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m.logistics Magazine | On Track & On Target | Major funding to help develop uses of big data

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30 December 2014

Major funding to help develop uses of big data

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Matt Hague and Robert John

As big data gains an increasingly high profile in the road transport sector, telematics specialist Microlise has won funding from the UK Government’s Technology Strategy Board to develop innovative uses of the data that is gathered automatically by its telematics and vehicle tracking systems.

"Big data" is the currently voguish term for the massive consolidated databases of information captured from large communities in a given field of activity such as vehicle operations.

In the case of Microlise, the £359,000 award goes to the company in association with the University of Nottingham, whose head of automated scheduling, optimisation and planning (ASAP) research, Professor Robert John, is leading the project. Nottingham is providing resources such as data mining expertise and advanced data analytics techniques.

An as-yet unnamed global vehicle manufacturer is also involved in the project, which will cost £500,000 in total. Microlise has worked with various companies over the years, and has had links in the US with Ford and in India with Tata, but we have no further details on this aspect yet.

The project is named Value Enhancement for Data from Assets and Transactions (VEDAT), and aims to evolve what are termed novel tools and approaches to the use of the data. There are also hopes that additional applications will emerge across other sectors that suffer "data silo" black holes, such as finance, engineering and biotech/informatics.

According to Professor John: "A huge amount of data is collected each day that has the capability to offer great insight to those in industry. Our aim is allow organisations to unlock the power of this data."

Microlise is not the only company active in big data projects. Anonymised vehicle tracking data is already used widely by companies such as TomTom and INRIX to provide real-time and predictive information about traffic flows and congestion, though the scale and duration of this project (two years) could result in a much broader range of applications over time.

And Ortec Consulting Group, a company related to a vehicle routing and scheduling specialist of the same name, has just embarked on a joint research project with the University of Amsterdam on the use of big data in companies and governmental institutions, and has launched a survey to gather information on what is currently happening in this field.

Meanwhile, the Institution of Engineering and Technology and Intelligent Transport Systems have published Local authority guide to emerging transport technology, a guide aiming to show opportunities for making new uses of big data. As examples, it cites using smartphone apps to determine road and cycle path conditions, and Bluetooth systems that allow transport operators and planners to analyse journeys across multiple transport modes.

The Technology Strategy Board behind the Microlise award is described as the UK’s innovation agency, and is sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Its avowed goal is to accelerate economic growth by stimulating and supporting business-led innovation.


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