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The Ultimate Guide to Traffic Data 2021
What is Traffic Data?
Traffic data tells you about the volume, flow, speed and classification of vehicle traffic on the roads in a given area. It’s not to be confused with web traffic data or footfall traffic data - these datasets provide information about internet users and pedestrians in the street, not about cars and vehicles!
Traffic data commonly refers to the traffic we see on the roads around us, and so is sometimes used interchangably with ‘road traffic data’. However, traffic data has many sub-categories beyond this - rail traffic, freight traffic and marine traffic all tell you about the flow of vehicles in specific places and industries. But throughout this guide, whenever we refer to ‘traffic data’, we’re talking about data which counts and measures automobiles and public transport found on ordinary roads.
Traffic data analytics are becoming more important as our cities become more congested. The organizations and local authorities responsible for urban planning and setting speed limits rely on traffic datasets to understand how vehicles travel and where they visit most often. Live traffic data feeds allow these organizations to analyze traffic data in real time, giving them the most accurate understanding of the roads today. Real-time traffic data is often compared to historical traffic data to identify historic traffic patterns and changes over time. This way, organizations can use this combined traffic dataset for traffic predicition.
But public traffic data isn’t just used by government and infrastructure organizations. In fact, an increasing amount of retailers and businesses are turning to traffic data collection companies to enhance their operations and make data-driven decisions. Let’s look closer at the various road traffic data applications.
Who uses Traffic Data and for what use cases?
Traffic data providers are enabling companies and organizations from a range of industries to enhance their decision-making and planning. Here are just some users and use cases associated with vehicle traffic data:
Retailers - Traffic data collection and analysis has a range of advantages for businesses and retailers. Traffic count data is used for retail site selection, as retailers aim to place their stores in locations which people visit frequently and which are easy travel to. A high traffic count indicates that the road or location in question is popular. From this, the retailer can use intelligence from traffic count service providers alongside the business’ internal metrics to decide on a retail store site. With traffic data analysis software from a data provider, businesses can make the best site decisions: just because an area’s traffic count is high, this doesn’t always indicate that it’s a good location to open a store. Part of a business’ traffic data analysis is deciding whether a high traffic count means the store will get more customers, or face more competition.
Tourism and Hospitality - A traffic prediction dataset allows companies in the tourism and hospitality industries to plan their logistics wisely. Traffic volume data and traffic flow data can show these businesses when traffic is at its most concentrated on the roads. With a traffic flow API, tourism and hospitalities can prepare their product inventory and workforce for busy periods, and also foresee any supply chain disruption.
Marketers - Marketers often work with traffic data analysis companies for location-based and DOOH marketing. Marketers can select when to serve ads on roadside digital billboards and displays based on real time traffic analysis. Using a live traffic API to serve ads programmatically allows marketers to display ads which are seen by as many drivers as possible. More traditionally, a road traffic dataset will help marketers decide where to roll out OOH ads. There’s no point investing money in an expensive ad billboard campaign if your traffic database shows that there are rarely any vehicles in your selected area!
Local Authorities and Governments - Local authorities and governments use traffic datasets for lots of use cases. When planning a new road, regional authorities analyze historical traffic incident datasets to identify dangerously busy areas. Similarly, many local authorites also use a traffic incidents API, so that they can adjust the legal speed limit if there’s a spike in collisions. More widely, governments and local authorities leverage traffic flow datasets to introduce congestion charges in the busiest cities as part of their green initiatives. For urban planning, it’s vital that local authorities and governments have quality traffic data, so that they’re able to install amenities like gas stations, and carry out regular road maintenence. On motorways, they can implement congestion management systems, such as varying lane availability.
Smart Infrastructure - Traffic data software is being put to increasingly innovative use. AI and Deep Learning are being used for traffic data collection, as well as sophisticated urban planning. For example, many cities are trialling projects which use wireless communication sensors and smart materials and energy to create smart roads that generate electricity from passing traffic. The electricity harvested is stored in roadside batteries and used to power street lamps, road signs or air pollution monitors, as well as sensors which detect when potholes are forming. The smart roads can also monitor vehicle speed, making traffic speed data collection more efficient and reliable. Smart roads can even recognise the type of vehicle being driven, showing that traffic data collection methods are becoming more powerful by the day.
New transport - With a traffic data provider, companies and governments can spot opportunities for transport innovation and improvement. For example, in Bergen, Norway, the world’s first autonomous light rail system has been developed. It will reduce costs, because there is no driver to pay. It may also improve punctuality and reliability and increase customer satisfaction. Companies that provide traffic data services made this development possible: traffic data analysis showed that the light rail system would be commercial success.
Haulage - Most haulage companies consider a traffic data API a crucial part of their transport and logistics management. Real time traffic analysis enables drivers to plan their journeys and routes effectively. Haulage companies rely on real-time traffic data to ensure that the vehicle fleet is travelling as safely and efficiently as possible.
Emergency Services - Traffic data systems are an integral part of any emergency response team. To ensure that ambulances, police cars and fire engines reach their destination as quickly as possible, emergecy services use a traffic congestion dataset to identify which routes to avoid. Street traffic data is also extremely useful to logisitics teams at emergency services. Where possible, they will try to direct emergency vehicles away from residential streets or areas with lots of pedestrians. With a live traffic API, vehicles can avoid these routes and travel as quickly as possible.
What are typical Traffic Data attributes?
