When the Propellor heads play with public transport..

Last week I was in Norway attending the annual InformNorden Conference, which is an event which covers the issues and impacts of ICT on Public Transport in Northern Europe. To some extent you might imagine this represents a culture clash between largely conservative public sector organisations administrating transport networks and technology providers.

Bus Stop

This is actually not the case, and in the Nordic region in particular, public transport makes excellent use of technology; from journey planning to card based payment systems like London’s Oyster. In most cities it is common to see electronic displays with arrival times of buses/trams subway trains etc.

This has, in most cities, had a noticeable impact on the use of public transport, with increased passenger numbers following the introduction of the technology.

My interest in the conference was in talking to these public transport operators to get access to their schedule information to include in Google Transit, a project to bring routing using public transport to users of Google applications, like Google Maps and Google Maps for Mobile.

This complements the operators own web-sites by providing schedule information alongside other points of interest data and imagery, users can always click through to the operators own web-sites for real time information and service updates.

Technology like this really can make a big difference in terms of making public transport a more acceptable solution for many, knowing a bus will be at you local bus stop in 6 minutes might just stop you jumping in the car to make the same journey. Or knowing that there is a tram stop 1 minute away from the cinema and that there is a tram arriving there 15 minutes before the movie.

Imagine your commute to work downloading tunes to your new iPod Touch via wifi using the pilot system running in Helsinki at the moment. This system which by providing broadband internet access on a proportion of the bus and tram fleet in Helsinki, means that it is possible to track these buses and trams in real time using a Google Maps application – very cool.

Realtime Bus map

Following along with the transport technology theme, this post was submitted from the 13:00 London-Edinburgh GNER train service somewhere outside Peterborough, using the onboard wifi service.

2 comments

  1. Duncan Garratt

    Putting mobile location based data on Google Maps in the form of an API for public transport I think is an excellent idea and one that could prove extremely important as life styles are forced to change due to global warning. The BBC back stage project is a good example of (http://bbc.blueghost.co.uk/site4.php) using Google Maps and sharing transport related information. With a few enhancements on the programming side and additional server resources this prototype could easily be turned into an extremely useful application.

    I very much see the inclusion of mobile location based data such as where individual busses, trains, aircraft, and ferries are in geographic terms, and their routes as a natural extension of Google Maps and Virtual Earth. If a dual API was produced both for the transport companies for uploading their data including real-time GPRS data and an API for application developers to display the published information on a World wide basis the two giants of the software market would clean up.

    Independence could still be maintained for vendors as they could customise their applications using the API, yet receive the vast benefits of a central data repository (Intelligent Search Engine). Clearing of bookings and credit card transactions could also be done centrally. This would revolutionise travel and would allow for example hotel and attraction proprietors or indeed anyone to build their own location-based travel booking system within their web pages and gain valuable extra revenue.

    From a users point of view the benefits would be extreme convenience as they could make their travel arrangements preferable via public transport on the site containing the location based hotel, attraction, or location they plan to visit without then have to surf to book a train ticket followed by a flight ticket the another train ticket and finally followed by a bus. If this could also be done via mobile devices as well as browser all the better, there is no technological reason why it can’t, in fact from a purely technological point of view there is absolutely no reason why this can’t be done today using existing programming technology. The economic benefits of this convenience would be enormous and the environmental benefits would go a long way in combating climate change and the life-changing move to a more sustainable life style.

    Duncan Garratt
    http://www.gis-logic.co.uk/

  2. Home

    These are the kind of applications that can make a difference in mobile marketing while most of the applications we currently see for mobile are just useless

Post a comment

You may use the following HTML:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>