Mon 14 Dec 2009
This past weekend, I had a little bit of time to work on a hobby project:
This is my Sony Ericsson MBW-150 bluetooth watch, showing the next few SF Muni bus arrival times for a nearby stop. The code to fetch the arrival times is running on my Droid phone, and communicating with the watch using Marcel Dopita’s OpenWatch software for the Android platform.
Using a secondary display like a watch could allow a rider to keep tabs on when their bus is coming without constantly having to take their phone out of their pocket and unlock its display—particularly nice if it’s cold enough and they’re wearing gloves.
It’s also worth mentioning that a few months ago, I wouldn’t have been blogging about this. On November 7, the San Francisco MTA finally gave formal permission to developers to build apps using their realtime arrival data. Prior to that, developers who spoke publicly about their experiments with the Muni realtime data risked threats from a company that claimed a contractual right to charge for access to the arrival data for Muni’s vehicles. People were still building interesting things, but because of these chilling effects, no one outside of their circle of trusted friends would ever know about them.
Moral of the story for agencies: if you want to encourage innovative realtime transit apps in your city, read your contracts carefully, and insist on the right to provide realtime data about your vehicles to creative and energetic developers. You’ll be in good company, alongside the Chicago’s CTA, San Francisco’s Muni and BART, Boston’s MBTA, and Portland’s TriMet.
Note: this post was updated to replace the original image with an improved one on December 18, 2009.