MobiDataLab has started on February 2021 with the aim of prototyping new solutions for mobility data sharing. We spoke with Thierry Chevallier, from AKKA, Project Coordinator about the present and future of MobiDataLab

What is MobiDataLab?

MobiDataLab is a project funded by the EU in the frame of Horizon 2020. 

As its name suggests MobiDataLab is a “lab” for prototyping new mobility data sharing solutions. In other words the project’s objective is to foster data sharing in the transport sector. Indeed as new mobility services appear in both the public and private sector, more and more data are produced at a higher pace, and mobility data sharing can lead to more efficient processes and new products. 

In order to foster data sharing, our approach is to provide mobility organising authorities with recommendations on how to improve the value of their data, to propose a federation of cloud services to access mobility data on the web, and to organise hackathons for finding innovative solutions to concrete mobility problems. 

MobiDataLab is led by a consortium of 10 partners from several European countries, coordinated by AKKA Technologies, based in Toulouse south of France. In this consortium, we find technology providers bringing the technical bricks (HERE, KISIO, AETHON), academic organisations providing business, legal and data privacy expertise (KU Leuven, CNR, ICOOR, URV), and European networks representing various stakeholders’ perspectives (POLIS and F6S). 

What is your assessment of the first 6 months of the project?

The first months of the project have been really fruitful. We had a very good start: the consortium partners immediately showed a willingness to collaborate and to work without delay on achieving the results promised to the European Commission. 

I would like to say that, as coordinator, it is both an honor and a pleasure to work with such dedicated and talented people in fields as different as legal and governance (KU LEUVEN), market analysis (AETHON and ICOOR), cloud technologies (AKKA and CNR), data privacy (URV), location-based services (HERE), mobility as a service (KISIO), communication (POLIS and F6S), etc.: the project partners have a wide range of complementary expertise. 

We also established an advisory board, a committee of experts whose assistance has been very valuable in our initial work, and on which we are counting for the future to keep on giving us excellent advice. We can mention among others the Mobility Data association, UITP, ERTICO, the “fabrique des mobilités”. 

We also took advantage of these first six months to involve the municipalities and Local Authorities that had given us their support when we were working on the project proposal. There is a lot of interest around MobiDataLab, we feel that mobility data sharing is a real concern for many different actors, from the public and private sectors, from Europe and beyond. It is very motivating, and we are eager to meet the high expectations on easing the exchange of mobility data.

What are the lessons learned and main achievements so far?

In the first six months, we focused mainly on building a knowledge base and a framework for evaluating the project results. We have been laying the groundwork, so to speak, in order to build on a solid foundation. This work has resulted in several reports and documentation, already delivered to the Commission and which will soon be made public on the website. 

Regarding the knowledge base, it is important to mention that sharing best practices is maybe as important as sharing data. In fact, one does not go without the other. Mobility organising authorities and transport operators are all involved in the digitalization of their services and operations, especially from a Mobility-as-a-Service perspective, and in order to put all this in place it is often needed to know what is being done elsewhere. That is why we analysed as precisely as possible the mobility data sharing landscape, from the standards, technologies and use cases perspective on the one hand, and from the socio-economic perspective on the other. For example we investigated the needs of actors, whether they are data providers or data reusers, through questionnaires, the results of which taught us different things, for instance the need for a data exchange environment available. We also surveyed several data sharing platform solutions, to understand their positioning on the market, their approach, their business model. 

These results are likely to be of great interest to mobility players, and will serve as a starting point in our exchanges with the project stakeholders.

What’s next for MobiDataLab?

The next step of the project will be to reach out to stakeholders, local/regional authorities, transport authorities and transport operators, to present the results of our first work, to validate our orientations, and to adapt the solution to their local context and specificities. These stakeholders form what we call the MobiDataLab reference group, comprising for example the mobility agencies of Rome, Milan, the cities of Eindhoven, Leuven, Malaga, Timisoara, and also the regions of Baden-Württemberg, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, New York State. During the first workshop, scheduled for mid-November, we will validate the needs of the actors in terms of data sharing, the different results of our surveys, our analysis of the current technological developments of the market in data sharing, and the preliminary use cases that we will elaborate according to the challenges and needs of the actors. 

In parallel, we started the implementation of our prototype for the federation of cloud services for data sharing. This data sharing platform (namely the “transport cloud”) will follow the latest data federation architectures, ensuring the transnational access to mobility data in a secure, performant and seamless way. In particular, this prototype will integrate a standardized Open Data catalogue for improving their discoverability by humans and machines, data processors for enriching the data geographically and semantically, and anonymization tools to increase trust in the platform via privacy-preserving techniques. A first version of the architecture dossier will soon be available, taking into account the synergies identified with the ongoing works on mobility data spaces. In the coming weeks, we will also start preparing our innovation sessions bringing together data providers and users in hackathons and datathons, and where innovators will use our transport cloud prototype as a tool to address mobility challenges proposed by the reference group.

MobiDataLab is about fostering a mobility data sharing culture in Europe. How will European stakeholders benefit from the results of the project?

Improving the culture of mobility data sharing is not an easy task, because there are good reasons for mobility stakeholders to be reluctant about data sharing. For example, the fear of losing direct contact with customers can become a source of tension between public transport operators and digital companies. Other possible barriers to data sharing are privacy concerns, difficulties in complying with ever-changing regulations, or lack of technological knowledge. 

However, sharing data can open up new opportunities and lead to more efficient processes and new products. We believe that data sharing is above all a matter of trust, and this trust can be improved by both technical means and cooperation models. Technical levers for trust can be e.g. secure APIs, anonymization techniques, different roles in data exchange, transparency, clear goals, mutual agreements, etc. These will provided by project partners through the transport cloud prototype. MobiDataLab will also provide a framework for evaluating the impact of the data sharing from the societal and environmental point of view. These tools will be used during innovation sessions (or living labs) bringing together data providers and data users. The aim of such sessions is to solve concrete problems that local authorities and transport operators are facing and would like to get some insight into. On this basis, MobiDataLab will then determine a list of recommendations that promote data sharing in the context of collaboration among actors for the coming years.