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Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation’s experience with Big Data

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BMTC produces one billion rows of data each month; Since implementing the ITS in June 2016, IIM Bangalore has amassed 15 billion rows. The public transporter has partnered with IIM Bangalore for managing the data generated to devise ways to coin better services for the passengers and enhance revenue

The Indian transportation industry is growing at a CAGR of 15 per cent with the total budget allocation for the sector pegged at `4 trillion. Given the Government’s focus on Smart Cities, the total outlay on Intelligent Transport System (ITS), which will have an important bearing on the overall transportation sector, will also be huge. Smart transportation is an integral part of the project report provided by smart cities across India. Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) has implemented an Intelligent Transport System (ITS). The scope of the ITS is one of the largest among the ITSs implemented by other smart cities in India.

The objective is to induce a shift in the travel patterns of the citizens from private transport to public transport, which is the need of the hour. It will not only help passengers with comfortable and reliable transport service but also increase ridership thereby increasing revenues for BMTC. It is a win-win solution for all. The ITS comprises of three main components: Electronic Ticketing System (ETS); Vehicle Tracking System (VTS) and Passenger Information System (PIS).

Intelligent Transport System (ITS) at BMTC
A Central Control Centre (CCC) has been established for the ITS at the BMTC central office in Shantinagar, Bengaluru. It is a 20-seater centre monitoring 6,500 buses. The ITS is one of the projects in India to have the largest impact to citizens, as BMTC has a ridership of approximately 5.2 million per day (Bengaluru has a population of around 10 million). The scale of deployment is also one of the largest in India, with over 1,000 online Electronic Ticketing Machines (ETMs) and more than 6,500 Vehicle Tracking Units (VTUs). “The monitoring helps us to catch bus route skipping and deviations. This information is then passed on to the concerned authorities,” says Nagendra N, Chief Systems Manager, BMTC. The bus before leaving the depot is mapped to the ITS using a GPS. Every ten seconds, the data is relayed to the central server. The bus is tracked for the scheduled route it is supposed to take. The commuters standing at the bus stop can check the status of the bus on the mobile app; Public Information Display (PID) on the bus stands. The communication device is also provided for both the driver and the control room to contact each other.

The role of big data
While the bus tracking enabled services are useful, the real benefits lie in how the data generated on a daily basis could be used to make the best and intelligent use of the bus services. Not only to serve the customer better but also revenue generation for the public transporter. BMTC has partnered with IIM Bangalore for managing the data generated on a daily basis. The B-school also suggests data tools and how can it be used for enhancing customer service and revenue generation. The data can also be shared further with many private players and government agencies.
BMTC produces one billion rows of data each month; Since implementing the ITS in June 2016, IIM Bangalore has amassed 15 billion rows; these numbers is a reflection on the amount of data that gets generated. It is not stored in the traditional databases. “The era of traditional databases is over. We use database clusters, setup at IIM Bangalore. It allows for parallel processing of data across the 10 nodes that we have,” says Prof Shankar Venkatagiri, Associate Professor, Department of Decision Sciences and Information Systems, IIM Bangalore.

IIM Bangalore has the skilled manpower to manage this modern processing. Some of the skills required are – statistical and computer science skills. The programming is all done on open source platforms like Hadoop / Hive, Spark, Python, R, Parquet.

The data on the location of the buses helps in inferring, how congested was the city on any given day; which are the points of congestion; expected time of arrival etc. “The students from IIM Bangalore come to me with the data captured and suggest, what kind of projects can i work on using this data – which can be helpful,” says Venkatagiri.

It takes about three hours to get a reply after a query is shot to the database of 15 billion rows and thus there are many analytics divisions getting seeded by the students of IIM Bangalore. In terms of what more can they do with the data. Since this is Government data, a data sharing policy has been framed.

BMTC’s Volvo bus service runs on just 10 per cent of the routes but generates enough revenue to cross subsidise the other ninety percent of the routes. Two students of IIM Bangalore, who also work with an IT company have suggested analytics tools for BMTC Volvo service to help the public transporter on how can they use data and rationalise operations. They have generated tools that helps to drill down to show the revenue spread, on the basis of route, date, etc. These platforms can be designed at zero cost as they are open source and also gives an opportunity to the students to work with tons of data.

IIM Bangalore is working on improving certain areas of service delivery like passenger wait time. “We would like to mix the current data with other data sources like the meteorological data. If it’s going to rain, then is there a need for extra bus services, and if yes, then on which routes,” says Venkatagiri.

While there is a huge scope of improvement of the ITS at BMTC, they have taken the right direction. Aspects like using open source; deciding not to monetise the data and share it freely with other government and private agencies; working with a Public Private partnership model and partnering with a B-School like IIM Bangalore, which gives the students an opportunity to work on data models and size, which they have never experienced before. The students also in turn design innovative applications atop the data provided to them. On a no cost basis. This will ultimately lead to a situation as explained in the quote below.

“A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transport” — paraphrased from Enrique Penalosa, former Mayor of Bogotá, Colombia

The article is based on the presentation made by Nagendra N, Chief Systems Manager, BMTC and Prof. Shankar Venkatagiri, Associate Professor, Department of Decision Sciences and Information Systems, IIM Bangalore, at the Smart Infrastructure Symposium 2017, Chennai

 


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