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Travel behaviour data can make transport better for us all

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A new world of opportunity in analysing data

TravelAi Handsets with ITO background
TravelAi Handsets with ITO background

A new wave of technology success stories is building. Like billion-dollar forerunners, from Airbnb to Uber, they rely on a network effect where they become more useful with greater adoption.

Rather than exploiting the connectivity of people, this new wave of companies is harnessing the exponential spread of sensors, to understand the world in ways not previously possible, by creating and analysing data.

But how can these new start-ups bridge the gap until they have enough data to be valuable?

Making the journey to a big data company

At TravelAi, we create smartphone software that generates travel behaviour data, showing how people move and how the transport system is operating so that local authorities and operators can make transport better for all of us.

We’ve learnt a lot on our journey to reach critical mass - when we generate enough data to unlock those valuable insights and allow our business model to fly.

Our core IP is our vehicle

TravelAi showing Morning rush hour in London
TravelAi showing Morning rush hour in London

Our software studies speed, location and pattern of movement to automatically infer a person’s mode of transport and route. It makes careful use of GPS, cell-tower information, Wi-Fi, accelerometer and even the magnetometer to record a travel diary without requiring any user interaction and without draining their battery.

Keeping our eyes on the end destination at every turn

We’ve already built it into iPhone and Android apps such as WeCycle, CarbonDiem, and the imminent MilesBetter.

TravelAi with MilesBetter
TravelAi with MilesBetter

And we’ve wrapped it up in a package or API that makes it easy for other developers to embed it into their own apps.

Universities and research organisations have also used the software for travel-behaviour studies, bringing in essential income. While a UK city used WeCycle data to successfully make the case for cycling investment and win over £10 million from the Department for Transport’s Cycle City Ambition Fund.

So while funding needs, customer validation or in-field testing make it unrealistic to travel in a straight path from start-up to big data, we’ve ensured that every turn directly contributes to that end.

Innovate UK fuels the next leg

Our path to travel-behaviour big data has just become much more direct. Innovate UK awarded grant funding to our £2.1 million Catch! project to build a next-generation transport-data portal and ‘living’ journey planner.

We’re creating a new class of journey planner that crowdsources how the transport system is operating in real time to give more accurate, frustration-free routing across all modes of transport.

That same crowdsourced data will help transport professionals eliminate the guesswork involved in multi-million pound transport systems by making informed decisions and evaluating interventions.

Our consortium of 5 local authorities, 2 universities, the Transport Systems Catapult and 4 of the most innovative SMEs in the transport and behaviour space will help us reach our destination far quicker, at greater scale and with an even better product than we could have produced on our own.

The more people that join us on our journey, the better it will be

And the more people that use the journey planner, the more intelligent it will be, so it benefits from that powerful network effect and stands to gain widespread adoption.

Like with our transport-detection API, we’ll make it easy for other developers to embed the software into their own apps, so whether it’s an app we’ve created or one created by another developer, we’ll still be collecting all the dots to make up an incredibly detailed picture of transport usage.

A worthy goal

Within Smart Cities sector alone, the global Transport Data market is forecast to grow to £32 billion by 2025 and our data also stands to impact the wider transport infrastructure investment market of £1 trillion and the £4 trillion global transportation market.

Meanwhile, research reveals that commuting is life’s number 2 stressor and that congestion and associated emissions weigh heavily on the economy and health of citizens.

So like Airbnb and Uber before us, we’re hugely excited by the opportunity to harness the potential scale of our technology to disrupt a vast and well-established market and bring real social benefits to our communities.

Start a conversation

If you are interested in our technology or want to know more about the journey to big data, we would be delighted to talk.

Contact me at

See our website

Send a tweet to @TravelAi_World

And for a glimpse into how big data will be integral to infrastructure management, check out a future envisaged by John Kjorstad, Infrastructure Research Lead at KPMG Global Services, in a post for the World Bank

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