Geospatial Commission recognises value of Transport Data

The UK Geospatial Commission has recently published a report titled “Positioning the UK in the fast lane, Location data opportunities for better UK transport”
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/positioning-the-uk-in-the-fast-lane-location-data-opportunities-for-better-uk-transport

This report highlights key common themes and crosscutting challenges, based on six transport use cases, where geospatial product and services could unlock greatest benefit.

  1. Treating mobility as an interconnected system:
    We will need to have a common location data framework for defining our transport networks.
  2. Data interoperability and standards:
    Standards must be implemented in the way that transport location data is collected, stored and managed.
  3. Making data more findable and accessible:
    Data must be made more discoverable and easier to access.
  4. Improving data reuse:
    Data is rarely useful for a singular purpose and must be made available for reuse where possible.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

These 6 themes very closely align with the aims of The Open Transport Initiative to ensure that transport & mobility data is F.A.I.R (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable & Reusable).

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.

Mapping transport & mobility modes

Some readers of this blog may be aware that we have spent some some back in 2019 defining the different modes of transport & mobility. These also have been mapped / compared to both the Mobility Data Specification (MDS) and General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS).

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.

Please let us know what you think, if our categorisation is correct and what modes we may have missed: contact@opentransport.co.uk

Central Mobility Operator Directory launches

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.

The directory is now live at https://www.otidirectory.com and we hope that this project will be embraced as an industry standard.

The 1st Central Operator Service for Transport & Mobility

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.

Subsequently, after feedback from various organisations, we updated and aligned this Open Standard to a wider Internet-of-Things (IoT) data discoverability Open Standard (PAS212).

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/

Start thinking differently about transport & mobility data

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.

But to do this doesn’t just require technology change (e.g. the creation and use of Open API standards for mobility data interoperability), it needs a mindset change to:

  • Introduce legislation to mandate that Smart Data practices are adopted
  • Create the right support entity to help with the implementation of standards and policies
  • Establish sector-wide governance to ensure that processes, data sharing and other societal & commercial considerations (e.g. accessibility, fairness, etc.) are maintained over time

So who will be the first transport authority to think this differently?

Winning ‘Ticketing Enabler of the Year’ at Transport Ticketing Awards

This is a great week for The Open Transport Initiative. Not only have we launched the Data Spectrum for Transport and Mobility to an enthusiastic reception, but we are now also delighted to win Ticketing Enabler of the Year 2021 at the Global Transport and Ticketing Awards.

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.

Launching The Data Spectrum for Transport & Mobility

Today we launched ‘The Data Spectrum for Transport and Mobility’ in partnership with MaaS Scotland. This follows a detailed piece of work to adapt the Data Spectrum from the Open Data Institute specifically to transport and mobility data.

Further details are available on this page:
https://opentransport.co.uk/the-data-spectrum-for-transport-mobility/

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.

The Data Spectrum for Transport and Mobility is published under Creative Commons “by SA” license and is free to use and share by all.

If anyone has any feedback or suggestions, they can contact us via:  contact@opentransport.co.uk


Shortlisted for new Transport Ticketing Award

The Open Transport Initiative is delighted to have been shortlisted for the category ‘Ticketing Enabler of the Year’ at the Transport Ticketing Awards.
https://www.transport-ticketing.com/awards-categories/2021-short-list

This is a new category for 2021 and recognises the importance that enabling layers play in the success of transport and mobility services.  

Hayden Sutherland, Founder & Chair of The Open Transport Initiative, stated “I would very much like to thank Transport Ticketing Global for recognising our work in creating and driving forward Open Standards for the sharing of transport & mobility customer data.”

Open, shared and closed data for micro-mobility

Yesterday (27th May 2021) our Founder & Chair Hayden Sutherland gave a talk on “Data standards for micro-mobility providers, authorities & customers” to the Transport Data Initiative.

In this presentation he covered:

  1. The language of data (how terminology is mixed up and confusing)
  2. Definitions for the terms Open Data & Shared Data
  3. The draft Data Spectrum for Transport & Mobility
  4. F.A.I.R Data Principles
  5. A Mobility Data Checklist

The session also had presentations from

  • Innovate UK – UKRI
  • Newcastle University
  • Staffordshire Council

Using data-driven mobility to transform the world

Yesterday (18th May 2021) our Chair & Founder Hayden Sutherland took part in a Shaping Mobility webinar on the topic of “How data-driven mobility transforms the world”. This session, organised and moderated by PTV Group, had input from other respected transport industry specialists from the UK Department of Transport and TomTom.

The topics discussed included:

  • How should authorities use data to optimize mobility?
  • What kind of data fits to which community & transport operator?
  • Can all of us be assured that data of our movements is in safe hands?

Unsurprisingly Hayden mentioned how different types of data from across the Data Spectrum (especially Shared and Open data) can be used to help cities and authorities understand and use mobility data better. But also that data should be made FAIR:
– Findable
– Accessible
– Interoperable
– Reusable

You can watch the entire hour-long video here: