Open Data Impact Series II: Driving Open Transport Data

The Derilinx Open Data Impact Series promotes awareness, adoption and use of Open Data in different sectors, and supports the publication of high-quality Open Data.

In this second session of the Impact Series, we talked to data users and publishers from a sector with one of the greatest uptakes of Open Data – the Transport Sector. From timetables and routes, roads and infrastructure, to footfall and traffic volumes, there is a wealth of information captured in the transport domain. We looked at how Open Transport Data is being adopted and used, what challenges stakeholders face, and what other transport data could be made available to power innovation.

Driving Open Transport Data session took place on 22nd March 2018 in the beautiful No. 25 Fitzwilliam Place, organised by Derilinx in collaboration with the Open Data Unit of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, the National Transport Authority (NTA), Smart Dublin and Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII). The room was full with over 70 attendees from across industry, the Public Sector, academia and the general public.
The event consisted of three panel discussions with a number of experts from the transport, Smart City fields.

Panel 1: Innovation using Open Transport Data

The first panel considered real examples of how Open Data is being used for innovation in the transport sector and how this can be expanded in the future. Jamie Cudden, Smart City Programme Manager with Dublin City Council and moderator of the session, opened by highlighting that opportunities for new datasets are everywhere and that data is a key factor for innovation and improved decision-making, alongside infrastructural investment.

This was clearly demonstrated through the panellists’ experiences. Cycling has seen enormous growth over recent years. Liberty Bell enables people to record issues while cycling. Sile Ginnane, Co-Owner of Liberty Bell, talked about the importance of hearing the voice of a diverse range of people who cycle, and how openly available data can be used to compliment the qualitative data they collect.

BikeLook addresses bicycle theft using LORA sensors and are currently carrying out trials in Dublin and Switzerland. Mark Bennett, CEO of BikeLook, pointed out that the availability of transport information can help identify more business opportunities for the transport sector, and also highlighted that data protection is a very important to maintain trust.

Energy Elephant, an energy data and analytics company, monitor real-time fuel consumption in cars measuring efficiency. Joe Borza, Cofounder of Energy Elephant, claims that many vehicles are less efficient than advertised and buying decisions are being made based on this incorrect data. Joe highlighted that energy data is a huge underused resource. Most energy in Ireland goes to transport, but there is only about 1,000 electric cars in the country. Also, most of the energy data available and projects are on buildings, not transport energy data – huge opportunity for innovation here.

Car-sharing is another area of the transport sector that is increasing in popularity. Colm Brady, Manging Director of GoCar Ireland, explains this is because cars can cost €11k per year to maintain, yet many people don’t need one or two fulltime cars. GoCar has over 350 vehicles in their fleet and uses Open Data to help determine where the demand for car-sharing could be and how they can complement multi-mode transport. Each car sharing car takes 20-30 cars off the road.

All panellists highlighted the importance of trust, and that engagement will always be more fruitful when there’s respect for the data and the people.

Panel 2: Real-time Transport Data

In the second panel, we looked at the importance of up-to-date, high quality Open Data for users, and the pivotal role of Public Bodies, such as the TII and NTA.

This is clearly evident in the spike in interest in the Real-Time Passenger Information (RTPI) API since it was made available as Open Data, up to 125m requests in 2017 from 50m in 2016 for RTPI. Tom Ryan, Contracts Manager at National Transport Authority (NTA), described the wide impact of this data for journey-planning, route optimisation and planning of multimodal transport links. Tom also highlighted that being able to communicate with users of the data is essential to gather feedback ensuring the reliability and relevance of the available data, and to be able to provide feedback to users on planned updates and outages.

One such user of real-time and historical transport data is CitySwifter, who provide route optimisation for bus networks. Brian O’Rourke, CEO & Co-Founder of CitySwifter, explained how availability of Open Data is key to their service, as they correlate various datasets for analysing and predicting journey-times and passenger demand, supporting longer-term decision-making. For example, CitySwifter have shown that there can be significant effects on real transport schedules against static timetables by many different events, including social, weather, bin collection, etc. However, all of the relevant data is not yet available as Open Data.

Another main data publisher in this space is Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII). Des O’Connor, Data Analyst at TII, talked about the vast amount of data that is collected as part of the Safety, Road and Tunnel, including road traffic collisions, road safety inspections, 55,000 km of breadcrumb data from the yearly road inspections, weather stations, traffic volumes, etc. New EU Directives are promoting the publication of much of this data, including the Road Infrastructure Safety Management Directive (RISM) and the Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) Directive.

A challenge facing Public Bodies is how to support the publication of real-time Open Data in a sustainable manner. Pervasive Nation is an Internet of Things testbed, operated by CONNECT, based on LORA networking technology. Albert Baker, Research Assistant at the CONNECT Centre, pointed out that such a network could help organisations publish real-time information. New sensors can be setup for low cost, low power, and collect information such as temperature, humidity, speed, location, etc. Pervasive Nation is available for pilot projects and collaborations.

Panel 3: Open Data Policy, Publishing and the Future of Intelligent Transport Systems

The third panel focused on the role of policy in the availability of Open Data, the challenges faced by Open Data publishers, and what the future holds for Intelligent Transport Systems. Evelyn O’Connor, Head of the Open Data Unit in the Department of Public Expenditure & Reform, outlined how the Irish Open Data Initiative and our National Portal is ranked as the leader in Europe for Open Data readiness, maturity and impact.

Speaking about the publication and use of Open Data in Smart Cities, Chris Garde, Smart City Planner at Smart Dublin, pointed out that already clean and anonymised datasets make a huge difference on productivity. Data is not just a resource for IT or analysts, but for all arms of the organisation, for example, Planning, Environment and Transportation sections. Chris gave the example of using real-time data from a single bus-gate at the North Quays to update the bus traffic-light sequence, making that crucial junction more efficient for public transport; saving time and improving the lives of people using buses. Easily consumed and interoperable datasets are essential when making faster and better decisions.

A point raised by John McCarthy, Leader of Intelligent Mobility at ARUP, is that getting value from Open Data and encouraging data reuse and sharing is a challenge. Using cutting-edge technologies can help reach this value faster and more efficiently than before, for example, mobility-as-a-service and connected & autonomous vehicles. But it is still important to look at how Open Data fits into the wider data-value chain, how data can benefit both society and business alike. John highlighted that there needs to be a conversation around the integration of public and private data, governance, compliance and risks involved.

This was echoed by Stephen McLoughlin, GIS Analyst / Officer at South Dublin County Council (SDCC), who talked about the challenges that face Public-Bodies when publishing Open Data. Stephen outlined that while people are aware of the benefits of making Open Data available, there are still concerns over ownership and who is responsible for the data. In his GIS work, Stephen sees a growing demand for and move to real-time Open Data, especially in the transport domain. In SDCC, the most popular dataset is the real-time real-time journey times dataset across South Dublin.

As an Open Data user, Kevin O’Shaughnessy, Founder of CityHook, emphasised that clarity and licencing are the most crucial elements of Open Data – not promised for the future. That way, a company like CityHook can realise the commercial benefits of the data by turning data that is already gathered by Public Bodies into information digestible by passengers to make informed choices – in this case about the best transportation from airports.

Feedback from the event was hugely positive, with participants quoting the ‘quality and variety of speakers’ and great ‘networking opportunities’ as some of the main benefits of attending. Some of the suggestions for future events in the series include public-private partnership, local authorities and geospatial data.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all moderators, panellists and attendees of the event. If you would like us to keep you informed about our future events and activities, subscribe to our Newsletter below!