In recent weeks there has been a couple of developments in the use of IT and mobile data to help improve personal travel which are worth noting:
1) According to various reports, IBM researchers in Dublin have used data from millions of mobile phone users in Africa to design more efficient public transport. The project was part of ‘Data for Development’ a research challenge from Orange in which the mobile phone company released 2.5 billion (anonymous) call records from five million cell phone users in Ivory Coast, West Africa.
The phone data showed the locations of calls in Abidjan, the capital city, allowing IBM to model people’s movements. The city has around 540 large buses, 5,000 minibuses and 11,000 shared taxis to get people around the city. As a result of its research, IBM was able to suggest changes in bus routes that could potentially cut travel times by 10%.
The IBM project findings were presented at the Data for Development conference on 1 May, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
The company, formed in April and called Mobidot, is a spin-off from the SUNSET research and development project, which is itself part of the European Commission’s Seventh Framework program (FP7) Smart Cities & Sustainability.
Mobidot brings its services to travellers via apps on their smartphone and will also let people share their mobility data via social media and start competitive gaming on common mobility challenges.
The company was formed by four employees of Novay, a Netherlands-based research institute, and aims to be an ICT service provider to profit- and non-profit organisations interested in personal mobility data and traveller-centred behavioural change, such as municipalities, research institutes, transport companies and mobility service providers.
Review: The advantage of ‘smart travel’, which is what these IT/communications innovations are about, is that it makes life easier for travellers while also making more efficient use of transport systems and hence reducing carbon emissions. As the Smart 2020 report pointed out, ICT has a significant part to play in reducing emissions from transport. The updated Smarter 2020 report estimates that the use of ICT could help reduce emissions from the transportation sector by 1.9 GtCO2e by 2020, almost a quarter of the expected level of emissions under a ‘business as usual’ scenario.
Smarter transport includes a range of approaches that any organisation can adopt and an area where CSR organisations can drive through change. It covers telecommuting and optimising logistics operations as well as less technology-based strategies such as eco-driving and using electric vehicles.