London Underground operators Transport for London (TFL) will begin to collect depersonalised WiFi data this summer to reduce crowing and prioritise areas for investment.
WiFi is available to travellers on more than 97% of the London Underground network, with each of the connected devices being identified by a unique MAC (Media Access Control) address. TFL will track these codes – with no other personal data attached – to monitor the flow of passengers throughout the 270 stations across the capital.
From the 8th July, this monitoring will be used to give commuters and tourists information about the route ahead and advise on clearer alternative routes. Early warnings can be posted to the TFL website and social media pages to alert travellers of congestions in ticket offices and on platforms, and staff will be better prepared to guide those with disabilities or passengers with young children.
By better understanding overall patterns and flows, we can provide better information to our customers and help us plan and operate our transport network more effectively for all
Lauren Sager Weinstein, Chief Data Officer at Transport for London
This type of depersonalised data tracking was trialled for four weeks in 2016. The movement of the MAC addresses through 54 stations within Zones 1-4 was analysed by TFL’s in-house analytics team to understand how people moved through the network.
Many third-party developers use TFL data to help Londoners and those from further afield to navigate across the capital, and this data will be available to them in order to improve their suggestions for travel.
Today nearly half of those in London use an app using TFL’s open data feeds, many of which make use of Google Maps. By using this data collected from a busy Tube station, the app may be more likely to suggest that a commuter travels by bus rather than the Underground to avoid the busy areas.
TFL are keen to stress that this data is completely anonymous and is not linked to any other personal data, browsing history or historical data stored on the device. In order to opt out of this scheme, passengers must turn their device’s WiFi off before entering any station of the London Underground system. More information on the collection of data can be found on TFL’s website.