Thursday, August 04, 2011

Real Time Passenger Information System for Canberra Buses

The ACT Government has invited comment on a Real Time Passenger Information System (RTPIS) for Canberra's ACTION buses. The commuter survey closes 26 August 2011. Unfortunately the link to the survey form is missing from the Community Engagement page about the project.

The survey
canvasses options of web, mobile and SMS bus information, as well as screens at stations, major bus stops and shopping centers.

My preference would be for ACTION to make their web site compatible with mobile devices, rather than build a new mobile "app". They also need to ensure this meets accessibility standards for the disabled, as required by Australian law.

In addition screen should be placed at major stops, showing when busies depart. Obviously the same information should be provided free open access nonlinear via a standard interface to Google and anyone else who wants to use it.

1 comment:

Zakaria Bouguettaya said...

I don't know if I agree. Comparing mobile websites to mobile apps is a bit of a misnomer. Here are some points:

- Mobile websites, when used as apps, are notoriously slow.

- While mobile websites are great at displaying information, they lack a lot of native functionality available to apps. Namely, a lack of background services (for example, notifying you when you walk to a bus stop when your phone is in your pocket), threading to ensure complex tasks are handled efficiently, GPS (web apps have access to general locations based on IP, but nothing more finite), and the list goes on and on.

- Mobile websites, when used as apps, introduce something referred to as the "Uncanny Valley". Sure you can build a website to look like an app, but no matter how much attention to detail is spent, it wont *quite* look or feel like a real app. Ironically, this is worse than if the web app looked distinctive from a normal app. As a result, the user is actually put off the app more than they would have been otherwise.

I can go on about why a mobile website isn't a good solution, but I think you get the point. I think the best solution would be a "hybrid" app, where some components are web technologies, and others are native. This lets you save effort, and leverage the advantages of the different technologies where you need to. This solution isn't perfect, but its much better than choosing a web-app over a natively written app.