How data can give transport sector opportunities to leapfrog

One of the key aspects of digital transformation is data. In the hyper-competitive environment, data has become an important currency for companies to tap new markets, make rational decisions, provide personalised experiences, reduce costs, etc.

For the Indian transportation sector too, data is going to play a crucial role in creating smart cities, driving smart mobility and smart cities. Thus, from realising importance and value of data to mining it for usable information to using the results for intelligent implementation, data can transform the transport sector too.

In continuation from Part 1 of the discussion on India’s transport sector at ‘Cisco Idea Lab’ series by Cisco in association with CNBC-TV18, industry stalwarts Abhijit Singh, Executive Director, Indian Ports Association; Avinash Rai, COO, Adani Ports&SEZ; Kumar Keshav, MD, Lucknow Metro Rail Corp; Daisy Chittilapilly, MD-Digital Transformation Officer-CISCO India & SAARC; Zafar Khan, Head-Ops, Peak Infra Management Services; and Sandip Trivedi, Group GM-IT Projects, IRCTC shared their experiences and touched upon importance of data in smart transport system.

During the insightful conversation, experts spoke about roadmap for data acquisition, analysing it quickly, and using it for better mobility.

“The whole conversation around vehicle to vehicle and vehicle to infrastructure is going to generate data at a scale we have not anticipated. A lot of tech improvements are still happening because there is a need to process data at a jet speed so the chip designers are doing a lot of work at that space, there is a need to compute data at the edge. At CISCO, we do work at the edge so that everything doesn’t come to central processing unit,” said Chittilapilly.

Speaking about data know-how and experience at Adani, Rai said the classiest example would be of DMIS-LBD project between the government and Adani.

“The (data) insights brought us to a very interesting conclusion that even though the trucks are running at a speed of 50-60kmph, toll to toll travel is only 30 kmph which started bringing focus to us as to what is happening inside. At Adani ports we believe that every metrics which we want to improve, we measure, we bring a public display of those measures and we have seen a fantastic improvement of the whole trade,” said Rai.

Meanwhile, the Indian Ports Association, too, is taking the digital and data route to help their customers.

“Government has realised the importance of data and LDB is one of the projects. Now we are going to integrate with the PCS (port community system) which will give users hassle-free experience of tracking and tracing their consignment. Getting an insight and making sense of data is of great importance if we want to improve our operations, provide users good experience,” said Singh.

However, government agencies have a long way to go due to delay in data policy. Agencies such as IRCTC are unable to use the dynamic data for providing better customer experience.

“We have data of over five crore users, we have dynamic and relevant data. But, still because of certain policy restrictions because the government has not come up with data privacy laws, so we are not using it as it should be used. We need to understand that if we use it properly, many better experiences can be provided to the customers,” said Trivedi.

With opportunities comes challenges and the transport sector has just scratched the surface. Talking about how the sector can navigate the risks associated with smart transportation, Chittilapilly said, “When we know that the sector is evolving to become biggest producers of data, the design considerations you have to bring in for infrastructure that you are building 10-15 years later on is important, and getting that design in place while we are thinking out capabilities in the sector is very important, adding “The real positive thing about data is to think about new operating models, new revenue streams, collaborations that can make that possible and design thinking that you need to bring in to these infrastructures that you are building out and which will remain more or less in the same form for 15, 20, 30 years.”

Smart transport solutions also mean working towards a technology to safeguard the environment and reduce carbon footprints. In this backdrop, Kumar shared an example on how Lucknow metro is making a difference.

“Metro assets are electrically operated that are very much environment friendly. It is energy efficient, we have done re-generate braking for the trains, for lifts… regenerative braking means whatever energy gets produced at the time of braking of trains, it is fed back to the system and can be used by the next train, which comes to nearly 32-34%, which we have measured. So, that much energy savings we are doing,” said Kumar.

In a nutshell, there are initiatives, challenges and expectations related to data. “Data is the new oil and if we develop certain strategies at a government level that you can use data as an oil, so automatically the industry players will come with a lot of initiatives that how data can be monetised and then everything else will follow,” said Zafar.

Therefore, experts are looking out for seamless public transportation, multi modal integration and common ticketing system, robust digital infrastructure, and efficient trade on weekends as well.