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.
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:
Blog Posts: Data
Citizen Sense is an European Research Council project investigating the relationship between technologies and practices of environmental sensing and citizen engagement. The project runs from 2013 – 2017 and is being led by Dr Jennifer Gabrys. According to the project’s home page: Practices of monitoring and sensing environments have migrated to a number of everyday participatory […]
Mission Control: A History of the Urban Dashboard is a fascinating article taking you from the word dashboard’s origin through examples of what we think of today as urban dashboards. But it’s more than a history, author Shannon Mattern integrates critical thought about data, how it’s analysed and used, as well as ideas for the […]
BreezoMeter combines publicly available air quality data and weather data with algorithms they have developed to provide hyper-local (i.e., type in an address) air quality information in real time. The app also makes recommendations for whether it’s a good idea to go for a run, or take your kids for a walk. As Ben Schiller writes in FastCo, BreezoMeter […]
The San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTC) recently developed a website called Vital Signs that presents data and information about selected regional transport, environmental and economic measures. The site provides analysis of data and allows users to download the data so they can make their own analyses. It’s a nice project, we hope opening up this […]