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Public Sector

What Oslo's buses can teach us about data collection

Oslo's city buses are paving the way for better public services and transit experiences.

Seedsscientific.com claims that, as of January 2020, the world produced approximately 44 zettabytes of data. For clarity, one zettabyte has twenty-one zeros.

And, everyday we produce more. Forbes states: “There are 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created each day... that pace is only accelerating with the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT). Over the last two years alone, 90 percent of the data in the world was generated."

Putting it to good use means using data to facilitate innovative urban planning, policy-making and the creation of new public services and applications.

For instance, in 2016 Norway's largest transport authority, Ruter, installed sensors on 400+ Oslo city buses to count passenger numbers. This was the first move towards what Ruter CEO, Bernt Reitan Jenssen, refers to as “bus as a service".

Realizing that city buses travel virtually everywhere in Oslo, Ruter decided to expand the project, transforming the vehicles into IoT data collection devices to support future applications.

While this can help improve transit coverage and rider experience, it also has the potential to create an overall higher quality of living.

Ruter City Bus in Oslo, Norway

400+ buses in Oslo are streaming data back to Ruter's control system in a test that will enable future applications such as “time to next stop"

Enabling easier data management

Prior to the upgrade, Oslo city buses used seven separate, privately-owned, on-board systems which supported live data functions. This included ticketing, rider information, location tracking and technical upkeep.

Unfortunately, these systems didn't interoperate and in some cases required separate radio communications for individual uses.

In May 2018, Ruter announced plans to make improvements by implementing an open and standards-based IT platform, provided by ITxTP, featuring interfaces and practices that all vendors would support.

The immediate benefit for Ruter was easier data management, improved access and shorter implementation times for new functions.

"So instead of five vendors providing seven systems, this will turn into a fantastic platform where new services can be created. Not only for our needs tied to the buses themselves, but also for many other needs that aren't related to mass transit at all," Jenssen told ZDNet.

"Plug & Play"

A public slide share presentation by Christoffer Vig, software developer at CoWorkForce, suggests that the future of data on Oslo's transit vehicles will be a “plug and play system", intended to work seamlessly upon connection without reconfiguration or adjustment by the user:

- Advanced monitoring system will keep track of bus progress, driver and passenger information while calculating “time to next stop"

- Dynamic system allows for continuous stream of data from bus to “back-office", permitting data-intensive computing and machine learning

- Seamless real time data streaming for public transport functions

Data, the story of our lives

Ruter's smart bus on-board sensors will continuously collect information including traffic speed, light, noise and pollution sending detailed data to the control center. This data will also be made available for public use.

But what exactly will all this data be used for, besides more efficient transit routing and service?

Here are few ideas:

  1. Governmental: gain insight into existing policy activity, aid stakeholders, predict new trends/needs, reduce transaction costs, monitor implementation of activities, manage resources and increase efficiency by removing the need for citizens to supply information
  2. Business: open public data can facilitate new business opportunities, industries and strategic models benefiting entrepreneurs and students with the jobs that follow
  3. Energy: tracking utility usage can help facilitate green initiatives like automated lighting, reduce consumption and implement new cost and energy saving technologies in addition to analyzing large scale energy operators
  4. Health: noise and pollution levels can be measured and better controlled via data, the sensors can even classify the type of noise/pollution produced

Through the story of statistics, numbers and figures data has the potential to reveal how we live. Having access to accurate data is critical in determining how to move forward and implement improved urban strategies.

Oslo's new “bus as service" system is an excellent case study for smart cities of the future because city buses are like an omniscient witness interacting with diverse neighborhoods, environments, and urban conditions helping to ensure that future applications benefit the majority rather than the few.

See how IoT can help you connect with the story of your city.

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