Mobility data opens up opportunities in emerging market megacities


Governments can use public transport data to inform policy formulation. Travelers benefit from real-time data on traffic or public transport status. However, the largest – and largely overlooked – use of mobile data could be for businesses themselves.

Infrastructure planning companies, research organizations, and banks use state-of-the-art data sources to help make cities smarter. For investors, mobility data plays a role as a useful indicator of economic trends. More generally, all businesses benefit from understanding how their customers move and where they travel every day. But what’s even better is finding the next group of clients to help you grow your business.

Mobility data opens up opportunities in emerging market megacities

Innovative mapping and data collection technologies reveal never-before-seen patterns in people’s movements, particularly in emerging markets, where data production starts from a much lower baseline. This information helps companies make better decisions about how and where to invest.

For any consumer-oriented business, mobility data can unlock new insight into potential customers, including the more than 2 billion people in emerging market megacities who are completely dependent on public transportation.

Innovation brings new data sources

Traditional mobility data comes from point measurements, such as traffic counts or estimates from public transport users. These older, time-consuming and expensive tools leave governments largely blind to the dynamism of the truth about mobility in their cities. The methods are also of limited use to investors analyzing market trends or looking for new opportunities to build real estate and infrastructure along transportation routes.

Now we can do much better. GPS tracking from mobile phones is one example, traversing modes of transportation to tell us where people walk, bike, drive, or travel. Smarter traffic lights can serve as sources of information as well as give pedestrians the time they need to cross the street. Many companies are working to create platforms that integrate new and traditional data sources to build a comprehensive city-wide model.

Better data for smarter cities

At the highest level, mobility data tells us where and when people are going. But it can also tell us where people want to go, but it can’t.

In other words, we can now quickly see where there is a mismatch between what cities offer and what citizens want. Companies can find opportunities in those gaps.

Planning and research companies

Take, for example, infrastructure planning companies, research organizations, and banks, which are part of the tapestry of organizations that help make and implement urban planning decisions.

His influence comes largely from advice to planning and research companies, which improves with better use of data. For example, improved survey technology also enables consulting and planning companies to collect statistically significant samples of origin-destination data, telling us not only which public transportation routes are heavily used, but where passengers really want to. to go.

Use of GPS mobile phone data

INRIX, a transportation data company, incorporated an individual GPS mobile phone data understand the impact of pedestrianization programs on mobility during the COVID-19 pandemic. Importantly, the data goes beyond anything that is publicly available. For good data that leads to good advice, the value far outweighs the cost.

Banks using mobility data

Banks are using data to prioritize investments in mobility. The World Bank, for example, worked with a team in Kenya to identify crash hotspots (blogsdotworldbankdotorg) on the Nairobi road network. The analysis is helping to prioritize investments with Bank financing.

Financing investments in transport infrastructure

By financing investments in transport infrastructure, banks can now account for the entire mobility landscape. For example, the World Bank contracted my company, WhereIsMyTransport, to provide comprehensive data on the public transport network of seven African cities. The Bank used this data to inform its investment evaluations for buses, trains, and other urban planning considerations across the continent.

Using a central source of reliable data

In each of these cities, the effort was the first time that the organization benefited from a central source of comprehensive and reliable data from the public transport network, including the flexible and privately run vehicles that make up the vast majority of the network. . In most emerging market cities, more than two-thirds of public transportation services operate this way, with no fixed schedules or fares, and with variable oversight from government entities.

Ten years ago, collecting data on independently operated public transport outside the sphere of government-run services would have been impossible (or at least prohibitively expensive). Now, with data collection software built for this purpose, it is scalable to all cities in the world.

Mobility data means big business

Aggregated mobility data provides investors with valuable economic clues. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Google Y Apple They have provided summary mobility reports that have helped inform policy, but have also been crucial for investors.

Economic research companies.

Economic research firms now view information about people’s movements as a comprehensive source of “alternative data” They pool and sell to hedge funds and other investors. For example, Bloomberg notes that mobility data can be “a direct reflection of economic activity and … provide information on the direction of the economy.”

Granular mobility data can alert businesses.

At the other end of the spectrum, granular mobility data can tell companies where their customers are going or where their next customers are. Just as governments want to know what kinds of street reforms attract people, companies seek to invest in the kinds of areas that tend to prosper. They also want to invest in places where people are already traveling but are not yet well served.

A simple heuristic to get your business out to consumers: find the roads or public transportation that move people between home and work. In fact, research shows that many companies already do. For example, a study from the Netherlands showed that when companies move, they usually choose locations close to roads or public transport.

Useful transport links on a map.

Looking at transportation links on a map seems like a pretty old way of locating a business, a far cry from the cutting edge recommendations ReadWrite readers are looking for. Instead, innovation comes from going one level deeper, observing individual movements on a daily basis, and searching for places where even one map is proprietary.

92% of the largest lower-middle-income cities a complete map is missing of its public transport network, suggesting large gaps in overall mobility data. But, particularly with recently available data sets on emerging economies, we now have comprehensive information on how people move in the world’s largest and fastest-growing cities. While getting your hands on that data can come at a cost, doing so gives you an advantage over other companies.

Direct e-commerce to the customer.

Reaching people in emerging market megacities is one of the few fast-growing global markets where there has been relatively little serious competition from heavyweight organizations from the developed world.

Although that is now changing, with investments flowing from telecommunications to direct-to-consumer e-commerce. Traditionally, companies tend to be local, as international players are deterred by information barriers and the perception that these markets are complex and unpredictable. However, the scale argument is easily answered: a Brookings Institution Study of the world’s largest cities found that 80 percent of the top 60 performing countries came from emerging markets.

Information barriers are breaking down fast.

Traditionally, supply chains in emerging market cities are hyperlocal by necessity, as stores and wholesalers must be on the ground to respond to demand. As a result, companies must sell through multiple layers of distributors to ultimately reach consumers. Each layer adds costs, decreasing the attractiveness of the market.

That is no longer the case. With city-level data sets, companies can play on a level playing field, knowing where their customers go each day, how they go to work, and which shopping centers they stop at along the way.

Showing the way forward

New sources of mobility data are improving our cities and providing new opportunities for companies. Especially in emerging markets, now is the time to put that information into practice.

Image credit: martin pechy; pexels; Thank you!

Devin de Vries

Devin de Vries

CEO and co-founder

Devin de Vries is the CEO and co-founder of WhereIsMyTransport, a mobility technology company that develops products to enhance the public transportation experience in emerging market megacities and provides data services that inform industry-leading customers.


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