The UK’s Intelligent Transport Society (ITS (UK)) will set up an expert forum to discuss and develop ideas on how the growing amount of data in the transport/mobility sector can be best used.

ITS (UK) has discussed data use across its forums in the past, particularly in its Urban Authority, Public Transport and Connected Vehicle groups, but says “now is the time” for a specific strand of activity to ensure value can be maximized.

The decision came at the end of a two-hour webinar discussing the value of data, which heard from the Department for Transport’s head of data policy, Matt Coleman, and its senior engineer in smarter traffic management, John Cooper, along with Mott MacDonald’s technical principal Dr Ian Cornwell.

The meeting was told how data has fuelled innovation across transport, from travel planning apps and satnav through Bus Open Data to digitized traffic regulation orders and parking availability information. It heard the DfT’s plans for helping local authorities deliver high quality open data, its Find Transport Data project, what guidance is being delivered and how data has been used to assist in the government’s Covid-19 response. It also heard how industry standards drawn up over many years are vital to the value of data, and what to look out for in the future.

After the presentations, a discussion of participants heard widespread agreement that there is so much data now available, a separate forum is vital to ensure the industry has the knowledge to maximize its value.

“We need to be able to understand the effectiveness of data, we need to be able to understand that success and measure the success of different policies and different strategies,” says ITS (UK) vice chair, Karla Jakeman. “We need to understand how many people are using public transport, we need to understand when they’re using transport, we need to understand how many bicycles are at railway stations, we need to understand transport safety, attitudes, what kind of transport choices are tourists making? Where are the demographics, for example, where is our most ageing society? And where are the key hotspots when it comes to pollution? Data is critical for all of those different challenges, and we need innovation in those areas to understand it, to get quality data to help us drive things forward, and also measure how well we’re driving things forward.”

“ITS (UK) has been embracing new data methods and sources since I first joined the Society in the 1990s,” adds ITS (UK) secretary general Jennie Martin. “However, the sheer amount of data available now is in danger of overwhelming the industry and we risk not actually turning it into meaningful information. Therefore, now is the time to harness the expertise of our members to share best practice and ideas to use this data most effectively.”

The decision to form the new Forum will be put to the next ITS (UK) Council meeting for ratification. Any member is welcome to join the forum and elections will take place for chair and vice chair in due course.

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