Big data brought together in cross-border mobility project


Hasselt researchers are leading a project to exploit the power of big data on transport behaviour and insurance coverages

Track & Know

The Transportation Research Institute at Hasselt University has a lot of experience modelling traffic and other forms of transport, but so far this research has not been applied in the commercial world. That should change with Track & Know, a project just getting under way with funding from the European Union.

“This project will enable us to share our knowledge, not only in the domain of transport, but across disciplines,” says professor Ansar Yasar, project leader at the institute, known as Imob-Hasselt.

Track & Know brings together 14 partners from nine countries. It includes several universities with experience mining and modelling large amounts of data, in sectors such as transport and health care. It follows up on a successful EU project called Data Sim, which modelled the effect that increasing use of electric vehicles would have on transport and electricity networks.

Alongside the universities, the Track & Know consortium includes companies active in areas such as insurance, logistics and fleet management. “They want to look into ‘big data’ and see what applications can be built in their fields,” says Yasar.

Preventing accidents

The goal of the project is to build software toolboxes, or even finished apps, that can work with the big data already available to these companies. “No new hardware is involved – we have enough hardware and enough data for the moment.”

For example, data already collected by the insurance industry could be matched with other traffic data to make tools that predict driver behaviour likely to leads to accidents. Such a tool might help to refine insurance products, identifying people with a higher risk or rewarding those with lower risk of accidents.

But it could also lead to apps that help people improve their driving skills or that optimise emergency responses, or help self-driving cars anticipate and avoid accidents.

This will help businesses concentrate on the needs of the users, shifting from a market-centred model to a user-centred model

- Professor Ansar Yasar

The idea is that the toolboxes will be compatible across the different disciplines involved in the project. This means that the lessons learned in one domain can be applied in another, and might even lead to cross-disciplinary applications, such as when an individual’s health might have implications for their mobility.

“People with severe asthma or breathing problems, for example, should not be driving in areas where there are high levels of air pollution,” Yasar explains. “And if a person recently faced a trauma or had experienced a change in their health, then their mobility could be affected.”

The toolboxes put together by Track & Know will be tested in three pilot projects: one in mobility, one in insurance and one in health care. “These pilots will be spread across Europe to check the diversity of the data, people’s behaviour and conditions in different regions.”

Privacy issues

The hardest aspect of this work is not the basic research of software engineering or data manipulation, but business innovation. “The most challenging part is to study the needs of the market,” says Yasar, “to collect all the data that we need on one platform and to make useable services that can be adopted by business, or created as new businesses.”

Privacy is a particularly complex issue. “The medical sector has a different interpretation of privacy compared to the transport sector, and its data is more sensitive. We also have to respect the new EU General Data Protection Regulation.”

The project will also work on data visualisation techniques. Yasar: “This will help governments or decision-makers provide people with the right kind of services, and help businesses to concentrate on the needs of the users, shifting from a market-centred model to a user-centred model.”

Photo courtesy Imob-Hasselt