Digital transformation was one of the main themes at this year's INSPIRE conference. Internet of Things, big data, earth observation, blockchain, artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies were widely recognised by the event's participants as having an enabling effect on industry stakeholders, and thus crucial for making a successful transition to a competitive and sustainable future. PoliVisu was privileged to contribute to the discussion with its own perspective at a special session on transport which took place Thursday afternoon 20 September 2018 (to see the presentation, fast-forward to 13:59).
Cities are under pressure and transport systems are particularly affected because they must meet the evolving social and regulatory demand for high environmental standards; affordability and quality; disabled access, uninterrupted access to infrastructure and a 24-hour access to public services; as well as many of the services associated with the gig economy like car-sharing and car-pooling.
Meeting these demands requires effective strategies at different levels of government, especially local. However, policy making can be a long and laborious process, one in which success is far from given. Kyoto Protocol is a case in point. Over 10 years ago, it set out strategies to cut CO2 emissions yet cities like Paris continue to suffer the highest levels of air pollution in over a decade. The policy had significant flaws in its design so even perfect compliance by all parties would have failed to meet the desired objectives. Specifically, Kyoto called for small, binding, non-progressive emission reduction targets, which limited incentives for innovation and policy experimentation at a time when best practices for green house gas reduction were not established.
Failed policies are not endemic to climate change. Take traffic, for example. Urban congestion is an exponentially growing problem in Europe, contributing over 40% to all of its CO2 emissions and up to 70% of other pollutants. The cost to society includes impact on health and damage to the environment, not to mention the economic cost of wasted time. With a 9-5 working pattern still dominant, the problem of too many people wanting to drive at the same time is a sad reality that is likely to stay for many years to come. Without a dramatic shift in working patterns, smarter solutions to reducing congestion, ones that are based on modern sensor technology and big data analytics, need to be explored.
In today’s world, there is a widespread expectation that policy making should be more agile to keep pace with the rapid changes in society driven significantly by the rapid development and deployment of emerging technologies. By harnessing visualisation technologies, PoliVisu begins to evolve policy making that traditionally relied on intuition on post-its. As problems are illuminated, policy-making can become more targeted, with attention appropriately and efficiently directed; more tailored, so that responses fit divergent needs; more nimble, able to adjust quickly to changing circumstances; and more experimental, with real-time testing of how problems respond to different strategies.
PoliVisu's data driven visualisation framework is currently tested in three cities: Pilsen, Issy-les-Moulineaux and Ghent. Two more are ready to follow suit: Mechelen and Kortrijk.
It is trite but true that data from multiple domains is needed to implement any policy, especially that related to urban planning and mobility. In the case of five cities, this includes a combination of real-time (sensor) and historic data, location and non-geospatial data, big and small datasets, open data, social media data and metadata. Collectively, this data mix covers ANPR, traffic flows, parking availability, traffic accidents and specific Points of Interest, among others.
Pilsen: traffic sensor data, roadworks, social media
Issy-les-Moulineaux: traffic, construction, social media
Ghent: housing locations (PoI), traffic routes, traffic incidents, socio-economic (statistics), social media
Mechelen: ANPR, traffic density, traffic accidents, social media
Kortrijk: parking locations, parking occupancy, social media
Both data and its visualisations have great potential to be re-used by different institutions and companies not affiliated with the project. Such reuse, however, requires good discovery mechanisms. Reliable metadata is important but not enough; it must also be published within a reliable catalogue to be easily discoverable. To that end, PoliVisu created a three-layer discovery model which integrates geo and non-geo components, targeting different types of users. The first discovery layer was designed with geospatial experts in mind and includes INSPIRE compliant discovery services to support interoperability with existing geospatial catalogues and spatial data infrastructures. The second discovery layer targets users of semantics applications. As such, this layer offers metadata that complies with international standards like DCAT-AP, GeoDCAT-AP, RDF and Schema.org. The third discovery layer helps mainstream internet users find exactly the type of information they are looking for by eliminating the need to click through multiple links to see the result of a search query. Google's rich cards/snippets best illustrate how the potential PoliVisu third discovery layer’s outcomes may look in practice.
PoliVisu strongly believes that ICT standards play an essential role in achieving interoperability of new technologies and can bring significant benefits to both the industry and society at large. Our work in this direction will intensify in the coming months, starting with the publication of first Standards White Paper end of October 2018. Watch this space.