Big data is already being used in transportation sector, for example, to improve road traffic managements and the planning of public transit services. In our interview, Vinay Venkatraman, an interaction designer explains how new technologies can enable the use of big data in mobility industry to provide safer, cleaner and more efficient transportation system.
How can we use big data to understand the needs of transport users better?
Venkatraman: In transportation industry, the vast majority of users are end consumers who just want to go from point A to point B followed by more complex needs for companies or operations. There is a distinction between how you can use data to create more value for users and also to understand their needs at the same time.
In the B2C segment, one of the important things is cost and fuel optimization, something that every end consumer really wants as they want to save money. That is something that data can be extensively used for: to detect driving patterns, for example, to suggest more fuel optimized routes and greener ways of travelling. Those are all sort of key values where big data can be used and today, it is totally doable and possible.
We are working on a proposal for a pilot project for an insurance company where we are collecting data from a car and giving value back to the end consumer to create new ways of organizing their travel. There is a vast amount of data being collected, we are running extensive machine learning algorithms as well as pattern recognition tools, in order to give deep insights to the consumer on how to improve driving performances, in order for them to be safer and make it more cost and fuel efficient for themselves.
Those are just small ways in which it can be done. The amplitude of how much of it can be used is phenomenal. And the real question is which kind of data creates what kind of value for whom – that is the big puzzle to solve. Just creating new ways of harnessing data as well as giving back value is the only way we can understand the needs of users better.
Can you give us some current applications on how big data is used in the transportation industry?
In the marine transport industry, there are many innovations being put forth right now on how big data can be used. One use case is, for example, mitigating the risk of collision in the high seas, to reduce accidents and damages to people and cargo. There are big initiatives being formed on how to collect which amounts of data and make the best use of it in totally new ways – both for guidance, safer navigation at sea and real-time support to the crew on the ship.
But there are also attempts in large scale predictive analytics where we can identify risk areas based on the combination of weather conditions, traffic densities as well as the presence of much smaller boats compared to bigger boats. This sort of advanced analytics is of phenomenal use since it dramatically improves safety on seas.
How do people and companies need to be set up in the future in order to deal with big data generated through mobility?
There is a need for new types of talents, we need more cross-disciplinary and cross-talented people who can deal with technical, analytical and synthetical skills – we need people skills in combination with technological skills to work with these kinds of new unstructured big datasets.
One thing is to have an expertise in people – the other thing is knowing how to collaborate with this expertise. The collaboration skills required for big data are much more important than just the data infrastructure and technology.
There is a need for companies to be a lot more agile in their way of working with data because the velocity and pace at which data comes and goes is so high that if we have a very structured and very slow process in an organization, it is often too late to even know what to do with that data because data is transient which means that it constantly flows and you cannot dam it. If you dam it, there is a high risk of flooding in your organization.
Therefore, you need to know how to regulate it and to make the most out of it – you need to have the agility and technologies required to deal with the big flow of data. That is something where companies have a long way to go in terms of learning, especially in the transport industry because it is centuries old. Since it is something that has been set in stone for a long time, making changes is pretty complex and very difficult.
Can you give us some insights on future applications on how big data can be used to provide an efficient transportation system?
The future of efficient transportation is highly multi-modal and highly multi-dimensional. As we all know multi-modal means using many means of transport. This has been in existence for a few decades now. But, multi-dimensional is when you change the mode of transport, you also change the user experience, the data flow and pricing structures, there are so many variations that happen when you change modes.
This multi-dimensional transport application is going to be the next big thing in the transport industry. The efficiency is one side of the coin and the other side of the coin is user experience. People want to choose the most interesting way of travelling.
It does not always need to be the most convenient or the cheapest. Off course, cost is a high criterion, but not the only one – people also want a comfortable journey, they want a nice experience and most importantly, people want to be engaged.
Hence, there will be new strategies evolving in the multi-dimensional system that include gamification, crowd sourcing and many other ways of harnessing all these data and making sense of it for the benefit of the end consumer or the person travelling. We are going to see a lot of innovations and technologies that are going to emerge in the next decades.
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Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.