The transport and mobility sector has a fundamental role in tackling climate change. As the second largest emitter of Greenhouse gasses (mainly CO2) it has a major responsibility to protect our planet.
If you are a delegate or participating at COP26 today, you can see a session run by Hayden Sutherland, our Founder & Chair. This session called “What is Transport” is part of the Future of Transport event, in the KTN Space & Geospatial Virtual Pavilion for COP26. https://ktn-uk.org/events/space-geospatial-virtual-pavilion/
Organisations in every sector must abide by some form of rules and regulations. Whether these are Health & Safety, employment, competition, taxation or just the legal constraints of existing in a modern civilised society… every one of them is governed in some way to protect their customers, staff or the wider economy.
So unsurprisingly there are a lot of rules covering different modes of transport: Buses have to be road-worthy. Trains have to stop in the right places. Ferries have to be water-tight. Seatbelts have to be worn by all car occupants. And even cable cars require their own legislation to allow them to be permitted, policed and issue penalty fares issues.
There are also many laws about the storage, use and transmission of customer data. In fact, most UK adults will now have some awareness of data security rules and compliance (e.g. by using something as simple as a password to lock access to their mobile device) and big companies are increasingly aware of the threat of cybercrime and data loss.
But in the virtual Venn diagram that intersects both customer data and transport & mobility standards, there are very few specific rules and even fewer open data standards.
This means that questions in this area go unanswered, such as:
Where does customer ticket data reside and who has access to it?
How can new tech providers and value-added mobility services integrate accounts into an existing ecosystem?
What happens when a customer lives within the jurisdiction of one transport authority but works in another, but wants to have a consolidated view of all their journeys?
What happens when a customer wants to unregister with an account based ticketing service and be forgotten?
What happens when there are different technical options for account integrations and a decision on which to take is required?
This lack of customer data governance is holding back the transport and mobility sector. Other sectors such as banking, finance, healthcare and energy have all mobilised to enable customer account data sharing across different suppliers and technologies. Creating frameworks and blueprints for the adoption of data interoperability BEFOE legislation is created that mandates such actions.
This report highlights key common themes and crosscutting challenges, based on six transport use cases, where geospatial product and services could unlock greatest benefit.
Treating mobility as an interconnected system: We will need to have a common location data framework for defining our transport networks.
Data interoperability and standards: Standards must be implemented in the way that transport location data is collected, stored and managed.
Making data more findable and accessible: Data must be made more discoverable and easier to access.
Improving data reuse: Data is rarely useful for a singular purpose and must be made available for reuse where possible.
Enabling greener modes of transport: We will need to transform the sector in order to meet the UK’s commitments around achieving net zero by 2050.
Unlocking the potential for data-driven innovation in transport: Organisations will need access to capital, skills and ideas, as well as a smart and stable regulatory framework to support data-driven innovation.
Although there was no mention of encouraging all transport providers & Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) platforms to adopt smart data sharing standards, therefore allowing customer account data to be portable… the first step of making transport location data sharable across an entire transport ecosystem is a positive move for our sector.
Our first attempt at defining our own mode classifications aligned very closely to the TOMP-API specification’s definitions, so we merged that work into our own (and added a few more modes on top). Since then we have used this definition of the basis of our “Customer-Account” data sharing specification and also our “Operator-Information” API specification… leading to us launching this as an actual sector-specific directory for making shared / smart transport data more findable.
However, we have more recently been engaging with other organisation & bodies, to further align our data standards work with different sectors including: smart cities, business transport and freight.
This has led us to design a map of all transport & mobility modes that shows their different classifications and categories. And the above diagram shows our current draft version (v0.3), based upon feedback from several online forums and discussion areas.
We have some great news to share… the launch of our Central Mobility Operator Directory. Here’s lead developer David O’Neill explaining the project in more detail…
Over the last 6 weeks, I have been working in partnership with the Open Transport Initiative to produce a live operator directory, in line with the operator-info API specification The first stage of the project was to choose the correct technology to build and host the API in order to meet the non-functional requirement of scalability. We agreed to begin development with Flask, the Python framework – code can be found at: https://github.com/DavidONeill75101/open-transport-operator-api
The Open Transport Initiative identified a spreadsheet as an appropriate tool to store the operator data, providing simple access which required no programming knowledge. As a result, the API was configured to pull data from the spreadsheet using pandas, the Python library, to manipulate it and return the necessary JSON
Once the build stage was complete, our efforts moved onto hosting the API. AWS Elastic Beanstalk was chosen as an effective tool as it automatically provided the necessary auto-scaling and load balancing to meet non-functional requirements. We ensured that the API was configured to scale successfully to meet the demands of spikes in traffic and continue to monitor how it handles many requests.
After deliberation, we opted to register a domain with the “.com” TLD instead of “.co.uk”. We agreed that this was the correct move since the API could be adopted internationally, while also routing queries down the path /uk. Finally, we configured the domain to run over https ensuring that all data is encrypted in transit.
Released at the same time as the “customer account” API specification in early 2020, our “central operator” Open Standard became the first (and only) look-up specification to enable shared data (AKA smart data) sources to be found across all modes of transport within an entire mobility ecosystem.
However, since then not much has been done with it. Until now… as we have made the decision to build and release a fully working central directory for the discovery of shared transport & mobility data.
Background Our Operator-info API specification is the design for a centralised API look-up service for finding the location of data across different Transport operators. Mobility providers and MaaS platforms. A first-of-a-kind technical directory service it allows one Operator’s system to automatically find the latest URL of data (e.g. the Customer-account API) provided by another operator, regardless of transport mode. https://app.swaggerhub.com/apis/open-transport/operator-info/
The transport and mobility sector is seeing the benefit of publishing Open Data (data that is made freely available without license or limitation). For example, the release of Open Data by Transport for London (TfL) was calculated by Deloitte as generating annual economic benefits and savings of up to £130m for travellers, London and TfL itself.
Plus Open Data from transport & mobility providers and their platforms can also contribute to improving societal outcomes, encourage innovation and the wider environment. e.g. by changing behaviours and enabling geographic regions to take advantage of new commercial opportunities.
But Open Data is just one type of data and potentially the easiest (or least problematic) to deal with. Sitting on the far right of the Data Spectrum for Transport & Mobility it enables the sharing of data entities such as timetables, fares and routes.
The next challenge is for the sector to understand and work together, in a correct and consistently way, to support the introduction and ongoing management of shared data initiatives, also called Smart Data by the UK Government. Smart Data is defined as that data which is owned by a customer who then gives permission for it to be shared with specific partners – either on a named (one-to-one) basis or on a group-based (less explicitly = depersonalised) basis. This is the data that sits in the middle of the Data Spectrum and requires the use of consent permission & security controls.
This is a new category for the Transport and Ticketing Awards this year and was created “to recognise an enabling solution that supports ticketing innovations across the industry.”
The Open Transport Initiative was launched in October 2019 with the purpose of developing and promoting Open Standards for transport & mobility data interoperability. In that short space of time the Initiative has gained a huge amount of momentum and built significant awareness across the sector.
Winning the ‘Ticketing Enabler of the Year’ award adds validation to all the effort that the team have put in over the last 2 years. We hope that this helps to communicate the work of The Open Transport Initiative even further and encourages transport authorities, transport solution providers and Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) platforms to adopt our free standards and move the sector towards the complete adoption of customer data interoperability.
This diagram is a significant step forward in the data maturity of the sector and it is the first to align transport and mobility to data terminology already used by other sectors such as banking, energy, and smart cities.