By: Laura Schewel on August 6th, 2015

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3 Ways You Can Better Use Big Data

Big Data | Transportation

For Transportation and Urban Planning, the phrase Big Data” can mean a variety of things. Today, we’re talking about Big Data that is gathered from hundreds of millions of mobile devices across the US, such as smart phones, connected cars, and wearables, and that are used to measure mobility patterns. We call this “Massive Mobile Data Analytics.” Using Massive Mobile Data Analytic techniques, the anonymous, archival, and messy data from these devices can be turned into useful information that unlocks great value for transportation engineers and planners. The most fundamental improvement is that such Big Data allows you to measure behavior that was previously unmeasurable - whether actually impossible to measure or so expensive it was effectively impossible.

StreetLight has worked hard to fill in the missing data gaps for transportation planners with Massive Mobile Data Analytics resources that accurately describe patterns today, can measure changes over time, and dig in deep to diagnose problems. This post details three of the most popular ways to use such analytics for the space.

Travel Demand Models Calibration

Travel Demand Models are a standard tool in in the industry and will continue to be so moving forward. But, all models need calibration to ensure they’re properly capturing existing behavior in order to best predict future behavior.

Massive Mobile Data Analytics enables fast and accurate Origin and Destination analyses with great spatial precision. Whether understanding behavior along specific roads within a neighborhood or intra-country travel, Massive Mobile Data Analytics can allow you to easily understand current behavior. The ability to run such analyses so quickly also allows more opportunities to iterate on one model, or create multiple models, in a shorter time frame.

Before and After Studies

In some planning situations, it is critical to measure how behavior changed in an area after a specific event. The event could be something major, such as a change in a toll-road price or the opening of a new highway on-ramp, or something small, such as on-going construction along the main commercial roadway in a town.

Massive Mobile Data Analytics is very powerful for “going back in time” to do such Before and After Analysis, even well after the time in question. This data is continuously generated, ubiquitous and stored after created. It’s there whether you need to use it or not. Therefore, whenever you decide you want to do the analysis, you can easily “query” the data for the particular geographic area for the the different time periods to see how behavior has changed. You’re able to control what questions are asked of the data for both time periods, to ensure a similar analysis, and with very little marginal cost.

Analyzing Trends

Moving beyond just a “before and after” analysis, there is big value in understanding trends in travel behavior over time. Whether monitoring how behavior changes from season to season or annual changes due to ups and downs in overall economic activity and development. Traditionally such monitoring would be very difficult and extremely costly. Massive Mobile Data Analytics provides an affordable and easy mechanism to do long term monitoring and quick crunching of the data to identify most significant changes in travel behavior.

If you’d like to learn more about what our clients have done with Massive Mobile Data Analytics or how StreetLight could help with your work, please contact us.


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