Lots of data points make up the traffic data cloud. When you buy a traffic dataset or data API from a traffic data provider, it typically has a range of attributes. They can include
Traffic Count Data - Traffic count companies install sensors and cameras either above or beside roads which monitor how many vehicles pass by in a given time frame.
Traffic Flow Data - Understanding how to measure traffic flow can be complicated. Fortunately, real-time traffic data APIs tell you instantly how regular the flow of traffic on a road is, and whether this changes over time.
Traffic Speed Data - Traffic data providers collect real time traffic speed data either by using its GPS or black box, or by creating a traffic speed dataset using cameras and sensors around the road.
Traffic Congestion Data - A traffic congestion dataset reveals when there is too much traffic on a given road, meaning vehicles can’t flow regularly. Queue legnth assessment is also linked to congestion.
Traffic Incident Data - Traffic data providers offer historical traffic data relating to incidents which have occured on the road in the past, as well as live traffic data, which reports incidents as soon as they take place.
Vehicle Classification Data - Vehicle classification organizes the different vehicles which make up a stream of traffic into different groups. For example, cars, buses, taxis, motorbikes, bicycles, vans and lorries are all different classes of vehicle.
How is Traffic Data collected?
There are countless traffic data collection devices across the world. Some are real-time traffc data sources, others are maunal procedures. Traffic data companies usually deploy a range of collection methods to ensure accuracy.
Manual counts measure traffic flow and delays via driver surveys. Like parking surveys, manual collection can identify driver painpoints, so that local authorities can meeting road planning and parking demands. Pedestrian surveys measure the flow of pedestrians at junctions. Alongside vehicle traffic analysis, these surveys can be used to suggest improvements for the safe movement of foot traffic.
Cameras are employed for number plate recognition, however they’re also used to collect traffic speed data and vehicle classification insights. This data can then be delivered via historical traffic data APIs.
Traffic count data can be retrieved via Bluetooth sensors. These sensors are connected to a counter, and data can be retrieved up to six metres away from the counter. This data can be automatically downloaded by GSM/4G transmission on a daily basis. Count data is automatically stored in traffic data provider software, where it is available for analysis. Real-time count data can also be accessed through an Ethernet/IP connection.
GPS, satellite and mobile signals can collect traffic volume data. GPS analytics are used to monitor congestion and traffic flow, as well as for origin-destination analytics.
Web scraping tools and AI systems can monitor social media sentiment and detect when a large number of posts about traffic are uploads. Key words like ‘traffic’, ‘busy’ and ‘incident’ can be the first indicator of a disruption to traffic flow. Real-time traffic data APIs provide this information 24/7.
Who are the best traffic data providers?
Leading traffic data proivders and traffic data comapnies include INRIX, Waze, Uber Movement, OpenStreetMap, and Mapbox.
How to assess the quality of Traffic Data?
High quality traffic data is essential for the best traffic analysis. Only consistent, up-to-date and enriched traffic data services will give you accurate traffic intelligence. There are steps buyers can take to assess traffic data quality:
- Buying from a reputable source with excellent reviews is one way of ensuring quality.
- Regular checks with your own error detection systems should also be employed.
- Regular testing and assessment is the best way to ensure quality traffic data. These checks can be set up to run automatically.
How is Traffic Data typically priced?
Prices for traffic data depend on many variables. Traffic data collection services typically have several pricing models in place for data buyers. Prices will depend on what the traffic data will be used for, how many people in your company need access to the traffic data, and the geographical areas required for traffic data analysis.
What are the common challenges when buying Traffic Data?
Common challenges include ensuring traffic data is up-to-date. Buying a real time traffic data API overcomes this issue.
It is also necessary to ensure the traffic data collected matches your company’s needs. This entails analysing raw traffic data and traffic data samples. From here, you can communicate your requirements to you traffic data supplier, and get traffic data which matches your company’s needs. Extraction of useful information from these data samples can be a complicated process. Trial and error with different questions is the best way to get useful results.
Businesses need to ensure Traffic data is tested regularly for accuracy and error minimisation. Always check that your traffic data provider has quality certifications and error-reduction procedures in place.
What to ask Traffic Data providers?
- How often is the traffic dataset updated? Historical or real-time?
- Does the traffic data analytics system use Machine Learning techniques to improve performance over time?
- Will the traffic data system integrate with my existing business technologies?
Who are the best Traffic Data providers?
Finding the right Traffic Data provider for you really depends on your unique use case and data requirements, including budget and geographical coverage. Popular Traffic Data providers that you might want to buy Traffic Data from are Matrixian Group, PTV Group, MBI Geodata, Datalastic, and FreightWaves.
Where can I buy Traffic Data?
Data providers and vendors listed on Datarade sell Traffic Data products and samples. Popular Traffic Data products and datasets available on our platform are Datalastic Ships Information Data | Maritime API | 750,000+ ships by Datalastic, Datalastic Real-Time Ships Traffic Data | Maritime REST API | 750.000+ ships by Datalastic, and peekd traffic insights (global web, mobile & app traffic data, GDPR-compliant) by peekd.
How can I get Traffic Data?
You can get Traffic Data via a range of delivery methods - the right one for you depends on your use case. For example, historical Traffic Data is usually available to download in bulk and delivered using an S3 bucket. On the other hand, if your use case is time-critical, you can buy real-time Traffic Data APIs, feeds and streams to download the most up-to-date intelligence.