A transport ecosystem for all

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Reflections on Teaching

A transport ecosystem for all

Eom Jin Ki (Professor, UST- Korea Railroad Research Institute (KRRI) School)

What is the key to transport infrastructure planning and operations? Transportation plans primarily take into consideration the construction of major transportation facilities such as roads and railroads, hence mostly supplier-centered policies. This means these policies estimate demands from uniformed groups as a whole, rather than considering individual transportation behaviors, often leading to discrepancies from the reality. As science and technology advances at the speed of light, so does our society. And the emergence of the hyper loop, a transportation to carry vehicles in vacuum tubes, and urban air mobility (UAM) that is a transportation service in future smart cities is expected to bring drastic changes to the transport ecosystem. Professor Eom Jin Ki at the UST-Korea Railroad Research Institute (KRRI) School has been dedicated to research on transportation planning and operations for a range of convenient human-centered mobility services in the future transport ecosystem. In recognition of his scientific achievements, he won the Scientist of the Month, an award hosted by the Ministry of Science and ICT and co-organized by the National Research Foundation of Korea and Seoul Economic Daily in June 2021.

Commitment to developing efficient transport plans, operations, and services

Some may find the term “big data” to be somewhat outdated, as big data is used universally and found everywhere in today’s society. Encouraged by the greater convenience in investigations and analyses and easier access to mobility data, Professor Eom has focused on combining and connecting mobility data to predict demands for transportation facilities planning and operations and developing relevant systems.

“In the coming days we will be living a life of ‘new normal,’ where our daily lives will be completely different from what they are now, influenced by aging population, increases in single households, and contactless activities triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Future mobility would not be an exception. We anticipate mobility services with maximized convenience and efficiency by combining urban transportations and infrastructure, human mobility, and ICT. In that sense, my aim is to simulate and predict changes in mobility following changes in how we act and move, thereby contributing to making transportation operations and services more efficient."

With years of strong research commitment, Professor Eom developed the ABATA, Activity-BAsed Traveler Analyzer. This big data-based system connects multiple databases to realize mobility for individuals.

ABATA uses data on passengers’ characteristics (gender, age, occupation, income, etc.), their time-specific activities, and what transportation modes they use to move which locations to develop individual passengers’ activity schedules and analyze active populations and mobility demands. The key here is to ensure connections between various data sets, such as mobile communication traffic big data, individual passenger data, business survey data, demographic data, building use and land use data, and data from education offices.

“Human-centered mobility analysis is all about individual behavioral data. It involves the use of temporal, spatial, and location information on individuals’ time-specific activities, locations, departure and arrival time, travel time, and transportations, hence potential risk for personal information leakage. The more detailed data, the more variety of outcomes. While real-time data collection technologies continue developing, they face limitations in actual use to prevent personal information leakage, which is a barrier to developing transportation plans tailored to individual passengers. I look forward to regulations easing to allow for the use of data to the extent not to specifically identify individuals so that I can further contribute to the development of efficient transportation systems.”

The ABATA system is the world’s first methodology to estimate and identify populations based on mobile traffic big data. This significantly contributes to improving the accuracy and precision of mobility demand prediction. It is a foundational technology that can be scaled to all human-centered areas including urban planning, disaster evacuation, tourism, and business sphere analysis, which we see as the first step towards a transportation ecosystem f or all.

Helping students find fresh insights based on data

Professor Eom came to know about the UST after he joined the KRRI. A researcher’s essential duty is to focus on research on the one hand. But on the other hand, research cannot be done solo, hence it is also important for a researcher to teach and foster professionals to ensure continuity of research and produce better results. That is why Professor Eom took both tracks ? research and teaching.

“When I joined the KRRI, I saw firsthand faculty members and students working closely at the UST. That made me dream of becoming a researcher-educator powered by this top-notch research and education system.”

As per his resolution to be a researcher-educator, he now fosters professionals in transport system engineering. One of UST graduates he supervised is now his colleague at the KRRI.

“One of my teaching orientations is to help UST students build competence as data scientists and analysts to find fresh insights based on data.”

Of his years-long service as a UST faculty member, Professor Eom’s pinnacle moment was winning the Scientist of the Month.

“Many of the Scientist of the Month winners are basic scientists. Few from the public sector and none from transport engineering that is my specialty. That makes me feel my honor so much more special. This would not have been possible without the help of my fellow researchers and UST students.”

Professor Eom now aims at human-centered mobility analysis to ensure equal access to mobility for all, hence contributing to improving the quality of citizens’ lives. One day novel transportation systems will turn up, and we would not panic and feel comfortable using them with confidence, all thanks to Professor Eom and transportation engineering specialists nurtured by him. We all look forward to that day coming soon.