Commuter's Wi-Fi data can improve Tube journey, TfL pilot study finds


The UK's Transport for London (TfL) has successfully conducted a pilot study that involved collecting depersonalised Wi-Fi data from commuters in order to reduce overcrowding at Tube stations and prioritise transport investment.

The four-week study was carried out between November and December last year, and focused on 54 stations within Zones 1 to 4 of the underground rail network.

Roughly 509 million depersonalised 'probing requests' were procured from 5.6 million mobile devices during the project, which accounts for nearly 42 million journeys.

The collected information was analysed by TfL's in-house analytics team and divided into different aggregated 'movement types' to understand passengers' activities during particular points of their journeys.

TfL noted that the data was completely depersonalised to remove the identities of the individuals, and the company clearly communicated with customers that they can opt out of the pilot project if preferred.

"Secure, depersonalised Wi-Fi data could enable us to map the journey patterns of millions of passengers and understand in much greater detail how people move around our transport network."

London Transport deputy mayor Val Shawcross said: “The analysis of secure, depersonalised Wi-Fi data could enable us to map the journey patterns of millions of passengers and understand in much greater detail how people move around our transport network.

“It will provide real benefits helping TfL tackle overcrowding, provide more information for passengers about their best journey route, and help us prioritise new investment where it's most needed.”

The data collected is expected to enable TfL staff to inform customers to avoid unnecessary crowding, as well as help them to plan their ideal route.

It is also expected to prioritise transport investment to upgrade services in order to further address congestion issues.

Additionally, the study is expected to help the company gain a better insight into customers' direction of travel, and plan advertising and rent retail units to optimise commercial revenue accordingly.

TfL is currently working with key stakeholders such as the Information Commissioner's Office, privacy campaigners and consumer groups to explore the possibility of acquiring this data on a more permanent basis across the Tube network.