Tagged: open standards

Meer concreet: Vervotte beantwoordt iRail


Samenvatting antwoord Vervotte:

  1. De rechtstreekse aanleiding van de cease and desist brief was een klacht van een klant waarbij de klant een kwaliteitsprobleem met iRail expliciet en onterecht toeschreef aan de NMBS.
  2. De NMBS is verplicht om haar belangen inzake intellectuele rechten te verdedigen. Ik heb wel aan de NMBS gevraagd om zich  wat soepeler op te stellen, als het gaat over het ter beschikking stellen van databanken die gebruikt worden voor gratis consulteerbare, informatieve applicaties op het internet.
  3. De NMBS geeft er momenteel de voorkeur aan om in dialoog te treden en op zoek te gaan naar een minnelijke schikking. Dat impliceert natuurlijk onderling respect van de betrokken partijen.
  4. De NMBS heeft contacten gehad met enkele grote bedrijven waarmee strategische partnerschappen kunnen worden afgesloten. De NMBS zal de contacten tussen andere softwarebedrijven en iRail niet beletten, als de samenwerking gebeurt onder de  voorwaarden die tussen de NMBS en iRail of andere bedrijven kunnen worden afgesproken en gerespecteerd.
  5. Om de rezigers degelijk te informeren en om te beantwoorden aan de doelstelling van het beheerscontract gebruikt de NMBS de  software HAFAS, die ontwikkeld werd door dat gespecialiseerde bedrijf.

Mijn bedenkingen bij de antwoorden van minister Vervotte:

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Belgian public transport company teams up with Google

News! De Lijn, a Flemish bus company, is about to share its data with Google. This means you will be able to look up your trip on Google Maps and Google will return you the possibility of going by public transport. It is a nice step in the right direction since they’re thinking about usability.

But let’s be pragmatic: if their customers want to find their way to the timetables as easy as possible, there is no way they can afford it to support all platforms and all ways of providing data. Therefor there is an easy solution: open it up! Let everyone use your data! Dozens of people, such as the iRail-team, can’t wait to get started on developing new apps and tools.

So yes: News, but not good nor bad news. We’re status quo. Except for some politicians who might think they delivered good work. Am I going to use it? Yes, I am! Everything beats the website of the company at this moment. Am I happy with it? No. If I could I would use an application which is optimised for social interaction and works really fast on my non-googlish phone.

– Pieter

Transport data roaming

When I’m writing code I’m quite regularly distracted by what-ifs… For instance: what if I’m on a train towards Spain and I boarded in Belgium. As I have a smartphone with an application installed (let’s call it BeTrains for iRail) which gives me real-time information on my trajectory, I don’t want BeTrains to be useless once I cross the border. BeTrains should automatically switch to the trainsystem of that country.

This seems like a pretty good and easy-done concept. However we want to do it the right way: we don’t want other application developers to deal with the same hassle of implementing each country for which it wants to work for. We don’t even want to think about that. Every country should have the same standard for bringing its data to the public. To do this for the EU is a nice start since in Europe transport data is open by law.

We (the iRail team) are however not the right people to make this standard. Our momentum is too small for Europe. Who in Croatia is ever going to think they should be conform to the Belgian system? We need a European open standard for real-time public transport data. We can create a consortium that sets these standards as today everyone is opening its data in their own random way (standards should exist for all open data, whether it’s weather information or geolocation data).

Situation today for standardisation of public transport data

Talking about open data today is more and more accepted. For instance I came across this video about a presentation by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation:

This is an interesting evolution but if we look at their API response itself it looks something like this:

<Red Line=”Red”>


Clearly this kind of XML would not do the trick for real-time public transport data in Europe. We have some other companies who release their data like this as well, each company in another format, and slightly different information.

To make this «transport data roaming» work, we need someone to tell us what to implement. Just for now we’re telling people that we need this and we hope someone will come up with something we can implement. As at this moment we have an API we’re using this non-standard one we specified ourselves.

– Pieter — @pietercolpaert