Exploring the influence of Big Data on city transport operations: A Markovian approach

Rashid Mehmood, Royston Meriton, Gary Graham, Patrick Hennelly, Mukesh Kumar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

120 Citations (Scopus)


The purpose of this paper is to advance knowledge of the transformative potential of big data on city-based transport models. The central question guiding this paper is: how could big data transform smart city transport operations? In answering this question the authors present initial results from a Markov study. However the authors also suggest caution in the transformation potential of big data and highlight the risks of city and organizational adoption. A theoretical framework is presented together with an associated scenario which guides the development of a Markov model.

A model with several scenarios is developed to explore a theoretical framework focussed on matching the transport demands (of people and freight mobility) with city transport service provision using big data. This model was designed to illustrate how sharing transport load (and capacity) in a smart city can improve efficiencies in meeting demand for city services.

This modelling study is an initial preliminary stage of the investigation in how big data could be used to redefine and enable new operational models. The study provides new understanding about load sharing and optimization in a smart city context. Basically the authors demonstrate how big data could be used to improve transport efficiency and lower externalities in a smart city. Further how improvement could take place by having a car free city environment, autonomous vehicles and shared resource capacity among providers.

Research limitations/implications
The research relied on a Markov model and the numerical solution of its steady state probabilities vector to illustrate the transformation of transport operations management (OM) in the future city context. More in depth analysis and more discrete modelling are clearly needed to assist in the implementation of big data initiatives and facilitate new innovations in OM. The work complements and extends that of Setia and Patel (2013), who theoretically link together information system design to operation absorptive capacity capabilities.

Practical implications
The study implies that transport operations would actually need to be re-organized so as to deal with lowering CO2 footprint. The logistic aspects could be seen as a move from individual firms optimizing their own transportation supply to a shared collaborative load and resourced system. Such ideas are radical changes driven by, or leading to more decentralized rather than having centralized transport solutions (Caplice, 2013).

Social implications
The growth of cities and urban areas in the twenty-first century has put more pressure on resources and conditions of urban life. This paper is an initial first step in building theory, knowledge and critical understanding of the social implications being posed by the growth in cities and the role that big data and smart cities could play in developing a resilient and sustainable transport city system.

Despite the importance of OM to big data implementation, for both practitioners and researchers, we have yet to see a systematic analysis of its implementation and its absorptive capacity contribution to building capabilities, at either city system or organizational levels. As such the Markov model makes a preliminary contribution to the literature integrating big data capabilities with OM capabilities and the resulting improvements in system absorptive capacity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-104
Number of pages30
JournalInternational Journal of Operations and Production Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes


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