Understanding user innovation - Unanticipated applications of existing ITS

Lead Research Organisation: University of the West of England
Department Name: Faculty of Environment and Technology


Modern lifestyles and patterns of travel are increasingly permeated and supported by information technologies (IT). Our transport systems are similarly dependent increasingly upon IT to manage system capacity and the demands placed upon it. IT is the facilitator of opportunities to address present and future needs, desires and problems. The field of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) has traditionally looked to realise such opportunities through innovation that is commercially led (e.g. Satellite Navigation systems) or government led with commercial companies implementing systems to its specification through a tendering process (e.g. real-time information systems for bus services). This proposal stems from the contention that there may be another significant, but largely over-looked, source of innovation - specifically where users (people, organisations and businesses) are conceiving of uses of existing forms of IT and ITS in innovative ways and different contexts than those anticipated by their providers. Increasingly the producer/consumer model of the delivery of information services is giving way to a network mode where content and services are generated by users. By attempting to study and discover 'user innovations' there is the prospect of being able to identify, develop and exploit new opportunities for existing technologies and services to address challenges facing transport systems and users.This project will develop and apply an 'ITS Observatory' / a mixed method approach to looking for and examining creative behaviours being exhibited by transport system users. Research expertise in social psychology and human factors relating to IT will be combined with industry expertise in data and information generation, manipulation and visualisation to support advances in information services. The cataloguing of user innovations exposed by the Observatory will form the basis for identifying prospective pathways to commercial innovation and exploitation. Selected pathways will then be pursued within the project.


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Description Intelligent Transport Systems has a been a field focused upon how information and communications technologies can be used to provide systems and services that can support the operation and management of our transport systems and their use by travellers. For many years this has been a 'top-down' industry in terms of new innovations and developments regarding information services for travellers.

However, the world around this industry has been changing rapidly. Web 2.0 and mobile technologies such as smart phones have spawned an array of social media developments with capacity for individuals to communicate with each other and to co-create and share data, information and knowledge. Allied to this, governments have come to recognise that opening up the data sets they hold can release value from them as third parties use that data as a source for innovation - in an era in which the 'app' phenomenon has emerged.

This five year project sought to explore the concept of bottom-up 'user innovation' in transport - the possibilities for users themselves to harness the information age capabilities above to address challenges or problems they identified in people's transport needs being met.

The project has examined the context for user innovation through the study of people's everyday mobile lives and the extent to which they sense they face problems or challenges and what appetite in turn they may have for creative behaviours and user innovation. It has gone on to identify a considerable number of specific examples of user innovations (over 200 in total). The project team then examined a sample of such innovations and worked with the innovators concerned to better understand the motivations, enablers and barriers for the innovations arising and being pursued. The project has also sought to trace and understand the changing landscape of social media and data sources generated by users such as OpenStreetMap and Wikipedia. It has looked to better understand the nature and extent to which user needs within user innovation developed are or could better be addressed - for example through user-centred design. It has, in addition, explored the potential for co-design techniques to increase the generation of innovative ideas.

Overall as a result of tracing and understanding this rapidly evolving dimension of transport and technology, the project has sought to interpret what this might mean for the future of Intelligent Transport Systems and how 'top-down' and 'bottom-up' relate to one another. User innovations are not universally successful and many are at early stages of development struggling for resource; many appear to have few users - reflective in part of their niche offering and a busy 'information marketplace' but also of their lack of resonance with a substantive and unmet user need. At the same time, some are proving signficant in offering attractive services to users and show growing use. For the coming years, the question is whether user innovations will complement ITS provision or begin to substitute for this.

A key findings report is available on the project website.
Exploitation Route Our key findings report is available online at http://www.ideasintransit.org/outputs/ITT%20-%20Key%20Findings%20Report%20-%20FINAL.pdf
Other key outputs are also available on the project website. We engaged with industry, entrepreneurs and the Department for Transport during the project. The project's start preceded the 'Era of the App' which began in earnest during the lifetime of the project. The project studied the process of innovation and engaged with many innovators in the course of doing so. It also produced an 'innovations portal' in wiki format for others to see and use in terms of helping inspire further innovation. The project's findings are not advances in scientific knowledge but rather insights into the changing world of innovation possibility in an increasingly connected society. As such it is through the dissemination of our work (beyond the active engagement with innovators during the project) that findings are available to be taken forward by others in terms of influencing thinking and approach to the matter of innovation.
Sectors Transport

URL http://www.ideasintransit.org/
Description Tangible impacts from the research findings are difficult to pinpoint. However, part of the project funding (from the then Technology Strategy Board, Department for Transport as well as the EPSRC) was used to provide funding awards to entrepreneurs and SMEs to develop their innovations. The project team engaged with these awards to examine their approaches to innovation development and help support this. As a result the project has been a catalyst for new innovation developments in the transport sector. One of the beneficiary organisations was https://liftshare.com/uk. It was able to further develop its approach to shared journeys by developing a service that could be used within organisations to help employees review and reconsider their travel planning and (potentially) influence their travel behaviour in ways beneficial to both them and to society.
First Year Of Impact 2011
Sector Transport
Impact Types Societal,Economic