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) solutions.

4. What aspect(s) of CNA’s collaborative activity are you particularly proud of, so far?  One of the main goals of CNA is to directly link and connect Calypso technology with the stakeholders that it serves. Our partnerships with organisations such as UITP and Codatu, and our active role in the STA, allow us to create a common link between mobility providers and reshape the perception of ticketing on a wider scale. One of the ways we are currently doing this is by encouraging and engendering innovative MaaS solutions. Integrating multiple transportation modes into one ticketing system presents a number of complex challenges around revenue sharing, tariffs and scalability. An effective MaaS solution must seamlessly blend public and private mobility offerings, creating a unified, complementary network. To achieve this, operators must be willing to securely share data to enable joined-up ticketing approaches across a multimodal mobility offering that meets the needs of all users. I’m proud that CNA is facilitating these conversations by bringing together stakeholders from throughout the transit ecosystem to create open standards that provide the interoperability and security needed for seamless MaaS solutions to take off. Ultimately, passengers deserve a seamless, simple, joined-up mobility experience from the first step to the last. That’s what we’re working toward. And speaking of the future, I’m proud and confident that we are already preparing the ground for the next generation of Calypso people. This year we celebrate 20 years of CNA, and so many of us have been involved in this journey throughout these two decades, but the life of Calypso will endure beyond all of us. This expertise, passion, and commitment to innovative thinking will certainly live on in future evolutions, as Calypso continues to drive the future of mobility, based on open standards.  5. What is your vision for the future of CNA and mobility? What do you hope CNA’s partnerships will achieve? CNA provides innovative technological solutions based on open standards. Calypso technology was established by an EU-wide partnership in the late 1990s focusing on integrated ticketing for public transport, but as the mobility landscape has evolved, so too has CNA. Our focus has extended beyond providing mobility within cities to consider how we can create seamless travel between not just different cities, but different countries too. We’re also exploring how we can integrate more use cases to Calypso technology. For example, in Poland and Germany, Calypso technology is now being used for carparking, creating integrated park and ride systems that encourage people to use public transport in more built-up areas, even if they do not live within walking distance of a transit hub. Our focus also extends well beyond Europe. A prime example of this is our growing partnership with Codatu, where we’ve been able to extrapolate many of our learnings from successful deployments in Europe and South America to support cutting-edge ticketing deployments in Africa that place interoperability and the user experience at the heart of mobility networks. As these new deployments continue to flourish, at the heart of it all remains that key belief in open standards. Standards that are developed and maintained for the ticketing community by the ticketing community, facilitating interoperability and data exchange between networks to ensure that all stakeholders can work together to create enhanced mobility solutions. And by leveraging open source technologies like Eclipse Keyple to implement open standards, PTOs and PTAs can develop these interoperable systems without surrendering control over their ticketing, while guaranteeing simplicity for users.