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How Contino helped Transport for NSW build analytics on AWS

Helps log public transport network data in near-real-time

Every morning, thousands of commuters tap their Opal cards on NSW’s trains, buses and ferries as part of the daily grind.

However, until recently, bosses at Transport for NSW (TfNSW) lacked crystal clear visibility on just who was passing through their barriers, despite the wealth of big data at their disposal.

With the ability to predict and react quickly to situations ranging from footfall fluctuations, weather and transport delays, the State Government agency realised its existing technology was no longer up to the task at hand.

Previously, TfNSW operated on-premise systems, which it claimed lacked the scalability and reliability to form the basis for a reliable data platform. 

The agency also uses multiple data sources, which posed a significant challenge when accessing, processing and analysing information at speed so as to deliver the desired real-time and predictive insights.

Seeking a solution, the agency turned to cloud consultancy and AWS partner Contino to overhaul their data analytics capabilities and bring them into the public cloud..

Slice and dice

The project began with Contino building an Opal analytics platform on AWS using cloud-native tooling and DevOps.

The solution used AWS Lambda to “minimise the operational and management requirements of the platform while reducing cost”.

Using AWS S3, Kinesis Firehose and DynamoDB in combination, the platform ingests data feeds from Opal near real-time while aggregating additional data sources to provide insights on passenger capacity, flow and possible interruptions.

The solution also used Tableau and web dashboards at the front-end to enable end-users to segment, analyse and visualise the data across the network.

In addition, machine learning service AWS Sagemaker was incorporated to apply predictive capabilities based on past data, helping TfNSW respond to issues such as how variations in the weather affect users’ use of public transport.

“Senior leadership have a near real-time view across the network and mode of transport that they can access from anywhere, on any device,” according to Contino. “They can slice and dice the data as they wish to get the information they need to make strategic decisions.”

“Previously these insights were not available in near real time, and some situations could take months to access.” 

Meanwhile, the use of serverless technologies has reduced all server maintenance and operational burdens, while reducing costs for the agency,” the Melbourne-based partner added.

Contino first established operations in Australia in early 2017, with the opening of its first new office in Melbourne.

Founded in the UK, Contino is an AWS partner and also responsible for the biggest Azure project in the UK. Last year it acquired acquired fellow AWS and Microsoft partneNebulr.

As of September last year, the company said it had 80 staff in Australia, with the Nebulr acquisition bringing in 50 new people.