Governments can use public transport data inform policy development. Commuters benefit from real-time data on traffic or the condition of public transport. Yet the most important – and largely overlooked – use of mobile data could be that of businesses themselves.

Infrastructure planning companies, research organizations and banks use cutting-edge data sources to help make cities smarter. For investors, mobility data serves as a useful indicator of economic trends. More broadly, all businesses have an interest in understanding how their customers move and where they travel every day. But what’s even better is finding the next group of clients who will help you grow your business.

Mobility data opens up opportunities in emerging market megacities

Innovative mapping and data collection technologies reveal unprecedented patterns of people movement, especially in emerging markets, where data production starts from a much lower baseline. This information helps businesses make better decisions about how and where to invest.

For any consumer-oriented business, mobility data can open up a new view of potential customers, including the more than 2 billion people in emerging market megacities who rely entirely on public transport.

Innovation brings new sources of data

Traditional mobility data comes from ad hoc measurements such as traffic counts or estimates of public transport ridership. Expensive and time consuming to collect, these older tools leave governments largely blind to the dynamism of the reality on the ground of mobility in their cities. The methods are also of limited use for investors studying market trends or looking for new opportunities to build real estate and infrastructure along transportation routes.

We can now do much better. GPS tracking from cell phones is one such example, covering all modes of transportation to tell us where people are walking, cycling, driving or riding. Smarter traffic lights can serve as sources of information while give pedestrians time to cross the street. Many companies strive to create platforms that integrate new and traditional data sources to create a comprehensive model of the entire city.

Better data for smarter cities

At the highest level, mobility data tells us where people are going and when. But it can also tell us where people want to go, but can’t.

In other words, we can now quickly see where there is a mismatch between what cities offer and what citizens want. Businesses can find opportunities in these gaps.

Planning and research companies

Take infrastructure planning firms, research organizations, and banks, all of which are part of the tapestry of organizations that help make and implement planning decisions.

Much of their influence comes from advice to planning and research companies, which improves with better use of data. For example, improved survey technology also allows consulting and planning companies to collect statistically significant samples of origin-destination data, telling us not only which public transport routes are heavily used, but where passengers actually want. to go.

Using GPS data from mobile phone

INRIX, a transportation data company, shot in the individual GPS cell phone data understand the impact of pedestrianization programs on mobility during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s important to note that the data goes beyond anything publicly available. For good data that leads to great advice, the value far exceeds the cost.

Banks using mobility data

Banks use data to prioritize investments in mobility. The World Bank, for example, worked with a team in Kenya to identify crash hot spots (blogsdotworldbankdotorg) on the Nairobi road network. The analysis makes it possible to prioritize investments with Bank financing.

Financing of investments in transport infrastructure

When financing investments in transport infrastructure, banks can now take into account the entire mobility landscape. For example, the World Bank contracted with my company, WhereIsMyTransport, to provide comprehensive data on the public transport network of seven African cities. The Bank has used this data to inform its investment assessments for buses, train, and other urban planning considerations across the continent.

Use a central source of reliable data

In each of these cities, the effort was the first time the organization had benefited from a central source of comprehensive and reliable data on the public transport network, including the flexible and private vehicles that make up the vast majority of the network. Most of them emerging market cities, more than two-thirds of public transport services operate in this way, with no fixed timetables or fares, and with varying control from government entities.

Ten years ago, collecting data on independently operated public transport outside the realm of government-run services would have been impossible (or at least prohibitively expensive). Now, with purpose-built data collection software, it’s scalable in cities around the world.

Mobility data is synonymous with big business

Aggregate mobility data gives investors valuable economic clues. For example, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Google and Apple provided synthesis reports on mobility that helped inform policy, but were also crucial for investors.

Economic studies firms.

Economic research firms now consider information on the movement of people as a full source of “alternative data” that they collect and sell to hedge funds and other investors. For example, Bloomberg Remarks that mobility data can be “a direct reflection of economic activity and… provide insight into the direction of the economy”.

Granular mobility data can alert businesses.

At the other end of the spectrum, granular mobility data can tell businesses where their customers are going or where their next customers are. Just as governments want to know what kind of street reform attracts people, businesses look to invest in the types of neighborhoods that tend to thrive. They also want to invest in places where people are already traveling but are not yet well served.

A simple heuristic to place your business to reach consumers: find roads or public transport that move people between home and work. Indeed, research shows that many companies are already doing this. For example, a study from the Netherlands has shown that when companies move, they usually choose locations close to roads or public transport.

Useful transport links on a map.

Watch transport links on a map seems like a pretty old way to locate a business, far from the cutting edge recommendations that ReadWrite readers are looking for. Instead, innovation comes from deepening, examining individual movements daily, and examining places where even a card is exclusive.

92% of largest lower-middle-income cities missing a complete map of their public transport network, suggesting significant gaps in data on mobility more generally. But, especially with the new datasets available in emerging economies, we now have comprehensive information on how people move in the world’s largest and fastest growing cities. While getting your hands on this data can come at a cost, it puts you ahead of other companies.

Direct to e-commerce customer.

Reaching out to people in emerging market megacities is one of the few fast-growing global markets where there has been relatively little serious competition from heavyweight organizations in the developed world.

Although this is changing, with investments coming from telecoms at direct-to-consumer e-commerce. Traditionally, businesses tend to be local, as international players are discouraged by information barriers and the perception that these markets are complex and unpredictable. Nonetheless, it is easy to answer the scale argument: a Brookings Institution Study of the world’s largest cities found that 80 percent of the top 60 were from emerging markets.

Information barriers are falling rapidly.

Traditionally, supply chains in emerging markets cities are hyperlocal by necessity, as stores and wholesalers must be on the ground to meet demand. As a result, businesses must sell through multiple layers of distributors to ultimately reach consumers. Each layer adds costs, decreasing the attractiveness of the market.

This is no longer the case. With city-level data sets, businesses can play a level playing field, knowing where their customers go each day, how they get to work, and what malls they stop at along the way.

Showing the way forward

New sources of mobility data are improving our cities and providing new opportunities for companies. Particularly in emerging markets, now is the time to put this information to work.

Image credit: martin pechy; pexels; Thank you!

Devin de Vries

CEO and co-founder

Devin de Vries is the CEO and co-founder of WhereIsMyTransport – a mobility technology company that develops products to enhance the public transport experience in emerging market megacities, and provides data services that inform key customers of the sector.

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