There are many terms relating to data being used in the transport and mobility industry right now, with individuals confusing or mixing them up. This has resulted in stakeholders and external observers misunderstanding the industry’s level of data maturity and its commitment to certain standards and practices.
In other words, transport and mobility organisations are using different terms about data interchangeably and these terms are not the same ones used in other industries. This needs to stop and we all need to agree definitions that align with those used by banking, finance, energy, etc.
Two key definitions that we feel need clarification and definition are Open Data and Smart Data.
Open Data for Transport
Open Data is data which is available to all and free to use for any purpose.
Examples of Open Data in transport include public transit timetables & schedules and some operational mobility information, such as anonymised vehicle locations or arrival times.
The most obvious example of Open Data being implemented in transport right now in the UK is the Bus Open Data Service which provides bus timetable data for every local bus service in England.
Smart Data for Transport
Smart data is data which is owned by a customer and then shared with their permission (note: some industries also call this “shared data”).
A recent report from UK Government department BEIS called “Next steps for Smart Data : Putting consumers and SMEs in control of their data and enabling innovation” defines Smart Data as: the secure and consented sharing of customer data with authorised third party providers.
For transport this would mean a customer giving permission to share their ticket or journey data, typically held in an online account, with another authorised third party. This could be another account that the customer has with a different Transport Provider or alternatively a system such as a ‘Delay Replay’ service (which automatically calculates the refund the customer is entitled to when a train, bus or plane journey they have made is delayed).
Sharing Smart Data between customer accounts with different transport providers and Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) platforms needs technical system integration. This integration can either be done in a bespoke way (e.g. every transport provider or their systems vendor integrates with each other potentially using different technologies and different specifications) or in a consistent and standardised way (e.g. all providers and platforms use the same Application Programming Interface / API to interface with each other, ideally conforming to an Open Standard – one that is freely available and can be adopted by anyone else).
A Smart Data standard for transport already exists
The Open Transport Initiative was set-up to develop and promote the use of Open Standards for Transport & Mobility, resulting in us publishing an Open Standard for the sharing of transport account data (tickets/purchases, usage/journeys and discounts/concessions) between different providers and platforms. We have therefore created a freely available standard for Smart Data integration across the transport and mobility industry.