Hosted Version of NREL OpenPATH Tool for Partners

NREL offers a customizable, hosted version of the NREL OpenPATH tool for public agency and university partners to evaluate mobility programs and conduct travel behavior studies.

Mobility Program Evaluations

NREL OpenPATH can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of programs that provide access to new mobility modes. The data is typically collected for operational purposes, and installation of the app is a precondition of program enrollment.

Programs also typically offer some benefits to the participants, and the data collection can help with ongoing operations.

Travel Behavior Studies

NREL OpenPATH can be used to conduct travel behavior studies for various demographic groups under various geographic conditions. The data is typically collected for research focused on understanding existing travel behavior.

Such studies often require approval from an institutional review board, and they usually do not provide a direct benefit to participants. Sometimes, however, participants can be compensated for providing data.

NREL OpenPATH Tool Access

The laboratory offers access to two hosted versions of the NREL OpenPATH tool: basic free and customizable paid.

In either case, each partner will receive its own separate enclave, consisting of a:

  • Core server
  • Public dashboard
  • Deployer dashboard
  • Analysis pipelines.

To join the program or study, participants will use a study/program-specific page with a description of the project, links to the apps, and a QR code to join.

Each partner can designate up to three administrators for access to the admin dashboard. Please keep NREL informed of personnel changes that require this access to be updated.

Basic Free Version

The free, basic version of the NREL OpenPATH platform does not support any customization. NREL chooses and maintains all aspects of the app, including the app's colors, text, and functionality. The public dashboard also displays a standard set of metrics chosen by NREL.

Access to the basic NREL OpenPATH version requires signing a memorandum of understanding with NREL and specifying the purpose of the study or program.

Customizable Paid Version

Partners who want to customize the user interface or the public dashboard can sign a technical services agreement with NREL.

As part of the scope of work, partners can request changes to aspects of the platform that support alternative configurations. These aspects can include colors, surveys, incentives, and metrics for the public dashboard.


Using the OpenPATH Trip Tracking and Survey Tool To Collect and Analyze Travel Data, U.S. Department of Energy Clean Cities Coalition Network

Frequently Asked Questions

In a mini-pilot study with CEOs, we found that almost all participants had late-model smartphones. In fact, participants typically upgraded phones two to three times in the first year alone. Programs can also choose to provide participants who do not have a smartphone with a cheap android phone for under $50.

The app does not send phone sensor information to the server in real time. Instead, it stores the data locally and uploads the information once the trip is complete. If the user does not have a data plan, or has turned off cellular data for the app, the data will stay on the phone until the phone is connected to WiFi.

This also means that the cheap program phones provided to participants do not require a data plan, which helps keep their cost low.

It is helpful to have a SIM card in the phone even if data is not turned on, because android/iOS use cell tower triangulation to determine when the user has started moving again.

Note that if the participant launches the app and interacts with the user interface, the app will use cellular data if available.

We have not heard any complaints about battery life from the Can Do Colorado eBike Program study's participants. Since the app automatically turns tracking off when not moving, the battery consumption of the app is proportional to the amount of travel per day. As long as the travel time is under 3 hours/day, the additional battery usage is less than 5%.

NREL OpenPATH is open-source for full transparency into the data that we collect. The NREL-hosted instance will collect the data directly, without any third-party involvement, so we can guarantee that the data will not be harvested and resold to location brokers.

We intentionally do not collect any personally identifiable information—name, email, or phone number—so that we cannot directly correlate the collected location data with an individual. All communication with participants will be through app notifications.

NREL's Transportation Secure Data Center (TSDC) has privacy-preserving procedures in place for working with spatial data. In particular, researchers cannot download the data directly. They can only work with it on a secure portal at NREL, and the generated results will be verified by TSDC admins.

The NREL-hosted version runs on a FEDRAMP-certified medium cluster, so it is encrypted both in transit and at rest. The data collection processes also have been vetted by NREL's cybersecurity staff.


K. Shankari

Postdoctoral Researcher, Directors Fellow