Data61 turns to geospatial big data

By on 31 May, 2016
CSIRO’s digital arm, Data61, looks to relieve congestion with big data, and transactions with block chain. Surce Wikimedia user Sardaka

CSIRO’s digital arm, Data61, looks to relieve congestion with big data, and transactions with block chain. Source Wikimedia user Sardaka,


In a future led by CSIRO’s digital arm, Data61, Australian commuters could soon be able to search the best option for their daily commute based on real-time big data feeds. The analytics tool will be developed for a national market, among a host of other technological initiatives the research body is looking to launch.

Earlier this month Transport for NSW announced it awarded an undisclosed sum to Data61 to fund the development of an analytics tool to map congestion pain points on commuter networks. State and territory governments are expected to use the tool analytics to inform infrastructure investment and enable smarter cities.

Data61 has dedicated a team of twelve data scientists, transport experts and software engineers to produce a scalable analytics platform for external use beyond the research body. Expected to take around three years to complete, the service will crunch transport data to open up a national and possibly also an international market.

“At the moment there is a lack of data integration in Transport,” said Data61’s project lead Chen Cai.

“That is why it is hard to find an app that integrates all of those data streams to the extent we promise to. We want to see real-time data about roads fully integrated with that information on the public transport system.”

More specifically, the public, cloud-based analytics engine will make use of the exiting data generated from real-time public transport feeds, and other internal government data. Sources of the data include the sensors currently installed at most major Sydney intersections that measure and record traffic to the millisecond and map timing traffic light changes.

The tool will also compile new data being generated from Opal, GNSS devices, traffic signals and buses to provide better information for the Transport Management Centre to alert road users of congestion hotspots and provide information about alternative routes.

Data61 claim there is currently no commercially available tool on the market capable of such analysis. To fill the void, the solution will include a front-end interface and APIs for open development.


The currently unnamed transport analytics tool is just one of CSIRO’s current initiatives to use technological innovation for real world benefit, with much of the latest developments led principally through Data61 since it was renamed from NICTA last year.

Data61 has also begun a study examining how Blockchain, the enabling technology behind digital currency platform Bitcoin, can be used for both government and industry. Blockchain caused a stir in the February/March issue of Position magazine when Jon Fairall suggested it to be capable of transforming modern cadastral systems.

Stefan Hajkowicz from the Data61 Foresighting Team, said the technology is applicable to almost any sector: “We are excited to explore, develop and apply the technology in both financial and non‑financial industry, in consultation with industry and government.”

“Blockchain is certainly an example of a technology that has the potential to disrupt or change the way not only financial services transactions are carried out, but also those across virtually any other sector, including government.”


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