By Harry van Huyssteen, Transport Industry Subject Matter Expert, Sales & Service Management, T-Systems South Africa In the field of public transport, South Africa is battling some unique challenges: the legacies of historical urban planning programmes, complex inter-relationships of formal and informal travel systems, fragmented and disconnected bus, train and taxi networks, and a section of the population stubbornly insistent on using private cars. Overcoming these challenges is proving to be a slow and painstaking journey; but it’s one that could certainly be accelerated by smartly applying technology. [caption id="attachment_2607" align="alignleft" width="229"] Harry van Huyssteen, Transport Industry Subject Matter Expert, Sales & Service Management, T-Systems South Africa[/caption] Big Data, in particular, has the potential to ease the transit flows for millions of daily commuters, and unlock huge economic value. In fact, there are four key areas in which Big Data can be applied to SA’s public transport:
- Planning urban commuter networks… geolocation technology can reveal essential information on where people are, where they’re going, how long it is taking them, and so on. With this information at your fingertips, it’s possible to plan public transit systems that match customer needs. Detailed information reveals insights at a very granular level – like the number of train carriages required at certain times of the day – to ensure the optimal allocation of resources.
- Predictive analytics/maintenance… Sensors embedded in physical equipment stream data back to a central hub, giving authorities insights into key metrics – such as commuter volumes at certain times of the day, or average waiting times. On physical equipment, maintenance-oriented sensors give us an early warning of when components are likely to malfunction – improving uptime and reducing the chances that commuters are left stranded.
- Responding to events… Data-gathering becomes highly-useful when responding to accidents or incidents. Alerts can be automatically dispatched to police and emergency services, who can speed up the process of clearing the incident and get traffic moving once again. Alternative routes can be suggested to travellers via mobile alerts, or digital signage, for instance.
- Personalised service… Though public transport has traditionally been a not-for-profit service rather than a revenue-generating endeavour, tailored digital marketing is an opportunity for operators to grow new revenue streams. As Big Data enables a sharper understanding of one’s customers, information alerts can be targeted at only those who would need to know about a specific issue (rather than bulk SMSes to a broad database of commuters).