7 mins read

One of the key reasons why we have managed to get through this tough period so far is because of our ability to adapt. Technology, coupled with human ingenuity, has allowed many of us to get on with our jobs and lives. Without downplaying the severe impact that COVID-19 has had, it is remarkable that we have managed to follow the old British adage of keeping calm and carrying on.

With the movement of people virtually ceasing, many sectors – particularly transport – have been put into hibernation. As businesses learn to operate in a new world defined by social distancing, isolation and closed borders – it seems only the innovative and agile can hope to survive this time. 

We already see examples of this, rideshare companies have started using their network of drivers to transport medicine and essential goods, rather than passengers. Some have already begun testing new services in an attempt to find new sources of revenue like on-demand booking platform for retailers and other businesses that want to arrange quick delivery to customers and suppliers. Or an in-app option for users to use rideshare drivers to send personal goods across town, for example allowing people to share stockpiled toilet paper with friends in need, or quickly transport a laptop to a work colleague.

At Intelematics we are in the business of transport too – not only are we looking at ways that we can adapt, but more importantly, we’re looking at ways that we can help our customers to adapt.

As a mobility data solutions company, we work with many businesses in the engineering and infrastructure space. From experience, we understand that there is a constant need for these companies to conduct traffic surveys to find data that can help them with their project evaluation, planning, forecasting and budgeting.

Under the current circumstances with restricted movement, the feedback we have received is that right now; it is challenging to conduct physical surveys accurately – if at all – which is hampering future projects.

But infrastructure projects mustn’t be put on the backburner. Recently the Australian Financial Review (AFR) outlined an example of this –the push by the Urban Development Institute of Australia for shovel-ready transport and urban planning projects to go ahead. The argument goes that because we need extra economic stimulus and people are not travelling due to COVID-19 induced isolation, now is the time to push for such projects – as they create jobs and will cause minimal disruption to people’s daily lives. 

Recent evidence has demonstrated the effectiveness of running infrastructure projects during this time of isolation, with the Toorak Rd level crossing on the Glen Waverley line finishing six months early thanks to vastly reduced traffic and being able to close roads for more extended periods with minimal disruption.

While current lockdown may seem to have no end dates, at some point, we are going to see traffic back on the roads. And when that day comes, it will be vital that we have used this downtime wisely to build road networks that are better equipped to handle the ever-increasing amount of traffic observed across our capital cities before the COVID-19 crisis hit.

Below, I enumerate some of the challenges our Engineering and Infrastructure clients are facing and how we are working with them to keep their projects moving throughout COVID-19.

Challenge #1 – engineering and infrastructure projects are unable to conduct traffic surveys due to limited movement as a result of COVID-19

Solution: Historical traffic flow data to understand what traffic looks like under more normal circumstances has been made available in an online store, ensuring our clients can buy the data sets they need for the suburbs they need online, with ease. Currently, the traffic data online store gives access to historical traffic flow data – dating back to 2016 – for 2,000 suburbs across Australia. The year 2020 data will be available by mid-May, and traffic count/volume data is expected to be in store by the end of May.

This means that at a time when conducting physical traffic surveys is worst-case – impossible – and best case – delivering inaccurate results – then using historical traffic data ensures your project keep moving without any delays or stops. 

Challenge #2 – if engineering and infrastructure projects are to make the best use of historical data, it must be specific to enable planning for the future

Solution: Intelematics’ historical traffic flow data is available in 15-minute intervals, and can be categorised by month, year, suburb and street name. Upon request, data can also be made available in three, six and nine-minute intervals – delivering even more specific results.

This means that engineering and infrastructure project managers can see what traffic was like, for example, on Burke Road, in Camberwell between 7:30 and 7:45 am on a Tuesday in April – and can also compare the same period from the past four years to obtain an average result, or observe trends. Deriving accurate estimates for traffic flow for the same period in the years ahead.

Challenge #3 – there is a need for accuracy and detail in the data to gain insights that can drive critical decisions for engineering and infrastructure projects

Solution: Our data is captured through thousands of sensors on infrastructure and a variety of probe vendors. These include private and commercial fleets with a range of vehicle types with collections as rapid as per second frequencies. “Having been a data partner for engineering firms over the years, Intelematics has learned to enrich its data using multiple proprietary sources. We do have minimal thresholds of data quality that ensure our services are reliable. If one particular source of data doesn’t meet our minimum threshold, our system automatically calibrates the results to ensure quality. It safeguards the data from being skewed due to underperformance by any one of our sources. Having reliable data ensures our partner companies know what to expect, including the effect of their activity on the areas around a project and the level of disruption caused.” – Dan Kelly

Since accuracy is vital for ensuring reliable projections for your projects, we ensure our data is detailed, complete and accurate, so you don’t have to compromise on quality outputs whether you are using it for modelling, budgeting, forecasting, evaluation or planning.

Challenge #4 – sourcing data that is easy to understand, and that is compatible with different modelling tools

Solution: OpenData sources are an excellent resource for data analysts and scientists who use it to support or validate their hypothesis. But then every project is different, and sometimes you need more precise insights, especially when there is much money riding on it. You might require data that is high in resolution and coverage, complete and easy to draw insights from, or ready to be uploaded to spatial analysis and modelling tools. 

What makes Intelematics’ offering unique is that it’s incredibly easy to interpret and draw insights. You don’t have to be a data scientist or analyst to decode it. The data clearly shows traffic flow, speed, speed limits and delays by correlations between suburbs and street names, kilometres per hour, geographic coordinates and time of day, which can be viewed at the click of a button. We have also split the time series into a manageable size, allowing people without expert data knowledge to be able to use the data in standard business applications such as Microsoft Excel.

Challenge #5 – accessing data from the safety of your home

Solution: We want everyone to comply with the government guidelines of restricting our movement to flatten the COVID-19 incidence curve, and still want companies to continue with their work just as usual, which is why we have made purchasing data as easy as buying groceries online. Insights that would usually be drawn from weeks and months of conducting traditional traffic monitoring surveys can now be derived in a matter of minutes from an easy-to-interpret, downloadable file.

This means that engineers and infrastructure professionals can still draw accurate insights for their projects, despite the self-isolation and social distancing restrictions.

With online access to rich, accurate and detailed road traffic data through our online store, comprehensive traffic evaluations can be achieved at a fraction of the cost and time of traditional evaluation processes, meaning that projects can get off the ground quicker.

The time is now for us to find ways of beating the effects of COVID-19. If our cities are to be shut down, let’s still plan and build – to make sure we’re as ready as we can be for when they reopen. We have the technology to do so and the human ingenuity – so together let’s make it happen.

If lockdown has affected the way you do business and impacted the way, you conduct your road and traffic analysis, watch our free webinar video here, to learn how you can keep your traffic projects moving throughout COVID-19. 

Ready to try it out for yourself?

Connect with our data experts today and explore how they can help your project with relevant road traffic data. Just enter your details below and we will reach out to you, shortly.