The term “intermodality” was originally used in the freight transport business. It refers to the transport of goods with the help of various means of transport (e.g. truck and ship or truck, plane, and train) during which only the loading unit (i.e. the pallet or container) is transferred, not the goods themselves.
In the context of the smart city, intermodality describes the flexible and individual combination of multiple forms of transport during one trip. In this case, the loading unit is a person.
Let us say you need to get from Berlin to Hamburg as efficiently as possible. The first option your smartphone gives you is the nearest S-Bahn station. You then take the ICE to Hamburg from the central train station. It is quite late by the time you arrive, and the next U-Bahn will not arrive for another 30 minutes. No matter. You go to the nearest bike-sharing station or – if it’s raining – to the nearest car-sharing station. Your smartphone will help you find it. Once you have rented a bike or car, you are on your way home. One trip, three means of transportation. All you need for this is a smartphone with location tracking activated in order to use location-based services and the corresponding apps and accessibility. This is intermodal mobility, or intermodality.