This article published by Forbes describes systems created by Oliver O’Brien, a data visualization specialist. This post will focus on his system called “The Tube Heartbeat”, that in essence visualizes the movement of people around London using public transportation. The map shows the direction and volume of people traveling in the tube and historical data summarizing favorable and unfavorable times to travel. The tube in London manages up to 4.8 million passengers every day and this data visualization is powered by the information gathered across the stations.
I am a fan of this system. I think it was a clever idea that was executed in a way that is manageable to update and maintain. However, when dealing with data at this magnitude, it can be tough to decipher and making it manageable is not a simple task.
One thing I found particularly interesting was how the data was sourced and the inputs into the map. One area that surprised me was that they actually used surveys to help create the map. I am not a large believer in the efficiency of surveys as I prefer raw uninfluenced data. Oliver explains that the smaller amount of cleaned data helps the map become more accurate. However, similar to a straw poll, if you ask two different groups of people the same question the answer could vary significantly.
I thought this was a great advancement in not only using big data but creating a system where it would be maintained and used by a layman. After clicking around the site and looking at certain stations I was familiar with I was able to see mass amounts of data condensed in a readable way. Through a combination of geography and data, Oliver’s system sourced mass amounts of data and displayed an interactive visualization that could potentially make a more efficient public transportation system.
One thought I had while reading this article was the connection of the data to people using the “Oystercards”. In my home city we have a similar rechargeable subway card and I was curious on how they used the data of my travels. The article mentioned that the data is sourced from the TFL (Transport for London) and is updated every 15 minutes. This idea concerned me purely because of the possible “big brother” capabilities. After reading the article and the personal blog of the creator, I found that the data is completely anonymous and cannot be traced to a single individual.
I picked this article because I studied abroad in England last year and the system used had everyone swipe on and off. This article gave me insight into what data they use and how they manage the mass amount of data they receive daily.
This visualization of data is the future of transportation technology and I can see maps such as these used for a variety of purposes. The Tube Heartbeat is a step forward visualizing big data and will help create a more efficient public transportation system.
Winkless, Laurie. "Using Big Data To Map A City's 'Heartbeat'" Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 12 Sept. 2016. Web. 12 Sept. 2016.
O'Brien, Oliver. "Suprageography." Suprageography. N.p., 24 Aug. 2016. Web. 13 Sept. 2016.