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Interview: IoT and the use of Big Data

Irfan Ahmed is part of Nomad Digital’s Product Team.  Irfan joined the company in October 2020 and has been involved in telecommunication and connectivity for the last 16 years, eight of which he was as a Product Manager in WiFi.

In this interview, Irfan will talk all things IoT and Big Data. The Internet of Things, or IoT, refers to the billions of physical devices around the world that are now connected to the internet, all collecting and sharing data. Big data is a term that describes the large volume of data – both structured and unstructured – that inundates a business on a day-to-day basis.


What data are train operators collecting already, and what are their next steps?

“Fundamentally, train operators are focussed on making sure their fleets are performing efficiently, getting from ‘destination A’ to ‘destination B’ and providing customers with a level of connectivity during their journey. In the future, the focus will be on how the train is performing overall. The better the train is performing – the better the experience is for the end customer. The more insight you are receiving about connectivity and performance, the better you can manage the train.”

How can we make data more efficient?

“Your typical operators are producing a large quantity of reports which gives them a view of how connectivity in their fleet is performing. It allows them to see where the fleet is travelling to, what connectivity was like during the specific journey as well as general overview – the aim is to save time and money. From a Nomad perspective, we are constantly striving to ensure it is being used to its full potential.  We aim to help train operators run a more efficient service not just for their customers but for their entire organisation.”

Speaking of Nomad, what is their focus regarding data?

“We are encouraging operators to approach us with devices they wish to connect to their train. We are happy to work with the data available to us and see how we can improve the experience. Our focus at Nomad is to continuously improve the data and reporting we provide train operators. This includes detailed insight into individual trains with their end user experience in mind. However, we are also eager to go beyond the needs of the end user.  Modern buses and trains are fitted with a vast array of sensors and at Nomad we are keen to help operators tap in these sources of data”

Can you give us some examples of how data can be used to improve a service?

“Nomad can offer an array of tools which provide operators with solutions to problems their end user may experience. For example, we are currently exploring seat monitoring to erase passenger problems such as:

  • If passengers have not booked a seat, highlights which carriage has availability.
  • Highlight vacant seating to remove having to check tickets or the sign above the seat itself
  • Prevent the passenger walking the length of the platform before boarding the train (looking for a quieter carriage)
  • Erase the feeling of tentatively sitting in a seat and wondering whether someone is going to come along and move you from the seat.

We are looking at improving efficiency, by collecting a lot of data regarding connectivity. When there is connectivity, there is an option to introduce Internet of Things devices. Therefore, we can look at introducing bin sensors to tell you when the rubbish needs emptying, sensors to tell you the toilet door isn’t locking correctly so you can send someone from maintenance to fix it. Likewise, disabled toilet access can be a silent alarm or push notification to train staffs phone in oppose to loud and indiscrete sound alarms. All the insight the train operator obtains through data will improve customer experience.”



So, how would data come into effect through a solution such as the portal?

“Everything we do regarding equipment, the customer portal and even life in general, is generating data and algorithms are behind it, its generating feedback on what the end user is doing and what they are wanting. It can tell us what services and what media is popular on a particular route. Are there more carriages which are popular than others, you can then ask why? Data helps the train operator improve efficiencies on the train.”

Do we need a data strategy? How can we link it to passengers/operators?

“Every operator should have a data strategy; it can be hard to keep track of it all. Therefore, at Nomad we focus on the data we are collecting now and how we can improve on delivering that data, making sure it is clearer, faster, and more relevant for our train operators. Within our strategic roadmap we are looking at how we are analysing the data we are collecting, what that data is telling us and how can we share our findings with our train operators to improve their service offering. Instead of ‘dumping’ loads of data on our operators, we make sure the data we provide allows operators to make benefits to their service”