metro station at night

Mastering mobility: mobility data spaces

We are more connected through technology than ever before. Over 80% of Europe’s population uses the internet via smartphones, which has immense impact on our data consumption. In fact, data consumption in the region is expected to triple within the next four years.

The possibilities provided by this ubiquitous use of the internet are immense. With millions of people in Europe, and billions around the world, connected through mobile devices that contain data processing and storage; this data is already transforming our lives in meaningful ways. With technologies such as artificial intelligence, the internet of things, and big data stemming from this industry; there are now innumerable ways to employ data for positive impact.

Sharing across boundaries: data on the European level

While this data offers unprecedented opportunities, it is impossible to utilise until it has been through a rigorous process of quality assurance. Not only does data require cleaning and normalisation, but to ensure safety and security, standards and infrastructure must be in place to support its use. When considering data sharing on a large scale, mobility data offers additional complexities not faced by other industries. Due to the nature of mobility data, it needs to be shared not only between companies or cities, but also crossing national boundaries and sectors; from freight and buildings to materials and energy.

Despite this complexity, sharing data with different municipalities or nations offers great potential for more informed and data-driven decision making. For example, in the field of urban mobility the European Strategy for Sustainable and Smart Mobility published by the European Commission, has outlined how integral access to relevant and high-quality data is in achieving its objectives.

Currently, the state of mobility data in Europe is characterised by ambiguity and redundancy in regulations around its use and reuse. This is compounded by the lack of an advanced local data market; and incompatibility between the systems, tools and standards used in each EU member state. Additionally, incomplete data sharing due to the absence of an overarching obligation for data collection and circulation continues to hamper innovation. EIT Urban Mobility’s study, Unlocking the Future of Mobility with European Data Spaces, conducted by Factual and i2CAT, found that this scattered data has real-life consequences on mobility practitioners. Notably, the study reported that over 80% of respondents (largely comprised of SMEs, startups, and companies) find it difficult to access the data they need to provide their services or develop new products and solutions.

What are data spaces, and why do we need them?

One way to overcome these hurdles and democratise the sharing of data, is to implement data spaces. As explained by EIT Urban Mobility’s recent study “data spaces are decentralised ecosystems that facilitate the voluntary, sovereign and secure sharing of data.” Decentralisation is key to the viability and efficacy of data spaces, as it offers necessary trust across the ecosystem, enabling data flows.

As data spaces provide a secure and standardised framework for data sharing, they allow for improved collaboration by enabling the circulation of data between different entities without any restrictions. The Digital Act, part of the European Commission’s broader Digital Single Market Strategy, aims to create a regulatory framework that enables the free flow of data within the EU.

The urban mobility industry has the potential to benefit greatly from the implementation of the Digital Act, and the free-flowing data that an established Mobility Data Space could offer. Projects like PrepDSpace4Mobility, coordinated by EIT Urban Mobility and a pan-European consortium of partners, have laid the foundation for a Mobility Data Space across Europe. The 12-month Coordination and Support Action is setting the stage for a secured way of pooling and sharing mobility data between EU member states, through the implementation of governance frameworks, mapping current data ecosystems, and identifying existing gaps.

While projects like PrepDSpace4Mobility and its continuation, DeployEDMS are a necessary first step in the right direction, a formally established common framework for a European Mobility Data Space would be the ideal long-term solution for the greatest degrees of security, safety, and accessibility.

The promise of a European mobility data space

Overcoming traditional hurdles caused by data quality and data veracity allows organisations to focus their resources on strategic interventions and offers unprecedented collaboration across geography and sector. EIT Urban Mobility’s Unlocking the Future of Mobility with European Data Spaces found that 75% of urban mobility professionals who responded to the survey believe that mobility data spaces could provide the data they need in order to improve their organisation’s efficiency. Thus, a common mobility data space could provide European mobility practitioners with the necessary tools to innovate for safer and more sustainable cities.

According to the World Health Organisation, the European region still experiences roughly 70,000 deaths per year from road traffic crashes. However, with access to resources like BMW’s geolocated metadata on their customers’ vehicle sensors, traffic planners could leverage this information to provide greater safety taking into account hazards such as weather conditions.

While establishing a common European mobility data space may be costly in the short term, the long-term financial impacts of not making this investment could be far greater. The European Data Strategy asserts that access to real-time information on traffic avoidance and train delays could save up to €730 million and 27 million hours, which is equivalent to over €20.74 billion in labour savings. As mobility is uniquely positioned as a sector that connects other industries, like manufacturing and logistics, innovation in this sphere could have positive knock-on effects for the entire European economy.

Want to learn more about mobility data spaces?

Take a look at the infographic that explains the full study, or take a deep dive into the research: Unlocking the Future of Mobility with European Data Spaces

Enrol in EIT Urban Mobility’s free Competence Hub Course: The Power of Mobility Data

Rewatch our Mobility Talks 23: How can data help us solve our mobility challenges?