Transport for London boards the mash-up bandwagon

tflkml

As introduced by Christopher Osborne @osbornec on Twitter this morning (where else do you get news these days ?), Transport for London (TfL) the government organisation responsible for most transport in London have begun providing access to limited amounts of their transit data, via a simple web feed interface.

TfL must be congratulated for this step, and by doing so using simple XML feeds including using KML for station locations. Contrast this with the route often taken to build complex (and expensive) web portals and online ordering systems for data.

Of course the missing piece which would be of great value to many developers, Google included, would be the schedule information for the Buses, Tubes and Trams that TfL runs. This information is widely available in the US and in some other European cities and is behind the transit feature of Google Maps.

Still a great step forward, and an example for others to follow !

Written and submitted from the Google Office, Dublin.

The problem with T5

Is people…

Having had my first experience of Heathrow Terminal 5 this week, I was expecting from all the media reports something not much better than the original Heathrow Aerodrome of 1946, including the tents !!

Heathrow 1946

I’m pleased to say overall, I was very happy with the experience, however there are still a few problems, but all of these can be linked to problems of management rather than of design or technology.

security lineFor example BAA claims you can pass from check-in, through security, to airside within 10 minutes and have installed many robotic controlled x-ray machines which, cleverly collect empty trays used for jackets etc, and move them to the front of the machine.

All very neat, but what is the point of all this technology, if you only chose to operate 2 of the 8 machines at the northern end of the terminal on a Tuesday morning, resulting in long queues and a wait time of nearer 30 minutes.

I know the unused machines were serviceable as when I reached the front of the line, three more x-rays machines were switched on by additional staff !!

Mini Apple StoreOnce passed security you have to admire the architecture of the building, you are greeted by the unusual sight at Heathrow of windows allowing natural light into the building, and a good selection of shops including for the tech people out there, a PC World complete with mini-apple store and a Nokia store. If you are looking for a cheap Macbook Air in the UK, this may be the place, the spotty youth in PC World sold one while I was watching.

The only other minor mishap of my T5 experience was the BA staff at my gate not knowing how to change the plasma screens to let the expectant passengers know that the flight was boarding, a case of “which button is it I need to press..”

Nokia Store

Overall a huge improvement on T1-4 and nowhere near as bad as the media makes out, of course if you were a passenger in the first few days your experience was a nightmare, but as of today T5 is nearly there, just need to replace a few more of the monkeys in charge and T5 will be great.

Windows at Heathrow !!

Written and submitted from Arlanda Airport, Stockholm, using the public 802.11 network.

The dust settles on NOKTEQ

The Analysts views on the Nokia offer for Navteq makes some interesting reading. Now that the initial excitement is over, the collective view as excellently summarised by Adena at All Points Blog is in some ways surprising.

NokTeq

On many occasions these industry experts describe Navteq and for that matter Tele Atlas as GPS companies, clearly demonstrating a lack of understanding of the GI / PND market.

Navteq and Tele Atlas are classic examples of the “Data is the Intel Inside” O’Reilly-ism, provided a crucial element to a larger solution not just in the navigation space, but to a lesser extent web-mapping, and even professional GIS. It’s interesting however that neither company while still independent was able to achieve brand recognition, to the extent it registered with the consumer – one did not hear “Sorry I will only buy your device if it has Tele Atlas data”.

Clearly Nokia are positioning Navigation, Maps and LBS even as a major part of their offering, in Europe marketing a Nokia PND which competes directly with Tom-Tom. But Nokia (and Tom-Tom) realises I’m sure that the future of personal navigation will increasingly be off-board navigation delivered to mobile devices perhaps delivered through channels independent of both the mobile industry and the automotive industry who are too conservative in their approach.

For the PND potential alone this deals make sense for Tom-Tom and Nokia as they provide control over a major cost of their solutions, what will be interesting in the future will be the relative contribution made by “Cloud” collected data, as organisations like OpenStreetMap, and the new generation of devices start to collect data themselves as they are used. If this grows as rapidly as some expect, it will make there acquisitions appear even more expensive.

Written and submitted from the BA Lounge, Heathrow Airport, using the BTOpenzone 802.11 network.

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.