Echoes from PEBSS workshop 2017 #1 : DATA
1 December, 2017
Bikeshare-news.com was present at ECF’s PEBSS workshop 2017 in Brussels on november 20th-21st. We will produce several articles in the following month to report the main ideas that have been emphasized during these two days. First chapter: data.
A word was coming quite often during the different talks, surrounded with mystery: DATA !
As all objects in our everyday life, bikes are getting more and more connected (GSM/Bluetooth/NFC…), equipped with more and more sensors (GPS/accelerometer/speedometer/weather sensors…) Check my previous article about integration of intelligent devices on shared bikes. Connection and sensors mean data, and it is currently a central question in bike-sharing too.
Historically, the station-based schemes were raising less questions. Being most of the time public schemes, authorities, operators, suppliers and users did all know that there anonymised trip data could be used for “fair” reasons. Even so, few authorities are really using it. First, most of them have no means to process it, and for a reason… they do not know what to do with it!
Nevertheless, data from public station-based schemes are getting well organised. Under the NABSA leadership, a General Bikeshare Feed Specification (GBFS) has been introduced in 2015, in order to standardize bike-share trip data. All schemes from the main operators (PBSC, Motivate, Smoove…) should now share their data in this format to allow easy integration or processing. We can consider that this standard will have to evolve soon in order to integrate all new available data from sensors, user app… In the same vein, to facilitate developers and enthusiasts work, ITO World recently released a global bike-share data feed, gathering data from more than 1000 schemes in a single feed.
Dockless bike-sharing, of course, was the trigger to the data topic (as to any other bike-share related topic by the way :)). Mobike, Obike, SGbike, Limebike and other XXXbike companies, relying on smartphone’s apps, are collecting loads of data: when you open your app, as everyone, you allow the app to access your position/photos/contact list/camera/fridge/bedroom… Basically, these companies have access to all the data from your phone. Some of these companies are largely communicating about NOT collecting data: Donkey Republic, Urbo… It shows that it’s an important matter! That’s the part we know.
Even inside the small world of bike-sharing, well… nobody really knows what the main dockless bike-sharing companies are doing/will do with the data. When you consider that Mobike and Ofo are respectively funded by Tencent (a messaging, gaming and payments giant) and Alibaba (an e-commerce and payments giant), selling the user data to third parties is surely of the main possible sources of income. These 2 companies operating more than 25 millions rides a day, the amount and value of data is huge! We already have the example of Strava Metro, which is selling all Strava’s data to transport agencies and departments with a price/user in the area (ex: $20,000 for Oregon’s Department of Transportation). When you are seated on such a big amount of data… you have to sell it! As the advertising possibilities are strong: coupons, pop-ups in your app when you pass closeby a fast-food restaurant or a supermarket, analysis of your habits for accurate targeting… we can bet that the dockless bike-sharing companies will shortly follow.
The authorities seem to be a step behind. We heard that the city of Dublin, despite collecting data from a 500 See.Sense fleet, that they “do not know what to do with all these data”. The innovation speed and the hugeness of Big Data can clearly be frightening, and authorities will have to invest time and money in order to take advantage of all the available data to improve their transportation networks. That’s a big goal for a smart city: to use big data in order to build the most efficient multimodal transportation network.
Regarding dockless bike-share, all authorities pointed the need to set rules for the operators to share data with the governmental bodies. But let’s be a bit ambitious, and ask for OPEN data from all private dockless bike-share operators. It will exclude the possibilities to sell your personal data for commercial purpose, and allow an healthy competition between app/website developers. A more user-oriented way to operate bike-share, as it should always be.