The Data Value Chain, Innovation and Rail Data Marketplace

The development of a rail data marketplace is inevitable – the concept is not new and equivalent marketplaces already exist in many other industries, notably energy and finance.

Nor is a marketplace dependent solely on the availability of technology platforms. The buying and selling of data to acquire advantage is centuries old. The maxim that “Information is Power” is demonstrated by the fact that information is sold and exchanged on a B2B and B2C basis with a monetary value every day. However, the dogmatism of data producers withholding industry data in the hope of acquiring some possible future advantage at some point in time, when it might be used for the better of the industry right now will harm the industry as a whole.

Through the creation of a data marketplace, combined with some degree of regulation and governance, rail now has the chance to deliver industry-wide improvements that benefit all. Companies that actively participate from the outset to make it happen will most likely find that, as the pioneers of an industry initiative to simplify and open up data access, they do in fact stay ahead of the competition – and maybe even change the game itself.

Creating a data marketplace is not an altruistic venture and it does not mean that all data must be shared openly or that it has zero value. Ultimately, businesses benefit as the market decides the price of what data has value, and what value can be added.

The primary opportunity a rail data marketplace provides is making data accessible for the good of the industry. Once available, the rate of data-led innovation will increase, with the marketplace acting as a key enabler to attract new entrants from other industries with transferable expertise that can create wholly new propositions in rail based on the new value-adding products and services.

A marketplace creates the conditions for new value propositions to be much more easily created in not just rail, but also transport and other sectors. Thereafter, through integration with other data marketplaces, there are endless possibilities. There will also be examples, no doubt, where the new value propositions that originate from rail data will create completely new markets that do not yet exist.

The Data Value Chain model provides a new way of looking at the different types of providers and consumers that might operate in a rail data marketplace, and what types of innovations each might bring. Some businesses may bring core expertise to one link in the chain, others may provide full end-to-end solutions throughout the whole of the chain. Others might be engaged in just two or three of the value-adding activities. Their engagement would be based on their business model and capabilities.

How might it work?

This is a simple concept that works in the same way as any other marketplace. Data would be supplied to the marketplace from both existing and new sources, either for free or at a market price. Value-adding services could then be provided by market players that create new data for resale back into the marketplace – the value-added by the new-data would be represented by a higher market price.

An analogy would be the value add that pattern recognition and intelligent forecasting products and services provide for use in the finance and security sectors. Businesses will pay for the insight these products and services provide, but have no interest in accessing the data upon which they are built.

Types of Value Add in the Data Value Chain

There are many ways that value can be created in a data marketplace.

  • “Acquiring data the market would value” – a sensor, data telemetry, IoT or OEM supplier might invest in technology to supply data to the marketplace about asset condition or operational performance.
  • “Extracting the signal from the noise” – where specialist data analytics might provide services that take raw data from the market place and extract the most important features of interest for supply back into the marketplace at a price for other consumers.
  • “Provision of data in a format to meet the industry data catalogue requirements” – where API development would ensure that data from any source can be converted and catalogued in a way that encourages and allows 3rd parties from outside or within the rail sector to access the data with minimal integration costs. The availability of this service removes the technical entry barriers for a range of businesses that can supply data at a future market value.
  • “Value adding data insight for real-world applications” – where industry domain expertise could use available data to address industry, business and project challenges such as increasing productivity, reducing costs, improving performance and delivering outcomes.
  • “Data visualisation to share insight, information and intelligence” – taking data and presenting it for use in management information systems, customer information systems, marketing campaigns or decision support.
  • ‘Real-time data driven system integration” – where data from the marketplace can be provided on a ‘Data-as-a-Service’ basis for real-time use in automation, workflow management, planning, control systems or incident reporting.


Applications in rail are often looked at from the perspective of the the customer, asset owner or the operator. This creates the potential for different types of applications:

  • Closing the revenue-cost gap in the rail industry following Covid-19 will be a significant challenge that might be accelerated if passengers were better informed through ‘data presentation’ based on the information available in a rail data marketplace. Accurate and reliable information on crowding and passenger travel patterns that inform business and leisure travel service planning and customer choices could more rapidly increase passenger confidence and inform social distancing safety measures that accelerate the return of passengers to the railway.
  • Predictive asset management based on an understanding of both the asset condition and its forecast future utilisation. The most common applications have looked at reducing in-service through-life cost but a rail data marketplace creates other opportunities such as understanding the ‘whole-lifecarbon cost’ associated with asset condition and use.
  • The next generation of traffic management systems for operators might optimise their operations in line with not just on-time service provision incentives, but also end-to-end customer experience or real-time carbon emissions incentives.
  • Infrastructure project delivery performance in rail remains under scrutiny. Delays and cost escalation are cited as common and widespread issues. Data from a marketplace could provide insight or early warning of downstream programme risks and issues that support early interventions to minimise programme delay and prevent cost escalation.

The Nature of Markets

It is not possible to forecast the way in which a data marketplace might evolve. By its very nature, existing industry players and new entrants will identify innovative ways of creating value in the data value chain.

But what is certain, is that a rail industry data marketplace is on the way. And when it arrives, the data value chain means it will touch all parts of the industry and provide an opportunity to transform end-to-end Mobility-as-a Service and address transport decarbonisation challenges.

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