Transport for London says it’s to collect depersonalised WiFi data from Tube passengers’ mobile devices in order to offer them “better, more accurate” information about their journeys.
The agency will start collecting the data at more than 260 stations from July 8th and says potential uses could include offering alerts about station and platform crowding and providing a greater insight into customer flows throughout stations, potentially boosting the “effectiveness” of TfL’s advertising estate.
Signage will be installed across the Tube network informing passengers of the new data collection policy and advising them to switch off their device’s WiFi connection if they wish to opt-out.
TfL says a four week trial carried out in 2016 collected than 509 million depersonalised pieces of data from 5.6 million mobile devices and provided insights “that could not have been detected from ticketing data or paper-based surveys.”
These include the revelation that customers travelling between King’s Cross St Pancras and Waterloo take at least 18 different routes, with around 40 per cent of customers not taking one of the two most popular routes.
Lauren Sager Weinstein, Chief Data Officer at Transport for London said: “The benefits this new depersonalised dataset could unlock across our network—from providing customers with better alerts about overcrowding to helping station staff have a better understanding of the network in near-real time — are enormous.
“By better understanding overall patterns and flows, we can provide better information to our customers and help us plan and operate our transport network more effectively for all.
“While I am excited about the potential of this new dataset, I am equally mindful of the responsibility that comes with it.”
London’s Chief Digital Officer, Theo Blackwell, added: “TfL is a world leader in the use of data to improve services. Today nearly half of all Londoners use an app derived from TfL’s open data feeds.
“Greater insight into how people use the Tube helps better transport planning but also enables the development of new apps to give customers further advance information about their planned journey in order to plan their best, and least congested route.”
For more information, and to download the report from the 2016 pilot, visit www.tfl.gov.uk/wifi-data-collection