Uber offers free aggregated and anonymised data from hundreds of thousands online usersJanuary 13th, 2017
Throughout 2016 we saw multiple signs that car-hailing service, Uber, has its eye on the world of mapping and spatial intelligence (check out the half a billion pound investment*1, poaching of top Google mappers*2 and appearance of Uber mapping cars*3) and it seems likely this trend will continue into 2017. On Sunday its new service Movement*4 was launched, in Ubers own words “a website that uses Uber’s data to help urban planners make informed decisions about our cities”.
Whilst details are still thin on the ground it appears Movement will be a free to access portal serving up aggregated and anonymised data from Ubers hundreds of thousands online users in 450 Cities across the globe. In turn this data will provide insight into the movement and volume of traffic enabling users to “make better decisions about your City”.
Exciting stuff indeed. But Uber aren’t the first company to pull together data on peoples journeys in a bid to better understand traffic trends. The team at Mapmechanics have been working with data from INRIX*5 and HERE*6 to derive traffic speed and volume since 2005. With that in mind here are some of the more subtle points of interest:
- Aggregation : Journeys happen on roads. So when picking a geographical object to aggregate data to, analysts have tended to opt for roads. Following this approach you can attribute traffic speed, flow, volume, to individual road segments. Ubers approach of generalising further to the less granular census geographies is therefore unusual and could be an attempt to quell privacy concerns.
- Vehicle Type : The first argument of the traffic data sceptic is that the sample of vehicles the data is collected from do not represent traffic as a whole. Interestingly, Movement will be derived from a very specific subset of drivers (taxis!) and it will be interesting to see whether the journeys they make, the time they make them, the routes they opt for and locations they cover are representative of the broader population.
- Coverage : In answer to one of these questions we know Movement will be limited to the areas serviced by Uber, notably cities and not all of them. This in turn will impact who uses the service.
- Who’s it for? : ‘City Officials’, ‘Planners & Policy Makers’, ‘The general Public’, or at least that’s what Uber say. This is a concerted focus on the public sector, not private organisations, which may be a reflection on two things; the coverage (users interests need to be confined to metropolitan areas) and the price.
- Free? : For now at least, Uber are promising free access to the Movement platform, an unusual approach in a world of data-monetisation. This may be a bid to draw early use cases and the functionality and depth of insight available for free is still unclear. Perhaps paid for services with less heavily aggregated data will appear down the line.
About allmapdata from Mapmechanics
- The allmapdata*7 team from Mapmechanics assembles, configures, formats and distributes a wide range of data products for use within Transport Research & Planning as well as a number of other areas; location intelligence, retail, business intelligence, IoT (M2M), smart cities, logistics and insurance telematics. The company’s extensive worldwide portfolio includes a massive number of high quality spatial datasets to match these use cases.
- In addition, the allmapdata team provide comprehensive spatial consultancy services*8. If you need to get a project off the ground quickly and don’t have the time to learn map-based analysis, then our consultancy services could be the right solution for you.