This evening, the UTS: Transport Research Centre was opened ceremoniously by the esteemed Dr Michelle Zeibots. Being a student before a cadet, I scrambled at the opportunity to be part of something that I've been so involved with over the last two years. It's good to see the importance of transport research coming to the forefront of public knowledge, where previously the only analogy I've had to share with relatives over Christmas was "Well, my job is a lot like playing Sim City".
Perhaps the most interesting reason for my excitement is that over my tenure with Transport, I've been privy to the increasing importance of Big Data, and how manipulating this sort of information can have wide and far-spread effects on our lives. The most recent moves by Governments and companies to release big data-sets to the public is a driver for innovation and opportunity for young researchers (myself included) to harness and utilize. UTS: TRC presented the application of manipulating rail-station commuter data in order to ease passage congestion. Its an advanced form of information processing that responds to the changes in density - in real time. In the future, we could see personal data tailoring our daily experiences. We've already seen Fitbit keeping track of our fitness and dietary needs... What if, based on metrics collected from our bodies, they could warn us to the threats of cancer? Although this opens doors to huge ethical dilemmas, there is potential power in what big data defines, how it can be harnessed and the benefits it could provide.
Another aspect I thoroughly enjoyed was the increased interaction between the Bureau of Statistics & Analytics (formely BTS, soon to be TPA) and universities. Across the board, the recognition of institutions means new perspectives and fresh thinkers become more relevant. Young people are becoming recognised for their research at an unprecedented level. What may be the solution for Sydney's growing congestion problems may come from the mind of a short, 23 year-old Filipino uni student.
I met a PhD student tonight - a brilliant mathematician - who believes he can improve Freight movement effeciency across Australia by 20%. The research centre can help him to connect with the people who want to listen.
Summing it up, tonight proved something to me about my current line of work. As an engineer, what I am doing is relevant. As a kid who grew up reading magazines about space travel and locomotion, I've had that taste of how satisfying contribution can be. Maybe UTS's new Research Centre will do the same for many other people in my line of work.
If you've read this far but don't care a smidge about transport informatics, then let it be known, at least, that Penny Lanes' finger food game is incredible.