Intelligent use of data is essential for the freight sector to remain competitive in evolving cities, according to Transport Systems Catapult.

Speaking at last week’s Freight in the City Spring Summit, principal technologist Andrew Traill told delegates of the role enhanced data sharing could play in boosting innovation.

He said as cities become 'places for people', increasingly pedestrianized with reduced capacity for road vehicles, the freight sector needs to adapt its traditional model to remain viable.

“We shouldn't be fighting this,” he added, “this is how people want to see the world. But we need to make sure freight isn't forgotten when these plans are made.”

Traill asked: “How are they going to achieve this separation of freight from people? How are we going to make freight effectively invisible and yet still able to do its job?”

Better use of data will play a huge role, he said, but it is essential for all city stakeholders to be willing to share their own data sets and combine them to drive transport efficiencies.

“Data on its own is fine, but it's like oil, the real value comes when you refine it and when you manage it. Data is coming from a growing number of sources every day," he added, "how do we fuse it and bring it together?”

Comprehensive data can be essential in helping drive innovation in urban logistics and provide a clear modelling scenario for new systems to help de-risk investment in new technology, Traill concluded.

Project work at Transport Systems Catapult aims to bridge the gap between R&D and ensuring a product is translated into a market opportunity.

It aims to ensure the UK remains a leader in urban logistics innovation and finds opportunities in an intelligent mobility marketplace estimated to be worth £900bn.

“The more we open up and the more data we share, the better our models will be, with less risk and more opportunity," said Traill.