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Big Data, IoT and How Tech is Transforming Mobility

Adopted ten times faster than personal computers, smart devices certainly have impacted much of our lives today. But what about the transportation market? From a soda machine on a university campus to revolutionizing London’s travel patterns, Jacobs Global Director of Transportation Kevin Slack discusses what big data and the Internet of Things means for connected mobility. 

If you wanted to grab an ice-cold Coca Cola® at Carnegie Mellon University in the 1980s, programmers could connect, by internet, to a campus-located machine to check soda availability and preferred coldness – no matter their location. It’s one of the first documented instances of the concept now known as the Internet of Things (IoT).

“Smart" is no longer just an adjective for the student raking in straight A's, today smart devices – from cars and TVs to light fixtures, ovens and even full homes – are implanted in society. By the end of 2019, IDC Research estimates that 40 percent of local and regional governments will use IoT to leverage infrastructure such as roads, streetlights and traffic signals into programmable assets. By 2020, BI Intelligence predicts there will be 34 billion IoT-connected devices globally (meaning more than four IoT devices for every person on the planet). 

IoT devices constantly generate data – GPS trips, Google searches, social media engagement and more – some 2.5 quintillion bytes worth every day. This data creates a massive challenge to collect, analyze and secure. It’s no wonder the World Economic Forum named cyberattacks and data fraud/theft, respectively, in the top five global risks, in terms of likelihood, in their most recent report.

Take for example a survey Jacobs conducted with 30 of our water and wastewater clients about big data management and IoT trends in 2017. More than 80 percent of the utilities indicated that they didn’t feel capable of storing and managing all the data they were collecting. And an eye-opening 90 percent shared concerns about not being able to process the data coming in and thus, not being able to take actions based on the findings. 

Or that Intel estimates that the average self-driving vehicle will generate 4,000 gigabytes of data per day and will soon create significantly more data than people – three billion people’s worth of data. Right now, that data is being generated, but is not being fully utilized. In the future, the data generated by these vehicles will have commercial value beyond improving safety and efficient mobility for the traveling public.

So how do we unlock the value of data to create and improve transportation systems that are smarter and more resilient and secure? 

At Jacobs, we aren't just thinking about this; we are implementing transformative solutions in the transportation sector today, such as Transport for London (TfL)’s Project Edmond, cloud-based customer service platform in East Sussex and the U.S. National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP)’s Framework for Managing Data from Emerging Transportation Technologies to Support Decision-Making , that capitalize on real-time data and sharing apps to enhance the safety, quality and efficiency of multimodal transport.

In London, Jacobs, in collaboration with O2 and AECOM, is working with Transport for London TfL – the integrated transport authority responsible for the operation of the city’s public transport network and main roads – to provide transport demand-related data and information using big data analysis technology on an effort known as Project Edmond. With London’s population forecast to grow to nearly 11 million people by 2041, Project Edmond is helping the city confront its future urbanization challenges. The most comprehensive dataset of its kind ever used, the project quantifies and analyzes data from journeys made by foot, bus, car, taxi, bike, train and underground, helping unlock previously unattainable insight into real crowd behavior. The data, in turn, is helping TfL make intelligent, data-driven investment decisions ahead of the population growth.

My colleague, Stephen Rutherford, Jacobs’ global solutions director for transport planning and overall project leader, underscored the impact of this project best: “To our knowledge, this is the first time such a large scale, big data project using mobile phone event data has been undertaken in a complex world city such as London. The step change allows us to statistically fuse the multi-modal, anonymized mobile data with other emerging app-based data sources to develop a full pattern of trip-making across London."

Jacobs, along with our joint venture partner Costain, developed a cloud-based customer service platform that allows travelers a quick and effective outlet to report issues (such as potholes, roadkill or safety incidents) and receive schedule and travel impact updates on more than 2,000-miles of highway in East Sussex, England. The platform includes social and mobile elements, such as a chat service, a mobile app and website, and allows customers to report issues on an interactive map. The mobility of the platform significantly reduces response times, since maintenance crews can conduct work and communicate with customers on-the-go. We’ve also greatly enhanced our efficiency, increasing the number of cases managed per agent by 60 percent and achieving 71 percent customer satisfaction. The cloud-based solution is scalable and can easily be replicated for other highway agencies. 

In the U.S., Jacobs, on a team led by AEM, is helping the NCHRP develop a framework for identifying, collecting, aggregating, analyzing and disseminating data from emerging public and private transportation technologies. The framework – which will consider how data is collected and used and compare different data collection models – aims to improve state and local agency’s ability to address critical transportation planning and policy questions around emerging technologies such as connected and autonomous (self-driving) vehicles.

Harnessing the power of big data and the IoT has the capacity to create a major impact for transport solutions in cities across the globe as they confront today’s challenges, armed with innovative approaches to connect more people and places with the means to live better and work smarter.

Got big interest in big data or how Jacobs is transforming intangible ideas into intelligent solutions for a more connected, sustainable world?

Visit and catch Jacobs’ industry-leading transportation experts sharing related insights and innovations at the Transportation Research Board (TRB)’s 98th Annual Meeting, January 13–17, 2019 in Washington, DC:

  • Jacobs’ Mara Campbell will present “Let’s Get Real About National Performance Measures: We Have Data, Now What?!?” (Part 2) on Jan. 13.
  • On Jan. 14, Mara Campbell will also present “Shifting Gears with Transformational Change in Transportation.
  • Jacobs’ Marcelle Jones will present “When a Motorist Becomes Your Customer: The Legal Challenges and Obligations of Toll Operators” on Jan. 15.

Click here to download a full list of Jacobs’ presentations at the TRB Annual Meeting.

With close to three decades of industry experience, Kevin Slack currently serves as Global Director of Transportation at Jacobs, responsible for growing the business to a No. 1 position with a global service portfolio that spans the entire transportation asset life cycle, from initial client advisory to planning, environmental permitting, design, engineering, construction management, program management and operations and maintenance. Formerly, he served as Vice President and Global Client Strategy & Sales Director of CH2M’s (now Jacobs) State & Local Governments client sector. He also provided strategy direction as Global Market Director for the company’s No. 3 Engineering News-Record ranked, Transportation practice.
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