BT’s Data Exchange: accelerating time to insight

John Davies, Chief Researcher, BT                                                                                                                                       

In today’s business landscape, not only is data foundational to how organisations operate, it is a key differentiator that determines long-term success. As a result, all organisations have a pressing need for real-time data and the key insights which flow from that data in order to improve business outcomes and create real economic value.

Today, BT is demonstrating its capabilities through a disruptive managed service platform which delivers data collection, warehousing, processing, and analytics to public service bodies and enterprises across the UK. BT’s Data Exchange accelerates the exploitation of data assets and ‘time to insights’ by streamlining the process of gathering and sharing data from multiple sources in the form of data feeds. Built from hyperscaler components, it’s designed to deliver a shop-front paradigm for various organisations and their collaborators to discover, access, experiment with and exploit available data feeds. Data is presented in a uniform and consistent manner, abstracted from the wide variety of formats it originates in. Crucially, it eliminates much of the friction associated with providing, finding, acquiring, and integrating data, thereby allowing customers to obtain valuable data insights and business intelligence more quickly and efficiently. Data silos are removed to ensure that maximum value can be gleaned from multiple data sources, often in combination.

A core component of BT’s Data Exchange vision is to help customers unlock the economic value of data within and across organisations. BT is currently working with several local authorities, including Suffolk County Council and Milton Keynes Council, to empower them to deliver more efficient and cost-effective services by leveraging data assets.

In the case of Milton Keynes, city planners are making use of Data Exchange as a key enabler of some of the city’s most innovative smart initiatives. For instance, MK:5G – a programme focused on the deployment of 5G infrastructure in support of Milton Keynes’ Smart City ambitions. The programme has several use cases focused on mobility, robotics, and drones, and how 5G networks can support innovative services in and around the Stadium: MK complex. The mobility use case is concerned with supporting travel to, from, and around the stadium using a variety of transport means, including autonomous vehicles. Visitors can plan their trip via a special app and pre-arrange services such as parking to simplify their journey. In fact, the AI analytics generated by video from CCTV cameras is used to identify available parking spaces to improve the visitor experience.

In addition to supporting visitors, the stadium operators are responsible for planning and running services more effectively with the use of real-time information about the availability of services, people movements, and so on. With this insight, they can anticipate pressure points and potential areas of congestion allowing them to manage the environment more easily, improve safety and optimise the overall visitor experience.

Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAV) are also a feature of the mobility use case with driverless passenger pods, a surveillance patrol vehicle, and the trial of a remotely driven vehicle transportation service. Four person pods are used to transport visitors around the stadium complex, while a 10-seater driverless shuttle serves as a transport link between the local train station and the stadium. The surveillance vehicle provides venue patrol, crowd control and remote site viewing.

The robotics use case sees a variety of robots interact with and deliver services to visitors and staff within the main stadium and at the on-site hotel. These range from customer facing services such a bag carrying and room service, to logistics services including the distribution of food and drink supplies to bars and restaurants throughout the stadium complex. Additionally, drones provide safety and security capabilities to the stadium operators such as surveillance and intrusion detection, while drone racing within the stadium has also been demonstrated as part of the use case.

Smarter Suffolk is a collaborative initiative with Suffolk County Council designed to inspire the adoption of innovative and digital technology across the countywide infrastructure network. The objective is to bring efficiencies to Suffolk County Council in the form of optimised resource allocation. For example, data from the Data Exchange platform is shared to improve winter gritting route planning to ensure the most economical use of grit and to prioritise the busiest roads. Similarly, data is also used to improve maintenance interventions such as gully cleaning, to adapt street light levels to ensure the right light is in the right place at the right time, to monitor air quality, and make use of smart sensors in refuse bins to detect when they are full and to optimise collection routes based on this intelligence.

Looking beyond existing projects, the Data Exchange platform has wider applicability when it comes to logistics hubs such as smart ports. For example, BT is working with Associated British Ports (ABP) on a number of smart port projects, where implementing drone automation with AI provides a breadth of opportunities to exploit data and provide accurate management of their sites, asset control and enhanced security.

Through its long-standing innovation partnership with ABP, BT has used drone technology to trial a fully automated process to identify, track and analyse the number of vehicles across the port at any given time. This is key for ABP’s business to allow for accurate billing, better management of operational costs and insight-led decision making for the port’s management team.

Data exchanges such as these are a crucial part of many new, ambitious smart city projects globally. A data exchange where the data can be aggregated, shared, and analysed is critical to making better decisions, leading to greater overall efficiency, better performance, and in the longer-term, has the potential to lower operating costs. Breaking down data silos facilitates the process of gleaning deep, actionable insights from organizational data, and reveals a path to an organisation or enterprise-wide view of unexplored or hidden opportunities.