Data Collection and Analysis
The widespread availability of computers and inexpensive sensors makes it possible for residents to collect and analyse transport data in ways that could hardly be imagined just a few years ago. Residents can use purpose-built or smartphone sensors to monitor air quality, count traffic or track their trips. They can combine this data with open data sets (see: Transit Center: Data seeking open-minded transit agencies – on the benefits of open data) to create new applications or analyses. This page summarises crowdsourced data collection and analysis.
Sensor Based Data Collection
The ability of residents to collect data means that agencies can no longer hide behind data. It’s possible for neighbourhood residents to measure air quality or traffic volumes themselves. They can use this information to check official figures and/or develop their own ideas for solving transport problems.
For example, Japanese citizens were the first to publicly describe radiation impacts of the Fukushima earthquake, the government was forced to take action after citizens publicised the data. The European Commission’s Making Sense Project is developing a toolkit to help residents develop and use sensors to improve their environment.
In the transport-related sector sensors have been developed for:
GPS Tracking Data Collection
The GPS function in mobile devices enables applications to track users as they travel. These data are an excellent source of planning and transport information. They show paths actually taken by users (more accurate than questionnaires) and also enable users to add information to maps (for example: problem locations). It’s also possible to track users in real time to obtain actual speed information (e.g., WAZE tracks users to understand roadway congestion).
Tracking applications have been developed for all transport modes. Many bicycling and walking apps have been developed commercially as “fitness” apps. They represent a goldmine of information for planners and agencies, but require making agreements to obtain the data.
Open Source Data
Open source data is information provided by agencies and organisations (e.g., geographic and socio-economic data). Agencies make this data available for residents to use and analyse.
The great benefit of open source data is that residents often think outside of traditional silos. They combine data sets from different agencies and in different ways. This makes it possible to draw new conclusions and identify potential improvements, especially more comprehensive ideas.
Many agencies organise Hackathons to develop new apps using open source data, an excellent resource is: New York’s Pursuit of a More Useful App Contest from the Atlantic’s CityLab.
Public agencies are increasingly offering their data via open source. Many agencies require users to sign an agreement to access and use the data. It’s important that agencies offer data in machine readable formats rather than scanned copies of data tables via pdf.
Transitland collects and standardizes public data sets for developers. Read more from Wired: Transit nerds get a handy new tool for easily turning data into apps by Aarian Marshall, 7 June 2016.
Transport for London is a leader in providing open data about its services. Here’s a case study on open data at Transport for London.
The World Bank is supporting efforts to make traffic data open as part of the Open Traffic Partnership. Read more at: Open Traffic Data to Revolutionize Transport from the World Bank’s website (December 2016).
GovLab and the Omidyar Network have developed a website (http://odimpact.org/) with detailed open data case studies from around the world. It’s an excellent resource for anyone interested in open data. One of the case studies coming soon document’s Transport for London’s fantastic open data program.
The real value of resident-collected data is created when residents share their data so that others can analyse it and use it in their own applications (in other words, it’s good for residents to provide open access to their data, just like it’s good for government to do so).
There are a variety of networks developed to share user collected data. Often sensor builders create their own data sharing network on the Internet as part of the project. For example you can go to the Smart Citizen site to see all the data collected with the Smart Citizen environmental data sensors worldwide.
More information about data networks is available from the following resources:
Citi-Sense Project – is an EU funded research project designed to help facilitate creation of a “sensor-based Citizens’ Observatory Community for improving quality of life in cities”. The CITI-SENSE Citizens’ Observatory Web Portal provides an access point to all the apps, widgets, web pages and sensor based tools and questionnaires developed in the project. The website includes information about using the apps, accessing data collected, and general information about sensing devices, and how to use them.
Citizen-Generated Data and Governments: Towards a Collaborative Model – is a research report by Christopher Wilson and Zara Rahman describing “how government hosting of citizen‑generated data sets (CGD) can meet the needs of both governments and civil society, and open up opportunities for increased collaboration between government and civil society on collecting and sharing data, and using data to monitor and enhance progress on sustainable development. The report describes (1) the idea, (2) the incentives, obstacles and benefits in the context of open data, and (3) a model for this type of collaboration. More information on the report from DataShift.
Citizen Sense – is a European Research project investigating the relationship between technologies and practices of environmental sensing and citizen engagement. Projects include using sensors to map and track flora and fauna (Wild Sensing), using sensors to monitor environmental quality (Pollution Sensing), and, using sensors in smart city projects (Urban Sensing).
The Internet of Anything: A Social Network for the World’s Online Sensors – WIRED article by Klint Finley (12.08.2014) describes OpenSensors.io, a project by Atomic Data Labs built to simplify large scale publishing and subscribing of device data. Thanks GovLab.
Living Mobs – is an application developed by Gómez-Mont, Jose Castillo and Carlos Gershenson designed to use big data to solve Mexico City’s traffic problems. The plan includes Living Mobs, a data-donating platform that collects information on origin and destination, transit times, and modes of transit. Read more on Next City: How a Mexico City Traffic Experiment Connects to Community Trust.
Blog Posts: Data
Alan Bell has used machine learning to develop a program that analyses data from traffic cameras to identify blocked bus and bike lanes. He analysed a section of St. Nicholas Avenue in Manhattan and found that the bike lane was blocked 55% of the time and the bus stop was blocked 57% of the time […]
The Transit Alliance Miami has created a simple graphic display illustrating the time between Miami Metrorail trains (frequency) at the Government Center station. They have taken Metrorail data and displayed it in an easy to understand format. It is an excellent example of how city residents can use open data to analyse and publicise the […]
The Making Sense project is funded by the European Commission and has the mission to make advances and experiments in participatory sensing. According to making-sense.eu Making Sense aims to explore how open source software, open source hardware, digital maker practices and open design can be effectively used by local communities to fabricate their own sensing tools, […]
Getting Smart on Data: Challenges and Opportunities for Transport Authorities from Emerging Data Sources was produced by the Urban Transport Group and presents results of an emerging data catapult meeting held in May 2016. The report presents very helpful and interesting information.