If you’re one of the riders of the London Underground (aka Tube), then in the coming days you’re going to be a part of its data collection program.
Transport of London (TfL) which manages Tube’s operations said it will start tracking riders from July 8, 2019. It will set up Wi-Fi access points at 260 stations to understand the flow of riders across the network.
The home-baked system will depend on the MAC addresses of people’s devices. It will be able to monitor people’s entry and exit stations in the tube network. Also, it would track their routes as they pass through different stations, almost in real-time.
All the data collected will be anonymized so that it can’t be used to trace the devices or users it belongs to. TfL says its system won’t collect any data related to the riders’ browsing history.
Since the entire system uses your device’s MAC address to do all the tracking, you can simply turn off your WiFi radio if you want to opt out. Also, TfL says clear signs will be displayed to inform users about the data collection.
The pilot to test the WiFi data collection technology was conducted back in 2016 across 54 stations and lasted for almost a month.
Why are they tracking riders?
Right now, TfL can use the data from its ticketing system to understand the journey patterns of its riders, such as accurately predicting their start and end stations.
The new system will allow TfL to collect even more tailored information about their journeys. Such as which lines and stations are the most congested and which routes are preferred by most people.
TfL says it’ll start uploading the collected data to its website later this year. This will help the riders plan their journey in a better way. Also, it would be able to post early warnings on its social media channels about congestion at ticket halls and platforms.
Further, TfL will also add this data to their free open-data API so developers will be able to use it while creating new products and services.