DfT seeks to tap into mobile and GPS data to track transport trends

Department seeks supplier to support a £300k proof of concept exercise that is intended to explore the role that ‘novel data sources’ could play in understanding patterns and geographic differences

The Department for Transport is to explore the use of “novel data sources” – such as mobile phone and GPS information – to better understand trends in different parts of the country.

The DfT is has published a commercial notice seeking bids from potential suppliers to support a proof-of-concept initiative. The exploratory exercise is intended to assess the potential role of new forms of data in enabling “geographical and demographic analysis” that could support the department’s work.

This might include information derived from devices, as well as statistics gathered for a specific purpose.

The notice says: “The department… is seeking to appoint a supplier to demonstrate a proof-of-concept for using novel data sources – including mobile data, GPS, surveys or a combination of data sources – to produce an analysis of transport behaviours of different groups of transport users identified through cluster analysis, and how those change geographically.”

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The chosen provider will be expected to first deliver a “feasibility study”, before creating data sets and an analysis tool that enables users to examine trends based on location or demography. Over the course of a six-month contract – worth about £350,000 – the supplier will support four such “interlinked” exercises.

Bids are open until midday on 15 April.

In 2021, Transport for the North – a statutory body created with devolved powers to oversee transport issues in the north of England – invested £360,000 in obtaining “data harvested from mobile devices” to help understand patterns in journeys on major roads. Mobile network data was also used extensively by public-health agencies during the height of the coronavirus crisis while, in late 2022, the Cabinet Office’s National Situation Centre signed an £800,000 deal with O2 owner Telefónica for information it hope would provide “insights on movement, demography, mobility patterns and behaviours of millions of people” across the UK.

Sam Trendall

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