Stuart Walker, Senior Product Manager at Arriva, part of Deutsche Bahn, explains how startup company Ubiwhere helped them understand the value of their data

Innovative SMEs and startups across Europe have the capability and the ideas to deliver original, data-driven solutions to today’s challenges using new technologies. Unfortunately, many of them struggle to access the data necessary to develop real-case pilot projects.

One of the key aims of Data Pitch is to match startups with large companies willing to provide data, creating a framework for better and easier co-operation between organisations and offering the potential to generate huge value.

We are delighted that a number of large data providers agreed to take part in the Data Pitch programme, including Arriva, which has been part of Deutsche Bahn group since 2010 and which runs bus and rail companies across Europe and the UK.  

We matched the company with Ubiwhere, a Portuguese startup focussing on urban mobility solutions which can collect data from different sources and provide transport companies with better insights.  This can help them improve operational efficiency and provide a better service to customers.

Transport is one of many sectors where the improved flow of data can fuel innovation.  A paper published by the Transport Systems Catapult in March 2017, using analysis from the Open Data Institute and Deloitte, highlighted the importance of data sharing to unlock a potential £14bn of benefits from new innovations by 2025 in the sector.

Here, Stuart Walker, a Senior Product Manager at Arriva, explains why he found Data Pitch so valuable.

Why did you join Data Pitch?

As a company, we are very aware that we have a lot of data which has potential to help us better understand our customers. We recognise there are startups that can see the opportunities in our data and help us to use it to continuously improve our service. We are already good at what we do, but we want to use data to take it to another level and match the industry disruptors.

What are some of the issues your sector faces?

Public transport providers are facing many difficult challenges. With the advent of internet shopping, the growth of home working and continued pressure on public budgets, the pressure is on for providers to find innovative solutions to encourage people to continue to use mass transit options. We wanted to simplify data about fares and products and find out what our customers want.

What challenge did you set for Ubiwhere?

Personalising public transport is a key priority for Arriva. We shared the data relating to our network, timetables and fares, as well as geographical passenger data, because we wanted to see how Ubiwhere could create even better services for our customers, and to find out the most pragmatic and useful things that we could do to improve their experience.  

What solutions were you hoping for?

We want to improve the punctuality of our bus services based on outside influences such as traffic flows, weather, events and unforeseen incidents and how they impact schedules, and to see what we could do to  be not only reactive, but also proactive – so for example if a car breaks down on one of our routes we can find out in advance and address it with diversions for following buses. We also want to be able to use real time data to better inform passengers both through smartphone app’s and bus/street signs, for example being able to suggest journey alterations based on punctuality information. There is nothing worse than waiting for a bus that is late especially when a short walk could get you on an alternative bus service that gets you to the same destination.

Passenger modelling is another thing we want to utilise – who is travelling when?  How can we run enough services at the right time? At the moment, schedules are often fixed so you have to run a certain number of services an hour.  But if we analyse passenger data over time then we can collect the evidence to make a case to run the right buses at the right times – for example, interim services with smaller vehicles in times of light demand or even demand responsive services such as Arriva Click which operate at the customer’s request.

What did your startup deliver?

In combination with our data, Ubiwhere used external data points to see how they affected journey planning, with the aim of building models which can predict information. This included traffic light networks, crowdsourced data for traffic flows and weather patterns.

What did you learn from the Data Pitch process?

The process taught us to better express the importance of data in how we do business, and it has given us insights into many factors affecting how we work.  Data Pitch has opened up our eyes to what is possible with data and the benefits of working with agile third parties. We want our customers to have the best possible service, and hope to continue the journey we have begun with Data Pitch to find some real-world solutions.