There is always a massive disparity between the technology industry’s version of events and those we experience, says freelance writer Nick BoothIt’s time for us to mind the data gap, according to Johan Herrlin, CEO of Ito, a company which is ‘making a go’ (as its latin name implies) of data integration.

Understandably the IoT crowd is way ahead of us. In their mind’s eye, we already have smart cities. In ours we are generations behind. They see the brilliant signage. We see the confusing signs that bear no relation to reality.

‘Mind the gap’, as they say every ten seconds on the London Underground.

The understanding gap exists at many levels of the Transport IoT. There is always a mismatch between the raw machine data and that which we get to see. This is what Ito sets out to tackle. It’s the next big threat that needs to be confronted and this year battle will commence, says Herrlin.

In one instance you get buses advertising their destination as WFDRG(*), when people want one for Balinakil, not realising they are the same thing.

At worst, the information is accurate but the context and timing is deadly. Such as the sudden realisation that you are subject to a ‘Replacement Bus Service’.

Translating all this data, and weighing up its importance, is the task of Ito World, which has to carry out 92, 000 changes in machine data every day in order to give the words full meaning to a human readership.

Once you have needlessly missed your bus home and walked home in the rain, your confidence in ‘seamless’ transport will be severely dented, says Herrlin. “We take this very seriously. If you get bad advice from a SatNav, you won’t ever go back to using that system. So our mission is to convert data more accurately,” says Herrlin.

There are communications breakdowns taking place all over the transport infrastructure. In August bike sharing company oBike had its fleet of 100 bikes seized by London’s Wandsworth Council because of a local misunderstanding. The bike entrepreneur didn’t realise that pedestrians aren’t keen on picking their way through pavements of bike clutter. This expensive setback could have been avoided by rudimentary communication skills.

Nick Booth

Bike sharers like Ofo, Mobike and oBike might not be household names yet, but they have bold ambitions and plenty of capital behind them. But there will be casualties and a consolidation, Herrlin warns.

Survival hinges not just on availability and upkeep of bikes, but high quality real-time data showing accurate locations.

“The novelty will wear thin and customers will become increasingly discerning about the bikes they choose,” says Herrlin. The emergence of shared electric bikes, scooters and mopeds may encourage the schemes to expand outside of towns and cities, which will make things even more complex for local authorities.

Multimodal transport will be a massive challenge. Which of course, means massive margins for whoever can crack the problem.

So you know what your destination should be. Data integration. How do you get there? Don’t ask me!

The author of this blog is freelance technology writer, Nick Booth

* WFDRG is what it sometimes says on the front of a bus, so that passengers see it and assume the bus is not for them. This is because the information is not presented in a passenger-friendly format.

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