Event round-up: The future of transport - improving journeys through data roundtable
techUK was delighted to partner with Amazon Web Services (AWS) in November 2023 to convene senior leaders from across industry and public sector to discuss the future of transport. The wide ranging conversation highlighted the importance of setting the right data strategy to improve transport network performance for customers, reduce environmental impact and grow the economy. In this round-up, Deepak Shukla, Data and AI Go to Market Leader at AWS provides his reflections on the discussion.
Understanding transport data
A lack of understanding surrounding data availability and discovery for the transport sector was identified as one of the key blockers to greater efficiencies across the network. The Department for Transport’s Data Strategy, published March 2023, attempts to address this through emphasising the importance of data discoverability and a data-literate culture. I believe we can go one step further through harnessing the power of innovation to automate data definitions and help write contextual data (the metadata). This will unlock new opportunities for collaboration and enhanced capabilities. To do that, we must also adopt a mindset of managing transport data as a product which could be used or shared as any other commercial product we see in the market.
Scaling Transport for London open data learnings
Transport for London (TfL) is a world-leader in open data for transport. In 2017, TfL was already generating annual economic benefits and savings of up to £130m for travellers, London and TfL itself through opening up its data.
With this foundation, we should be looking at further innovation, leveraging data sets from across public and private sectors to create more jobs and opportunities. Most importantly, we can build from the learnings in London and scale to other major cities like Newcastle, Edinburgh and Manchester. Adopting common data standards across transport network will help accelerate this journey and I was especially pleased to hear discussions on industry data standards as organisations build new products.
Ownership to drive data monetisation
We heard some great ideas on how data could be leveraged to drive more efficiency within the transport value chain and drive more data monetisation opportunities through public private partnerships.
However, the question of ownership remains; especially around who is responsible for driving this collaboration forward. I suggest that the best way forward will be through private sector leadership, with strong support and backing from the public sector. Innovative governance structures pioneered by the Department for Transport, could also be transformative in identifying new opportunities and build solutions of economic and commercial value to the citizens and businesses.
Data sharing and collaboration
The importance of common data environments, such as data marketplaces and data lakes, was identified as a key method of unlocking innovation and driving integrated transport. These will form the backbone of transport solutions such as Mobility as a Service, smart ticketing and network optimisation.
The Rail Data Marketplace is seen as a good step forward to bringing this to life through removing barriers to access; delivering a new way of sharing data between consumers – including technology firms, developers, academia – and the broader rail industry. However, data quality and standards are critical for ensuring interoperability with the wider transport sector and accuracy for customers.
With increased adoption of disruptive AI and Generative AI technologies, we discussed the legitimate concern around measuring the environmental impacts of these technologies. Digital technology can, and is, a force for good, that plays a significant role in helping decarbonise transport; a sector responsible for over 25% of total greenhouse gas emissions across Europe.
However, we must be alive to the fact that digital is not without its own environmental impact, as we demand ever greater levels of data processing power and storage. We need to ensure that hyperscalers do their part to mitigate impact, and share and educate technology adopters on environmental implications of using Generative AI and other advanced technologies.
To conclude, it’s clear that driving the next wave of digital transformation in transport will require a significant shift, where organisations are adopting a product oriented mindset as they work with their data. Innovative governance mechanism are required to ensure requirements of the wider ecosystem are considered as individual modes create their own products. This will help lay data foundations for sub-sectors to collaborate with data and deliver superior citizen experiences, supported by monetisation opportunities used to support long-term financial sustainability, in-turn driving improvement to services for all.
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