Transport for London (TfL), the integrated transport organisation responsible for the United Kingdom’s capital city, wanted to give its customers more real-time data about journey options. By encouraging developers to use TfL data to create new applications for commuters, the transport operator hopes to relieve congestion and encourage more people to use options such as bicycle hire which achieved 5 million bike trips in its first year of operation.

   

Giles Bailey, Head of Group Marketing Strategy and Integration at Transport for London, says: “Our customers lead busy lives, so they need to know what routes are crowded or running slowly in order to plan alternative routes. Travelling in London is all about choice—whether that’s hiring a bicycle, getting on a bus, or using London Underground or National Rail. It’s important that customers understand what the options are and choose what’s most appropriate for them.”

Microsoft Services worked with TfL and the developer community to deliver open data that people can access through their mobile devices—a move that also fits in with government policy on open information. With its Trackernet solution, a commuter sends a travel query to the application programming interface (API) hosted on Windows Azure. The API responds rapidly with the data from the cache, which is frequently updated with live information received from the London Underground network. The data is also replicated in the Microsoft SQL Azure database. TrackerNet uses Windows Azure features to separate the API from the live information processing, resulting in high scalability for the application and rapid response times for end users.

Without Windows Azure, delivering on the Mayor of London and the government’s vision for open data would have cost TfL millions of pounds in a new physical IT infrastructure and upgraded data centres. Michael Gilbert, Chief Technology Officer, Transport for London,says: “The cost to the taxpayer and the travelling public is marginal in comparison to what it would have cost to build a new infrastructure inside our own data centres. We’re now able to deliver a series of open data initiatives for travellers that would have not been financially achievable otherwise.”

Developers can register to access TfL Trackernet here

You can read the full case study and watch the video of TfL Trackernet here

Check out Windows Phone 7 smartphone applications using Trackernet live date feeds at the Zune marketplace

Posted by Ian