Metadata is coming to a logistics network near you, and that is a good thing.
For decades, politicians, industry representatives and communities have held town hall meetings, agenda driven council meetings, association gatherings and the like in order to build a case for their cause. Opinions on everything from environmental concerns to infrastructure development for economic gains will be presented, attacked and defended. However in general, there is a severe lack of efficiently applicable data to support those opinions.
Metadata is data about data. It assists the user in evaluating the effectiveness of the data—both the validity and applicability to the study at hand. In logistics terms this means that industry has the ability to help government provide greater flow and more efficient international trade; make critical decisions on road network usage for informed infrastructure development; and even reduce the environmental impact of transportation modes. States experiencing difficult budget shortages can use resultant data to apply valuable dollars where most needed. Thanks to metadata, industry can partner in this regard by assisting their governments in evaluating and adjusting the perceived needs voiced by advocacy groups and lobbyists.
One such looming issue is caused by the latest fracking boom in South Texas. Known as the “Eagle Ford Shale” counties, areas in South Texas are suffering from damaged roads due to significant impacts from trucks carrying everything from crude oil to drilling rigs to sand. The amount of miles travelled in this area is hard to quantify as is the impact to any particular county. Of course anyone driving down a damaged road can tell you that that area needs attention but that does nothing to quantify the need in terms of dollars. Counties such as Atascosa, Dimmit, Frio, Gonzales, Karnes and La Salle are all in need of TXDOT dollars for repairs in order to support the $61 billion dollar industry, but who needs it more? Private companies participating in the industry have begun donating dollars based on the obvious need to keep trucks flowing along roads and continue economic growth in order to bypass the long and tedious bureaucratic process of money allocation in this area. These same companies are in the same predicament as far as understanding the need. They follow all the regulations for tracking miles and driver hours that are mandated by federal authorities, but the real issue comes down to frequency of usage on particular road networks. There are separate responsibilities and categories for states, counties and federal highway networks and parsing that data is available today with new technologies.
The ports of entry along the Southern border region are another area of concern. Proponents and opponents alike voice strong opinions on the need for greater investment in infrastructure and human resources from government entities on both sides of the border. Metadata allows us to evaluate these requirements with facts. Where we will benefit the most from human resources additions quickly becomes obvious with data. The above chart portrays 856 cross border shipments during the first two weeks of May, 2014. The data reveals the details of wait times, providing critical information on which hours during the day require a manpower increase, and where. Metadata will assist with the huge challenge of making sense of large budgetary requirements.
The collection method for all this data is already available and currently being utilized. Large fleets are outfitted with GPS systems in order to monitor driver hours, miles driven, and fuel efficiency as well. What is lacking is the overlay system which would monitor impacts to particular areas in order to study and analyze the data. This type of system is already applied to the border regions in South Texas and can be of beneficial use in other areas for effective decision making.
Metadata allows society to measure the effectiveness of government agencies, apply resources where they are needed and improve efficiencies. Basing environmental arguments on facts and applying associated regulations that make sense on measurable impacts is the future of policy debate and allocation of government monies. Understanding where to send state monies for road improvements can quickly be quantified. Understanding the need for greater human resources along international borders may be justified based on facts and not emotion. In other words, metadata brings a level of transparency that has never been reached before.
John Rippee is the Chief Operations Officer at SecureOrigins and enjoys metadata.