Many state departments of transportation are collecting traffic data in real time and using it to manage traffic or provide travel information, as part of intelligent transportation systems. Some agencies save and archive this data after its initial real-time use and make it available to other data users, who often know little about how the data was collected or even what is contained in the data files.
In order to make this historical data more useful, ASTM International Committee E17 on Vehicle-Pavement Systems has developed a new standard, E 2468, Practice for Metadata to Support Archived Data Management Systems, to provide a consistent way to document what is contained in historical or archived ITS data, where the data originated, its quality, how it has been altered and other information.
Metadata, which is essentially "data about data," describes the content, quality, lineage, organization, availability, and other characteristics of data. Metadata can be used to determine the availability of certain data, determine the fitness of data for an intended use, determine the means of accessing data and enhance data analysis and interpretation by creating a better understanding of the data collection and processing procedures.
"We hope that, with application of the standard, the learning curve for analyzing archived ITS data gathered from anywhere in the country will be much shorter," says Shawn Turner, associate research engineer, Texas Transportation Institute. "Better and more widespread transportation data analysis means a better understanding of traffic conditions, which we hope leads to more efficient transportation systems."
Turner says that the new standard is intended for use by those developing, managing or maintaining an archived data management system or database that stores historical ITS data. Public agencies can specify that this standard be used in the development of metadata for data archives. Data collectors and data processing intermediaries may also use this standard to create metadata describing the original collection conditions and intermediate processing steps. "Ultimately, the data analysts will benefit from having more complete, consistent documentation of datasets they wish to use," notes Turner.
Practice E 2468, which is under the jurisdiction of Subcommittee E17.54, Archived Data User Service, is part of an ongoing effort to develop ITS standards funded by the ITS Joint Program Office, U.S. Department of Transportation. The ITS standards program is teaming with several standard development organizations to accelerate the development and testing of nearly 100 consensus-based ITS standards, while working with state and local highway and transit agencies on standards-based ITS implementation strategies.
Subcommittee E17.54 is currently seeking participation in the development of a number of standards that are closely related to Practice E 2468.
For further technical information, contact Shawn Turner, Texas Transportation Institute, College Station, Texas. (phone: 979/845-8829; firstname.lastname@example.org). Committee E17 will meet May 17-19, at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration on Wallops Island, Va. For membership or meeting details, contact Daniel Smith, ASTM International (phone: 610/832-9727; email@example.com).