Are we making the most of big data?

Mobile technology has changed the way we do business, purchase goods and engage with services. With over 20 billion devices connected to the internet by 2020, an unprecedented volume of information is being generated. But are we making the most of this rich data?

Data centres like this store ever increasing amounts of information. How can we make the most of this?
Data centres like this store ever increasing amounts of information. How can we make the most of this?
  • Updated: 27 April 2017
  • Author: Lila Tachtsi, Service Director Asset Management, Atkins

Data is valuable, it’s the new currency. In many sectors, including transport, it becomes invaluable when it is gathered, analysed and transformed into operational and business intelligence. And now there is a great potential for doing so in real-time, offering even bigger opportunities for the travel experience. It’s how we use data that will inform and influence the design of our future cities.

Last month, Atkins released a white paper that considers how we can use insights from big data to influence strategic decision-making and user behaviour.

As well as adding extra network capacity and delivering a better customer experience, big data presents an incredible opportunity to influence people’s behaviour, offering travellers smarter and more sustainable transport choices.

For example, in a world of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs), we can gather data that will inform us about the condition of the transport network, traveller and vehicle behaviour, usage peaks and troughs, the design and operation of towns and cities and social trends. The maximum value of collaborative CAVs will only be possible with shared ownership and better planned urban networks.

Atkins is currently expanding its use of big data to include mobile phone data, GPS data and a wide range of maintained data assets and connected sensors. This helps us to plan and design future services, quickly address any issues on the network, inform customers of disruptions, travel updates and much more. This is just the tip of what is possible.

We have a growing portfolio of big data insight projects based on more generic and well-maintained data sources. These are built on data analytics platforms that can automate common analysis to enable substantial productivity and quality improvements.

Using big data insight we will be able to encourage and incentivise users of the transport system to move closer to their workplace and popular facilities as well as to more sustainable transport and urban environments.

Contemporary planning will help ensure we have the right travel alternatives in the right place and at the right time to make these long-term choices attractive.

So what do we need to do now?

  • We need to increase the ‘velocity’ of traditional data analytics from what might be several weeks to a matter of minutes with big data enabling new forms of algorithms and models to be trained and applied on accelerated computer systems.
  • We need to find a way to ensure data can be shared seamlessly across systems and sectors to maximise the benefits of big data for society as a whole.
  • We need to show the benefits that sharing data can have so public opinion can shift and we can better improve people’s lives and journeys through having access to the bigger picture.

By capturing data and applying scenario planning we can chart our route towards a more connected, automated and data-driven future and a better passenger experience for us all.

First published on Atkins Angles