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  • 23 July, 2019

What does Big Data mean for the future of transport in Europe?

There’s a lot going on these days with Big Data, the collection of numerous data sets from many different sources to extrapolate patterns that could help improve operations and save costs in many fields. Two years ago, 48 transport industry leaders in what became known as the TransformingTransport project came together to examine how Big Data could actually streamline operations, achieve savings, lower transport’s environmental impact and bring benefits to travelers. Now that the project has come to an end, and after 13 different pilot cases involving rail, road, air and sea transport, the huge benefits that Big Data can bring have been brought to the surface.


TransformingTransport developed new approaches to alleviate traffic by predicting and pre-empting road accidents, thanks to Big Data from traffic sensors, cameras, weather reports, accidents, social media and electronic road signs. It also tested how cars within a fleet can communicate so that road authorities can see the bigger picture and improve traffic management accordingly, with the added result of reducing emissions and speeding up deliveries in the logistics sector.


Within the rail sector, Big Data proved its worthiness in identifying potential rail equipment breakdown before it even happens, thanks to powerful new software that identifies equipment failure or weak points on rail lines. New maintenance solutions, enhanced by sensor data and predictive models that reveal track degradation, represented a crucial development in this direction. Improved performance and reduced maintenance costs are likely to emerge if rail operators implement these Big Data solutions once they hit the market.


Port operations will also benefit from Big Data exploitation, which promises to create intelligent logistics hubs. By analysing port terminal data, ports can shift from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance (especially in the case of cranes), which in turn will minimise downtime and save considerable amounts of money (think less delays of port containers). Big Data can also enhance real-time monitoring of container movements to enhance the expected benefits.


With respect to air travel, Big Data use showed promise in helping aeroplanes turn around more quickly at airports, which can bring major savings for airlines and increase comfort for travellers. Using Big Data to study passenger flow has also proven successful in speeding up the boarding and turnaround process, in addition to providing valuable insight on how to stoke airport shopping and create new business models.


The logistics sector is also set to benefit by using Big Data in order to understand truck movements and speed up deliveries. Big Data gleaned from road cameras, social media and other sources was pivotal in demonstrating how freight delivery can become faster in an urban setting. The pilot projects also helped develop new models for loading and unloading trucks in the city, promising to make life easier for both logistics companies and city dwellers.


Last but not least, TransformingTransport focused on improving e-commerce logistics, thanks to better identification of delivery patterns and enhanced prediction of future delivery demand. It also articulated last-mile distribution improvements, gained better consumer insights on delivery and proposed better shipping methods in cities. There is no doubt that the Big Data solutions developed under the TransformingTransport project will help create a paradigm shift in the transport sector, with important benefits for all parties involved.

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