19 FEB 2021


Recovery from Covid will see real-time data push society towards a knowledge-sharing economy, allowing companies to secure and share faster, more accurate knowledge, says Geoff McGrath.

Anyone looking back on 2020 would see a year characterised by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. And whilst the rapid deployment of vaccines brings hope in the fight against Covid-19, the last 12 months suggest we still have a long journey ahead.  

To secure our recovery, we need agile and responsive analytics based on near real-time data to drive us forward and ensure that industries ‘bounce back better’ as we define the ‘new normal’. Relying solely on ‘big data’ to guide us forward, which is often historic and slow-moving, will not equip us for the uncertainty we face.  

The road to recovery  

‘Bouncing back better’ is more than just an ambition. It is increasingly becoming our lived reality. Patterns of economic recovery can be seen in the latest edition of CKDelta’s Recovery Index. The Index explores patterns of behaviour in sectors such as travel and retail to provide an ongoing insight into the shape our recovery could take with the right interventions made to secure it. 

This data indicates a significant modal shift in forms of travel, with higher proportions of journeys being made by car over rail compared to pre-pandemic levels. For example, travel between London and Bristol has consistently peaked at 73% by car compared to 26% by rail since April 2020. With overall rail travel growth of only 8-14% against a February 2020 baseline since April 2020, the need for targeted investment and consumer campaigns from the government to aid the rail industry’s recovery is clear.

Acknowledging this early in our recovery means now is the opportune time to reassess major projects such as HS2 and Crossrail. This is not to say that they do not have their merits, but their need cases are built on pre-pandemic data points and assumptions that do not match the circumstances we are in. Project sponsors should embrace insights from new data which could actually help bolster business cases and, even more importantly, make the final product more likely to meet society’s future needs.

Delivering for industry

Securing the travel industry’s recovery means utilising minimum data for maximum insight. Predictive analytics is not the silver bullet that will precisely map out our recovery. But it is far more capable of doing so than outdated historical models.

Modelling scenarios in real time means delivering on sustainable development goals such as net zero. Predictive analytics can be adopted to enable industry to rapidly upscale technologies like EV charging point infrastructure, both in modelling distribution and accessibility needs. The ability to share data between public and private sector bodies also means we can more closely interrelate different sectors in our planning cycles and provide greater flexibility against evolving long and short-term trends. Now is the time to reset our baseline assumptions and deliver smart and sustainable planning for our communities.

Bouncing back better

The positive potential of this technology is clear. Real-time data will push us toward a knowledge-sharing economy, allowing companies to secure, and share faster, more accurate knowledge. Realising this potential now as we plan our recovery is essential if we are serious about securing our long-term future and adapting to a world where everything seems less certain than the pre-pandemic era. 

There will undoubtedly be an element of risk involved as it is beyond the realms of possibility to predict the future. It is however far better than trying to apply old models to a world which has undergone such fundamental changes.  

Geoff McGrath is the managing director of data science business, CKDelta and will be speaking at Infrastructure Intelligence’s Future of Cities webinar on Friday 26 February 2021.

Click here to book a place at the Future of Cities webinar.


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