How Ipswich-based ITO World is using its expertise in data management and visualisation to help make cities smarter and transport more intelligent

 

ito_worldITO World’s award-winning visualisation capabilities allow transport professionals to see and intuitively explore complex data from multiple sources

 

There’s been an explosion of big data and open data in transport and across our cities. An ever-increasing number of sensors, services and systems across the globe are collecting vast amounts of data about movement through transport networks. This growth in data, provided by what is often referred to as ‘the Internet of Moving Things’, looks set to continue with the amount of smart, connected devices predicted to rise from 4.7 billion in 2014 to well over 50 billion by 2025.

This data presents huge opportunities to make better-informed decisions, whether you are a member of the travelling public planning your route home or a transport operator looking to understand the effectiveness of your network. The effective use of big data and open data could be critical in helping to manage mobility in cities and towns, mitigating the problems of congestion, pollution, and urban population growth.

It also poses a massive challenge for the transportation industry, namely how to understand all of this information and unlock the value within it to make cities smarter and transport more intelligent.

We spoke to Dave Ladbrook, chief operating officer of ITO World, Ipswich-based experts in data management and visualisation, to further understand how their work is helping some of the world’s leading digital mapping and navigation providers, transport operators and authorities, government agencies and consultancies to address these challenges.

“There are two common issues at the heart of using data to make better transport decisions,” Ladbrook explains.

“First and foremost, you’ve got to know that you can trust the data you’re using, this means it needs to be accurate and up-to-date. Secondly, you’ve got to be able to access and understand it. That means being able to share data in a way, often in some form of data visualisation that helps all sorts of decision makers use it to help them solve their problem.”

 

Data you can trust

The challenge with open data is that it is often made available for a single mode of transport and in a single format, with the data often managed and supplied at the lowest acceptable cost. Managing this data so that it can be trusted, requires significant effort.

ITO World takes transport data from open sources where available and directly from transport operators, and cleans and packages it in ‘super-fast’ time, allowing leading journey planner apps to create a richer experience for their users. In some international cities this can involve managing data from as many as 30 separate agencies, combining both schedule and real-time information.

“Our clients come to us because they want to deliver the best information and experience to their customers,” Ladbrook says.

“They want to provide passengers with point-to-point directions, service alerts and alternatives when things start to break down.

“They want to supply the correct stop names, signage and branding so that the information displayed on a digital screen is consistent with the consumer’s experience of the real world. It is crucial for our clients to be able to identify and trust which data is accurate and reliable, because inaccurate and inconsistent data could cause their data system to fail or result in the wrong information being presented to their users.”

Managing data to provide this level of passenger experience can be a major barrier for many journey planners, transport authorities and operators.

“Providing the data to support this level of customer experience is really hard. There is a huge amount of effort and expertise required to source, clean and sort the data,” Ladbrook remarks.

“At ITO World, we have developed the technology to solve the most difficult data problems, and to automate the detection of faulty data. We take away all of the data management, formatting, enrichment and licencing headaches, so our clients can focus on what they’re good at, building and designing great maps and apps and developing a better experience for passengers.

“Smarter mobility solutions and connected transport rely on data. We believe that high quality and richer data will become the lifeblood of any intelligent mobility or smart city solution.”

 

Data that is easy to share and understand

To make better decisions about travel, whether you’re a passenger or a transport professional, you’ve got to be able to access accurate data in a way you can understand.

“Improving the quality of public transport data and getting information such as service alerts into the hands of the travelling public is critical,” explains Ladbrook.

“There’s quite a bit of research that shows people are more inclined to use public transport when they’re armed with real-time information or kept informed about service disruptions. Providing this information is helping people feel more in control. There is nothing more annoying than that feeling of helplessness you get when your bus, train or tram is late, and you’re not kept informed.”

ITO World has become the go-to aggregator for the highest quality public transport data for some of the world’s biggest journey planners. Earlier this year, ITO World started providing real-time passenger information to the public via their mobile phones in Edinburgh with Lothian Buses. They are now investing heavily and scaling their service to add many more major international cities throughout this year. ITO World is already working with Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia. Toronto, Barcelona and Oslo.

“Unlike some other providers of public transport data, ITO’s is strictly a business to business model,” Ladbook explains. “This means that our clients can access our data without fear that ITO will build an app that competes with it. This approach has really helped with our partnership development, and our continued expansion into new international territories.”

Being able to see, understand and share data in a way that can be understood can also have benefits for decision makers within local authorities and transport operators.

ITO World’s award-winning visualisation capabilities have been used to bring different sets of data together, allowing transport professionals to see and intuitively explore complex data from multiple sources, helping them to make better-informed decisions.

“By bringing together multiple sources of data and visualising it, we are able to help provide a more comprehensive picture of people’s movements,” Ladbrook says. “We believe this will dramatically improve people’s decision making and allow funding to be directed to areas of greatest impact.”

 

CASE STUDY: Bringing Arriva’s real-time passenger information into Google Maps

ITO World used its expertise in complex data management to help Arriva become the first UK bus operator to provide real-time transport information via Google maps.

For Arriva making their real-time bus service information for passengers available through Google Maps was a natural extension of its efforts to provide accurate and consistent information across multiple channels.
As an agency for Google’s public transit data, ITO World provides data conversion and quality improvement services to help ensure Google Maps has consistently accurate UK public transport information.

ITO World worked closely with Arriva’s real-time information supplier HaCon to ensure that the data could be successfully brought into ITO World’s data management platform and accurately matched to the scheduled information.

The results:

  • Arriva became the first national bus operator to share their real time information within Google Maps in Great Britain.
  • Real-time data from 4,000 Arriva buses was successfully brought into Google Maps.
  • Work was completed within a short timescale, in time for the launch of the new Google Maps service in June 2015.
  • ITO World was the first supplier Arriva and HaCon have worked with who have been able to algorithmically fix some of the data anomalies they encounter.

 

For more information about ITO World and how they provide high quality and richer data visit www.itoworld.com

 

This article appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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