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Is data the oil of the digital age?
Middle East | Muscat

Data is the new oil

29 Nov 2018

Roundtable session wrap-up

Part of the “Embracing Innovation” hub at the World Congress, this roundtable assessed the impact of big data on the road transport industry. 

Road transport operators have been handling large amounts of data for years. They are starting to understand how to process and analyse a vast array of information in new ways. However, despite plenty of hype around big data capabilities, many still wonder about the reality. What does big data mean for road transport? What are the range of applications/solutions? How can transport operators reap the benefits of data? What is needed to make big data a reality?

“The hype is over, now the question is what we make of all this data”

The session was moderated by journalist, Jennifer Baker, with a panel comprising Nicolas Buhmann from Maersk, Hasse Römer from Ericsson, Juan Carlos Villa from Texas A&M Transportation Institute and Mondher Mimouni, Chief Trade and Market Intelligence section at the International Trade Center. 

“The hype is over, now the question is what we make of all this data,” declared Mr Römer at the start of the debate. The panel offered two conclusions. 

Strengthen data collection and analysis, and improve data sharing across the industry. 

The road transport industry is increasingly based on digital tools, which means that data exists across supply chains. The failure, according to the panel, is the lack of industry capacity to analyse it and exploit it. 

As one participant remarked “The sector needs to be better prepared for the significant rise in the quantity of data from multiple sources, while establishing how to aggregate and assess it.” The challenge is how to apply the lessons learned from big data to improving operational systems and services.

IRU World Congress roundtable session data is the new oil

However, if data collection and analysis is not integrated throughout supply chains, the industry risks losing its competitiveness. The good news is that there is lots of data which can be used to improve decision making around infrastructure development, operations plans and performance measures.

Mr Buhmann raised the point that a major obstacle to exploiting big data is the preference from operators to monetise rather than share it. “Instead of trying to directly sell it, we should be exchanging it.  What you get in return is someone else’s data. That allows you to save money and be more efficient.” All agreed that there has to be more willingness among operators to share data. 

One industry analyst said that data flow needs to speed up across the supply chain. He gave the example of peer-to-peer messaging that arrives long after a truck has arrived at its destination. 

The panel discussion concluded with consensus on the industry’s need to better use data to improve services. Clients are looking for innovative digital solutions based on effective data analysis. “We need new digital solutions to offer customers, it’s not just about price anymore,” said Mr Buhmann.