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Big Data and how to utilise it

Data is paramount in facilitating an excellent passenger experience. As time progresses, the role to be played by smart data is becoming increasingly clear.

At Nomad Digital, the nature of our business is formulated by generating, analysing and distributing data to provide insight for the operators that we work in partnership with. As we are a data-rich technology company, this means that we have an abundance of opportunities to augment passenger experience by gaining meaningful insights from our data. Our on-train systems gather useful data, day in and day out. We also collect data based on specific passenger needs. This means that we can leverage detailed information about passenger habits onboard as well as their wider journey behaviour, thereby providing operators with rich data analysis. All of the data we capture, store and provide to operators is encrypted and securely stored in our databases. This drives reporting and analysis tools, such as our telemetry Network Management System (NMS) and various APIs, providing all our operators with 24/7 access to their data as standard.

Let’s delve deeper

We discussed the Big Data topic with our Head Of Product Management, John Wright.

John joined Nomad Digital from Alstom where, with more than 20 years of experience in the rail sector, he worked in product development (from network gateways to control centre supervision systems), and managed deployment and test of CBTC solutions on several large and complex international turnkey projects.

John, can you tell our audience what data train operators are collecting already and their next steps?

“Train operators are focussed today 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, as an operator, about connectivity and performance, the better you can manage the train and the passenger experience.”

How can Nomad support making the data collected more efficient?

“We are encouraging operators to approach us with new devices they wish to connect to their trains, to enrich the data which we are able to exploit. Working with the data made available to us, we will define the best ways to analyse and report it, to help operators obtain detailed insight into individual trains and the end-user experience. Our focus at Nomad is on continually improving the data reporting which we continuously provide to the operators. We are eager to go beyond current needs and provide even more pertinent information to our customers. Modern buses and trains are fitted with a vast array of sensors, and here at Nomad, we are keen to help operators to tap into these sources of data.”

headshot of John Wright

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

“Nomad can offer an array of tools which provide operators with solutions to various problems which their end-users may encounter. For example, we are exploring seat monitoring, to erase passenger problems by:

  • Identifying carriage availability to passengers who have not booked a seat,
  • Highlighting vacant seating, to remove the need to check tickets or consult the sign above the seat itself,
  • Preventing a passenger from having to walk the length of the platform before boarding the train, in looking for a quieter carriage,
  • Erasing the worry involved in tentatively sitting in a seat and wondering whether someone will come along and ask you to move.

We are looking at improving efficiency by collecting ever more data regarding connectivity. When there is connectivity, there is an option to introduce Internet of Things devices. We can then, for example, introduce bin sensors to flag when the rubbish needs emptying, or sensors to tell you the toilet door isn’t locking correctly so you can send someone from maintenance to fix it. Likewise, accessible toilet access can be a silent alarm or push notification to the phone of train staff instead of loud and indiscrete sound alarms. All the insight which the train operator obtains through using this data will improve customer experience.”

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

“All usage of the underlying equipment and the customer portal can generate data and use algorithms capable of providing feedback on what the end-user is doing and what they want. It can, for example, tell us which services or media, such as, rail entertainment are popular on a particular route. Are some carriages more popular than others? If alerted to this, you can then seek to understand why. Data helps the train operator improve efficiencies on the train.”

Do operators have a data strategy?

“Every operator should have a strategy for managing data; it can be hard to keep track of it all. Therefore, at Nomad, we focus on the data we are collecting 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 train operators to improve their service offerings. Instead of ‘dumping’ vast amounts of data on our operators, we make sure the data we provide allows them to make benefits to their service.”

man and woman smiling at laptop screen on a train

True transformation

Nomad Digital strive to continue to improve the passenger experience. We are poised to transform every aspect of our operators’ digital and data strategy, helping them execute a fully connected journey. We predict that through true digital transformation, passenger experience will be enhanced to levels we have yet to fully appreciate.