When people think Big Data, they usually think about how it is used by businesses to gain better insight into the needs of their customers. Often not considered is the many ways they can benefit from its use in different facets of their day-to-day life, including in entertainment, security, and healthcare.
For example, one area where Big Data proves to be very useful is in transportation: Nobody likes sitting in traffic. Not only does it waste time, but it also has a negative environmental impact and inherent health risks, such as weight gain, high blood pressure, and increased stress levels. Recent advances in the use of Big Data in traffic management, though, have helped measure traffic patterns and trends all over the world so that drivers can be more equipped to make decisions that speed up their commute.
Saving time, saving lives
One way in which Big Data can alleviate traffic is by speeding up response time to emergency situations. Cameras and sensors on the road can notify dispatchers of accidents sooner than people calling 911 can, and as such, assistance can be more promptly provided. Not only will this clear up traffic quicker, but anyone who may have been injured can receive crucial medical attention faster.
Apps like Waze also use Big Data to help drivers plan or adjust their commute. Information about road conditions is constantly updated and crowdsourced by users so that drivers can be made aware of where traffic is on their route, what’s causing it, and alternative routes they can take to avoid it.
Other apps also help people save time on the road. For example, San Francisco has experimented with an app that shows people where there are open places to park in the city by installing sensors under public parking spots. Although reducing the amount of time spent looking for parking spots may seem somewhat inconsequential, it can really help cut down congestion on the road and reduce incidents of fighting over spaces.
Smarter construction is faster construction
Construction is another major cause of traffic jams, but its negative impact is gradually being reduced with the incorporation of Big Data. Because construction projects usually have low profit margins, the time and money saved by effectively using Big Data can have a big impact on the success of a project.
One use of Big Data in construction finds and tracks the tools used for different projects. For example, equipment is often scattered around different work sites or is not easily accessible, but Big Data can be used to locate the tools needed, assess how they are used, and determine how quickly they can be transported.
Big Data also helps facilitate communication between all the parties involved in the completion of a construction project. Information about weather, traffic, or other working conditions can help plan how and when to work and what tools are required for the job.
Suppliers, builders, architects, engineers, and managers all need to be on the same page for everything to go smoothly, and even a simple misunderstanding or mistake can cause major delays in any project, jamming up the roads in the process.
Big Data can also help those who rely on public transportation by providing information such as how long it takes buses and trains to get where they’re going, when and where demand for public transportation is greatest, and how drivers respond to changing road conditions. This information can be used to help drivers determine the most efficient routes to take and assist passengers in making more informed decisions about which methods of transportation works best for them.
An example of this can be seen in Melbourne, a city with a reputation for having some of the best public transit in the world. The implementation of Big Data into their tram system has enabled tramcars to automatically reroute in response to unexpected problems or obstacles, such as natural disasters or major events that could block the road. Sensors can also detect if any tram parts requite maintenance so that problems can be quickly addressed and the necessary measures taken to get everything back on track.
The Road Ahead
Big Data is slowly but surely revolutionizing how quickly we can get from point A to point B, while improving driver safety and cutting down expenses along the way.
Although some would expect traffic to only get worse over time as the population grows, Big Data advances in transportation are likely to eventually offset the increased number of drivers on the road. So, next time you’re sitting in traffic because the highway on your route home has been reduced to one lane, you can at least take solace in the fact that there are brighter times ahead.