[BigDataEurope (BDE) SC4 and the LeMO project have established a cooperation, as both focus on big data in the transport sector. LeMO project representatives Arnaud Burgess and Maria Rodrigues (Panteia) already participated in the workshop, organised by BDE SC4, in September to present their project. Now, Tharsis Teoh (Panteia) has kindly contributed a blog entry.]
By Tharsis Teoh (written on 15th December 2017)
At a recent convention on urban logistics, I had the opportunity to meet some of the most innovative start-ups in the field. The products on offer ranged from an ultra-fast laundry delivery service to clothing e-retailers. One consistent theme in each of their presentations was the obsessive need for collecting data about their customers, their partners, the traffic system, their fleet, the weather, and about everything else they could get their hands on. Were they talking about big data or just a lot of data? In some cases, the line was blurred. In most cases, regardless of whether they currently used it, they definitely spoke as if they needed BIG data.
Similar discussions are had all across the transport industry: from providers of transport services, integrators, transport infrastructure providers, up to the regulators. On one hand, it is clear that there are significant benefits that big data promises; the enthusiasm and running business models of the start-ups made that clear. One clear example of how big data enhances business models (or in this case, cooperative business models) is in the sharing of public transport fare revenue among different transport operators for subscription holders. Previous models had to be recalibrated by extensive surveys, but can now instead be done via big data techniques and boatloads of transit card data. But on the other hand, it is still early days on how significant, we can expect these benefits to be. The sceptics always ask the same question: “Is the hype real?” Regardless of our opinions on this, the industry is moving in this direction; and entrepreneurs and businesses need to keep up.
The interest in the promise of big data by regulators and public bodies overlap somewhat with the industry, i.e. to achieve sustainability objectives by using the technology. But, more importantly regulators need to protect the privacy of their citizens (see the soon-to-be-formally binding General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or similar regulations at the national level), and guard their institutions, systems, and businesses from cyber-attacks or manipulation (a bigly theme in 2016 and 2017). Ethical questions also hover over the regulation (that is, the question of jurisdiction) and ownership of the data (by the harvester, collector, or the source). In other words, big questions still remain on this big data thing.
With that in mind, we are very excited to announce our recently launched research project Leveraging Big Data to Manage Transport Operations (LeMO) that aims to address these issues (among many others). One of the main outputs, which we will ultimately develop is a research and policy roadmap for the European Union. The aim is provide a sustainable, ethical, efficient, and effective approach to tackle the difficulties that lie in the use of big data. The main project partners are leaders and major stakeholders in the field: Western Norway Research Institute, Goethe University of Frankfurt, Confederation of Organisations in Road Transport Enforcement, Bird & Bird, and PANTEIA. Our key focus will be the analysis of state-of-the-art applications in the transport industry itself (see our list of case studies), where we examine the institutional, regulatory, and technical barriers and facilitators of using big data, as experienced by the industry.
In many ways, this takes over, where BigDataEurope leaves off. While the focus in the Transport Pilots focused on developing Big Data techniques and current applications, the LeMO project looks across the horizon to build a strategic roadmap. Many of the insights into the opportunities and challenges will feed into the development of the right research and policy roadmaps. Certainly, BigDataEurope’s mark will be present in defining the big data transport strategy of Europe in the coming decades.