Knowledge is power and measuring is knowing. Analysts are always looking for clues as to how areas of the economy are performing. It gives them an advantage for providing an analysis of current trends, or the demand for certain commodities.
The type of questions they want an answer to are, are we heading for a boom or recession? Can we forecast the sales of new cars? How are commodities performing on the world market? What is happening to population trends?
The problem they face is gaining access to timely, relevant and up-to-date information. The traditional method of looking at survey or census data, or sales records, is that it is invariably out-of-date before it can be of any use.
Having access to an instant source of information provides a snapshot of current trends. Hour by hour data comparisons provide micro levels of data analysis which, aided by the latest computer algorithms, can map the way the world works in minute detail.
This level of granular information is vital for almost all sorts of data intelligence teams; for banks, retailers, town planners, governments, marketing teams or the media.
The power of traffic data
At TomTom, we track real-life traffic patterns. Millions of motorists use our data every minute of every day. It provides an analysis of up to 80% of traffic movements across the globe. It’s updated every 15 minutes and can provide them with the traffic insights they need to make informed decisions.
Over the years we have seen that traffic congestion levels are closely related to economic activity levels: the more jobs there are, the more trips there are made to and from work and the more income people have for other activities that generate even more trips.
The coronavirus outbreak threw the value of our data into a stark reality. The shutdown of factories and businesses in China had a massive impact on social patterns. Overnight, the mass volumes of traffic disappeared from the roads and cities.
It was picked up instantly in our Traffic Index. Now running for its ninth year, the TomTom Traffic Index
provides a city-by-city analysis of the trends and traffic patterns in cities across the world. It is normally used to track traffic congestion patterns and how busy our cities are, on a 48-hour and weekly basis.
Now, in complete contrast, the Traffic Index is showing how empty our roads are. This was first visible in cities in China. Some cities, notably Milan, have shown decreases of more than 85% on their normal traffic activity levels. Understandably, it was big news, covered by media outlets around the world. But it’s also a vital sign for traders and financial institutions, who are looking for clues for upticks in economic activity.
Traders look for clues
Finding a profit in the commodity market is a fine balancing act. Traders’ traditional sources of information are no longer available due to travel banks or coronavirus restrictions. Instead, they are looking at data from sales from the petrol pumps or scouring social media to see what is ‘trending’. But there is nothing that is more accurate than traffic flows
. Real-time information can provide an instant snapshot of when the economy starts to move again, and when demand for oil and petrol begin an upward trajectory.
What is happening in Italy?
We used the TomTom traffic data to track the movement in Italy, as one of the biggest impacted countries in Europe at the time. We focused heavily on the north of the country, where the areas most impacted by the virus are. As you can see from the diagrams, TomTom indicated a huge decrease in traffic in the key regions of the country as the country responded to the shutdown.
- When comparing March 2020 to February 2020, we saw a decrease in traffic of up to 63% between Codogno and Casalpusterlengo. Traffic flows also decreased by up to 72% on the road network surrounding Bergamo.
- When comparing March 2020 to March 2019, the traffic to and from airports in Lombardy reduced heavily – by as much as 80%.