Enabling Self-Service and Advanced Analytics
Transport for NSW - Customer Success Story
Transport for NSW (TfNSW) manages one of the largest fleets of vehicles in Australia, including Buses, Ferries, Light Rail, Trains and Metro. The real-time data generated by these vehicles provides valuable analytical opportunities to improve transport services by measuring service performance and optimising routes, however, the sheer volume of data presents data management challenges.
Data-Driven partnered with TfNSW to deliver the Operational Data Lake (ODL) platform on Azure to enable self-service and advanced analytics capabilities previously not possible. Data-Driven’s ODL included CloudMonitor as a tool to reduce and manage the consumption costs.
NSW Transport Challenges
Historical operational data too large and costly to store efficiently and analyse
Historical GTFS data has always been too large and costly to store efficiently and analyse. Each TfNSW vehicle sends its location every 10 seconds which results in a huge stockpile of data containing valuable insights.
In the past, this data was not stored which made insights from past vehicle trips almost impossible to obtain and ruled out the ability to predict trip delays or optimise trip routes. It also made it difficult to report on and analyse service performance and reduced the ability to improve customer services.
Key Operational Data-related challenges to overcome:
Building an Operational Data Lake capable of ingesting and storing infinite data and allowing self-service analytics
The Data Foundation solution by Data-Driven was the perfect starting point as it was designed to be highly scalable and extensible whilst providing an analytics platform for citizen data scientists and business users. The DevOps-first mindset meant it was east to extend for new use-cases.
This met TfNSW’s vision to build the Operational Data Lake (ODL); a unified, next-generation data and analytics platform, leveraging native Azure services to enable the continuous collection/curation of diverse transport operational data sets, allowing self-service analytics and machine learning to gain further insights to improve transport customer services.
The ODL platform service offerings include but not limited to:
- continuous collection/curation of diverse Transport operational data sets,
- data management,
- self-service analytics and,
- platform services for advanced analytics e.g. AI/ML/DS.
The requirements for the GTFS data self-service analytics were:
- Allow both internal and external users to access historical GTFS data sets
- Ability for TfNSW data scientists to perform advanced analytics and run machine learning experiments in a cost-efficient manner on operational data
- The data platform must allow data discovery, have built-in monitoring and cost management tools
- Ensure data privacy and security, with robust governance controls supported by the platform
- Ability to deliver insights from these systems to the organization in an automated, interactive, and near real-time manner
Key Outcomes for the Business
ODL Data Foundation ready for Advanced Analytics
The Operational Data Lake Data Foundation solution by Data-Driven was the perfect starting point for TfNSW as it was designed to be highly scaleable, extensible and whilst providing a platform for citizen data scientists and business users to perform advanced analytics.
The true business value will grow even greater in the future as machine learning and analysis is done on the data. Here are some examples of insights that are now possible with the right data:
The Technical Solution
Operational Data Lake built on Microsoft Azure + Databricks
The architecture uses native Microsoft Azure technologies to reduce the learning curve for operators of the data platform which also makes it easy to extend for new use-cases as they come onboard. Azure Data Factory and Azure Functions are used to ingest data depending on the data access method and frequency of ingress data. Storage and data life cycle management is performed by Azure Data Lake Gen 2 components.
Azure Databricks is the compute engine used to transform millions of IoT files into a usable Big Data within the cost and performance constraints. The Unified Data Platform workspaces of Databricks were the perfect solution for the self-service capability to allow internal data analysts to explore data and run experements in a secure and controlled manner. Governance around cluster use, data access, data management and security is handled by Azure Databricks RBAC controls to ensure the user sees only the data they are meant to see.
A key technical challenge to overcome was the storing of millions of Json files per day from the IoT devices for each vehicle. Delta Lake was used to process the raw operational data as well as providing data integrity, ACID transactions and data versioning to add a governance layer to the Data Lake. The use of Delta Lake and Databricks allows “Hot” analytics to be performed on the Delta lake with a rapid response time across vast amounts of data.
About Transport for NSW
Transport for NSW is a government run enterprise responsible for the delivering and development of of safe, integrated and efficient transport systems for the people of NSW; including transport planning, strategy, policy, procurement and other non-service delivery functions across all modes of transport: Buses, Ferries, Light Rail, Trains and Metro.
NSW Transport works hand-in-hand with operating agencies, private operators and industry partners to deliver customer-focused services and projects in order to make NSW a better place to live, work and visit.