TfL to expand open data sharing


Transport for London (TfL) has revealed plans to extend its open data sharing in a bid to boost development of better services and products.

TfL’s extensive open data Application Program Interface (API) has seen more than 2,000 new developers sign up to access live information in the last six months – helping millions of Londoners plan their journeys more easily across the Capital.

The data, available free of charge, forms part of TfL’s wider commitment to make the information it holds openly available in order to assist developers in creating better products and services that can be brought to Londoners and visitors more quickly.

Around 8,200 developers are now registered for TfL’s Unified API. As smartphone usage for travel information continues to increase, almost 500 apps are now being directly powered by this open data – providing Londoners with up-to-the-minute information about public transport and the road network.


Expanded offering

TfL continues to make new open data feeds available with live data for London Trams due to be added in the coming weeks. For the first time, this will allow people in south London to know at the touch of a button when their tram will arrive and the status of their service. TfL is also working to test the release of historical crowding data about key London Underground stations to see if this can help stimulate new information products, including the predicted future status of the system at certain times.

As well as maintaining its existing open data feeds, TfL continues to further improve them to help ensure developers can make the most of all available data. Ahead of the London Marathon, TfL has worked with the sat-nav manufacturer TomTom to trial a bespoke data feed covering the planned road closures for the event using DATEXII – an industry standard format for traffic event planning.

Following this trial, TfL will look to engage with other sat-nav organisations to see how this data format could be more widely used to bring better information to road users.


City challenges

TfL continues to be at the forefront of using open data to work on city challenges. Recently, almost 50 developers attended a “Hack Day” held at Amazon Web Services to see how traffic data from TfL’s sophisticated traffic signal system SCOOT could be interrogated to provide further data feeds. All across London tiny sensors are buried in the road, which detect vehicles as they pass over them. This information is then sent to TfL’s Urban Traffic Control system, which uses it to automatically adjust traffic signals across London every second to ensure that traffic flows as best as it can.

Currently, this data is only used for this specific purpose. However, TfL is keen to see whether this data could, in part, be made available to developers to help create further services and insight in the future. These could include identifying incidents on the network more quickly or identifying hotspots on the road network based on date and time more accurately.

Alan Bristow, director of road space management and chair of the surface transport data and technology steering group at TfL, said: “London’s traffic signal system is one of the most sophisticated in the world, analysing enough data to fill three DVDs every day.

“We’re keen to see how this data could be used more widely to help predict issues on the network to help identify hot spots more quickly and this ‘Hack Day’ was the latest step towards developing new and exciting applications to help keep London moving.”

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