Importance of Simplicity in SaaS for Mobility Analytics

The use of software as a service (SaaS) for mobility analytics applications has the potential to offer several end-user benefits.

Advantages such as a more streamlined, intuitive and all-encompassing approach to harnessing and making use of the reams of data that can make cities smarter, safer and more efficient. While major metropolitan areas like New York City or London may have transportation departments with extensive data science teams, most cities either don’t that level of data expertise, or want to spend the time and resources getting from data density to findings and solutions. These solutions collect and process data from millions of location based devices, such as smartphones, as well as from the vehicles themselves and are aided by traffic operations centers which run 24 hours a day.

Avery Ash, head of autonomous mobility at INRIX, explained end-users, be it enterprises or municipalities, are looking for a source of data that will allow them to make more informed decisions on mobility topics, that will allow them to make smarter decisions based on historical and real-time traffic patterns. “They want to use that data to make decisions that can prepare them for success and measure success,” he said. “We cut out the steps from data to insight.”

Using mobility analytics data, municipalities can take a sharper planning perspective and glean a deeper understanding of where bottlenecks may occur and at what times of day, for example. Mike Ramsey, a Gartner analyst who covers smart mobility, said increasingly, companies are moving to find out what the use cases for the data are and make it more like a finished product, instead of selling the data.

“The problem with just gathering data and selling it is that nobody knows what to do with it, and getting a stream of data is not that useful,” he said. “Providing an API that tells people where an available parking space is more helpful.” Ramsey said he expects a growing number of companies will be offering SaaS platforms for mobility analytics. “There will be a lot of people building data platforms that allow other people to connect into it and utilize that data for specific uses or to sell insights,” he said.

Richard Barlow, founder and CEO of the UK’s Wejo says the evolution of connected cars is offering ever more enriched data sources. Even though the exponential growth in data volume can be matched, at least technologically, with the corresponding growth in processing power to handle that volume, the key is providing end users with a platform that helps unlock the insights.

The University of Maryland’s the Center for Advanced Transportation Technology (CATT Lab), for example, developed a cloud-based on-demand transportation analytics platform in partnership the I-95 Corridor Coalition, a group of states focused on improving transit along Interstate 95, a highway running parallel to the Atlantic Ocean coast from Maine to Florida. Barlow explained the next major evolution of using software-based mobility analytics is the broader integration of V2X communications and sub-second latency, which instantly reports on and transmits to surrounding vehicles information on traffic incidents.


INRIX’s director of product management, Jeff Summerson, said the accumulation of data, from instances of hard braking to traffic volumes to types of vehicles, can help provide guidance for issuing safety ratings for areas. Helping cities make sense of this data is commonly achieved through the use of charts and graphs, as well as maps showing geo-spatial movement, and dashboard-based approaches, where with one click, you can get a clear view of how movement on your roadways has changed over the last week, month, or year. “Picking the right way to visualize that data is critical, as is the ability to speak to those users in that language,” he said. “It’s easier for most people to see something than to be told about it.”

As Ramsey sees it, a significant stumbling block to the evolution of the SaaS market for mobility services is the tension between the automakers, who own the data generated by their connected vehicles, and the companies that would provide the services and a type of data exchange. “If you start to get an ecosystem developed, and if the data can get sent back and forth and shared, you could see a long tail of app development built off the data, collected from vehicles,” he explained.

Ramsey said the “dream scenario” is that platforms become the exchange between the interested parties, and instead of selling services to single companies, they become the center of the wheel through which everyone shares info on the data platform and those providers are mediating and managing that.

“If you create a system that shares insights between everyone, you increase the efficiency of everyone in the ecosystem and you create new business models,” he said. “If everything worked out, you could create a huge ecosystem of apps and efficiency, but the messy world of reality, it’s not as straightforward as that.”

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