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Transport Systems Catapult report outlines how today’s digital exhaust could become tomorrow’s “new form of oil”

A report prepared for the Transport Systems Catapult by Integrated Transport Planning Ltd, together with White Willow Consulting, Advancing Sustainability, and the University of Nottingham Horizon Digital Economy Research Institute, says that the UK needs to move much faster to plug various “open data” gaps in order to be a leader in the Intelligent Mobility market.

The report The Transport Data Revolution - published last month - identifies 11 data gaps, highlighting datasets which do not yet exist, or only in ‘silos’ or that are not yet open or freely available.

It also claims that standardisation of data remains an issue, and that more needs to be done to address public concerns over personal data privacy - identified as one of the key long-term threats to creating successful products and services.


Data silos and data deserts

The report specifies these ‘data gaps’: both immediate ones, and 19 transport datasets for intelligent mobility (considered critical to the emergence of user-focused services that more intelligently connect people with the places, services and goods they demand).

Around half of these datasets identified do not currently exist publicly in any form, and none yet demonstrate sufficient scale or international-consistency to suit the needs of application developers and potential mobility service market entrants.

This emphasises, the report claims, a need for dialogue between the major public sector (transport coordinating authorities and agencies) and private sector (major banks, retailers, transport operators) data owners around the value and business cases for opening up, trading, and sharing data for mutual benefit.


Transport sector should participate in debates around data privacy issues

As previously described by academics and experts at the Internet of Cars symposium Southampton University last September, as transport systems becomes more networked consumers will need to be sensitive to the data they send out.

For example, modern cars are capable of emitting trails of data (such as engine performance suited to service diagnostics) but uncertainties over ownership of this data, and not wishing to deal head on with the consequential privacy and rights issues, means the full value of this capable is not exploited - rendering mere “digital exhaust”.

Plus most citizens leave record of all movements on servers in the cloud produced by their mobile computing devices.

The 95 page report does not go into a lot of detail into what barriers to intelligent mobility are introduced by privacy issues - perhaps illustrating the difficulties for any company to logically address this political and commercial minefield - but the report proposes that the transport sector participates in debate around data privacy issues, and ethical personal data/’digital exhaust data’ re-use.

Mobility organisations keen to share user’s data, and providers looking to consume it, would benefit, it suggests, from clear guidance on legitimate uses and appropriate practices for anonymising and aggregating user-derived data. It also proposals there should be consumer guidance on protecting personal (location) data and their rights.

The report notes a trend to larger data sets that could allow new (or previously inaccessible) correlations and insights to be identified, that could enable data to be “the new oil”, for powering the economies and transport systems of the future.

The report cites research in separate studies estimating a per capita Gross Value Add from Open Data of between £54 and £122 - derived from savings and benefits from time and money saved by transport operators, service users, and the economy as a whole and increased revenues from sales of services.


Data talent required

The report also claims investment is urgently needed to ensure talent, organisational capability and technology is in place in the transport sector to handle a predicted surge in transport-related data.

Professional bodies; such as the Transport Planning Society (TPS), Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation (CIHT), and Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT); to build organisational & management capabilities through transport data analytics training schemes for professionals in the sector.


Data should be exploitable by machines and humans

The report concludes with 20 recommended actions, aligned with Transport Systems Catapult’s view on how these data gaps could be addressed.

Among other measures it suggests working with Innovate UK, KTN, and relevant Catapults (Transport Systems, Satellite Applications, Digital, Future Cities) to co-ordinate innovation projects and harness the datasets they create so they are included in an online transport data ‘catalogue of catalogues’.

This data, it suggests, should be easy to find and exploitable by both humans and machines.

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