Big data drives smart transport


New report flags widespread adoption of big data to design, deliver and manage 21st century transport systems.

The future of smart transport systems lies in making better use of big data and analytics, according to a new report released by Infrastructure Australia. The organisation’s Australian Infrastructure Plan  says big data and analytics will lead the way in the design, delivery and management of transport hubs.
This just-released report says big data is revolutionising the way assets and networks are managed. “Investing in technologies that allow operators to generate, collect and use data will be fundamental to supporting sustainable improvements in the efficiency of our infrastructure.”
Real-time insights
Given the complexity of transport systems, big data and embedded technologies now offer operators more detailed and timely feedback around the performance of infrastructure. This incorporates information access spanning both fixed and mobile networks. 
Various network components communicate with each other, offering data to improve the operation of assets. Moreover, analytics’ insights optimise maintenance schedules, while offering real-time feedback involving the disruption to services.
Future services incorporate electronic ticketing systems, remote surveillance and real-time connectivity between dispersed transport systems. Transport hubs and interconnections integrate with electricity grids, sensors and monitors. These notify providers when abnormal line losses are detected, or faults caused by weather events.
Globally, advances in the collection and storage of data integrate with smartphones and other mobile devices. These apps transform the way passengers use transport infrastructure.  “Operators now have access to large volumes of data regarding the real-time operation,” says the report. They can also track the performance of national transport networks.
Where data is publicly available, mobile app developers offer commuters access to real-time information. This incorporates the quickest and most reliable car, cycling or walking route, or the shortest multi-modal public transport journey.
Moreover, information collected from fare databases can monitor patronage levels, while planning new and more enhanced transport services.  This knowledge identifies investment opportunities for intermodal systems, while synchronising interchanges for passengers.
Managing congestion
Commuter data helps track the levels of congestion on specific road corridors. These include real-time re-routing, delays, or overcrowding on bus, train and ferry routes. This information is accessible in a more digestible format. This enables  commuters to navigate the more integrated multi-modal transport systems.  
However, there is scope to do much more with big data and analytics’ mapping tools. Many transport operators are not fully utilising the data which they can readily access. “Opportunities also exist to link the data of different operators so as to enable integrated trip planning tools,” adds the report.
The wider application of ‘open data’ policies, where the full release of data is the norm, will ensure that Australia is fully capitalising on open access to transport data.