TfL is conducting a four week trial, collecting depersonalised (pseudonimised) WiFi connection data in order to better understand how London Underground passengers move through stations and interchange between lines. The data will be collected at 54 Tube stations within Zones 1-4, and if the trial is successful the intention is that the data could be used to improve services, provide better travel information and help prioritise investment across the Tube network.
WiFi data trial is underway
The WiFi data trial will last for four weeks from 21 November and will help give TfL a more accurate understanding of how people move through stations, interchange between services and how crowding develops. By analysing the in-station WiFi connection data, a number of potential benefits have been identified:
- Providing better customer information for journey planning and avoiding congestion
- Helping TfL better manage disruptions and events and ensure a safe environment for all
- Better planning of timetables, station designs and major station upgrades
By understanding how customers move through and around stations, TfL also believes it may be able increase revenue from companies who advertise on poster sites or rent retail units, and this revenue would be used to reinvest in improving services across London.
“This short trial will help us understand whether WiFi connection data could help us plan and operate our transport network more effectively for customers. Historically, if we wanted to know how people travelled we would have to rely on paper surveys and manual counting, which is expensive, time consuming and limited in detail and reliability. We hope the results of this trial will enable us to provide customers with even better information for journey planning and avoiding congestion.”
Shashi Verma, Chief Technology Officer at Transport for London
How it works
The trial will work by collecting WiFi connection requests from mobile devices as customers pass through stations. When a device has WiFi enabled, it will continually search for a WiFi network by sending out a unique identifier – known as a Media Access Control address – to nearby routers. The data collected is automatically de-personalised (pseudonimised), which means that no browsing data will be collected and TfL will not be able to identify any individuals.
No data collected through the trial will be made available to any third-parties, and posters will be on display within stations to let customers know that the trial is taking place. Should any customers wish to opt-out of the trial, they simply need to turn off their WiFi while passing through the station.
TfL already uses a range of data, such as aggregated and de-personalised Oyster and Contactless payment data and manual paper surveys, in order to understand how customers travel across London. While these data sources provide detail on the origin and destination of customer journeys, there are many options that customers could take across the network to complete their journey.
Traditional paper surveys are also expensive, take time to process and can only provide a snapshot of travel patterns on the day of survey. They are also unable to provide the continuous information detailing the varied travel patterns on the network.
“TfL is unlocking the power of data to gain insights into how passengers are using the network and drive its transformation into a smart transport system. The availability of big data analytics tools and technologies means that organisations, of all sizes and sectors, are increasingly able to make data driven decisions that can make a real difference to customers’ lives. In this case, it will mean more accurate passenger insights and easier journeys for customers.”
Sue Daley, Head of Big Data, Cloud & Mobile at techUK
For more information about the trial, please visit www.tfl.gov.uk/privacy