Smarter ways to get around town

Cities are deploying big data and analytics tools to enhance transit systems.
Written by Bob Violino, Contributing Writer on

Smart city deployments: emerging markets vs. mature cities

Enhanced transportation is a big component of emerging smart cities, and municipalities are turning to big data analytics and other technologies to help to create more efficient ways of getting around town.

Some cities are aiming to build and leverage "transportation service networks" that share data on real-time traffic conditions, parking demand, events, smart parking meters, vehicle data, public transportation schedules, on-demand requests, etc., that's stored in data lakes, said Derek Fretheim, director of business development at Moovel, a Daimler-owned company that's developing transportation-related mobile apps for smart cities.

The company is working with a number of cities on smart initiatives that include creating such networks. It's focused on developing a "mobility marketplace" app from which mobility services such as public transit, taxis, transportation network companies, bike share -- all things transportation within a community -- can be accessed.

In one recent example of a smart transportation project, Moovel worked with Orange County Transit Association (OCTA) in California to implement FareConnect, a contactless fare platform that allows transit agencies to deploy or modify fare collection systems without constricting proprietary hardware agreements. Fare Connect provides OCTA with real-time intelligence that tracks rider movement and dynamically calculates fares.

By collecting data on transit activity, cities can conduct analytics, identify trends, and detect surge on the overall transportation network, and as a result, they can more accurately measure how the community is using the transportation system.

"The real-time nature of predictive and data analysis gives cities the ability to manage demand, thereby meeting community needs faster," Fretheim said. "While cities all want data, they need the tools to manage these data sets in a meaningful way. Building the toolset and predictive engine fosters [an] opportunity to manage community demand. This is the core objective to collecting data."

One of the bigger concerns with smart transportation systems, as with smart cities in general, is cyber security threats. And it's not just about payment data and compliance with regulations such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).

"It's about privacy as a whole," Fretheim said. "The big challenge is keeping up with hackers who try and undermine and attack the security protocols. Think about the security breach with Target a few years ago. Reports state that when a hacker obtained a huge amount of personal financial data through an HVAC system, nearly one-third of the US population were affected."

Read also: Five essential steps to becoming a smart city | Louisville to co-create a smart city with its citizen scientists

In addition to deploying technology to gather and analyze data, cities need to forge partnerships between their public transit agencies and private companies in order to improve connectivity and mobility in cities, Fretheim said.

"When you layer into the mix the countless data sources a city needs to insure it's 'smart', you realize a city can't be smart without private sector collaboration in resources, expertise, and data," Fretheim said.

For example, consider the automotive industry and in-vehicle telematics. "You can imagine the complexity to building a repository for automobile data, which is just one contributor to a huge list of transportation data providers required to manage mobility in a community," Fretheim said. "So cities really need to leverage the public-private partnership mechanism to build out their smart city landscape."

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