Southampton Open Data Blog

Guest Post: QR Codes in Bus Stops

August 10, 2011
by Christopher Gutteridge

This is a guest post from Nick Gammer, a University of Southampton MSc student.

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Just a quick note about a project I’m undertaking involving Southampton University’s Open Data Service. As the dissertation of my MSc in Transport Planning and Engineering and with the kind help of First Group and support of Southampton City Council I’ve placed QR code posters in over 40 bus stops around Southampton. These can be scanned using a smartphone which links to the next arrival times of all buses servicing the relevant stop, usually in real time as the majority of services now have GPS based AVL (Automatic Vehicle Location).

This information initially comes from ROMANSE, Southampton’s traffic control centre. However this is not mobile friendly and does not perform well on a smartphone. Southampton University’s open Data Service already skims this data, adding a map of the stop location, which is what the QR code links to. Without this service the project would be substantially devalued.

The project has been running for two weeks now with initially encouraging results; between 10 and 30 QR codes are scanned and link to this data daily. There is also a survey underway assessing users views of the service (amongst other things). I’ll put a quick note on the conclusion of the project at a later data.

Categories: Geo, Guest Posts, and Transport.

2 thoughts on “Guest Post: QR Codes in Bus Stops

  1. Ian says:

    This sounds like a great improvement on what we have in Bournemouth, which is an 8xxxx number to text with a code identifying the stop, returning the info in a text a few seconds later. (At least, it would be an improvement for those with capable phones.)

    However, I suspect somebody makes money off those text messages, and might resist a free QR lookup service using their data. Did you have any similar issues getting access to ROMANSE, bus-stop location data, etc.?

    • ROMANSE are actually really helpful, and gave us the data under an open license! I think they’re used to working with contracts with companies, so sometimes I want technical details that are a bit weird.

      Long term I really want to show how valuable Linked Open Data can be to the community to create an expectation. Even APIs provide some real limitations, although you can have both, of course.

      We have those same 5-digit numbers in bus stops, but I’ve never used one. I suspect the profits on it are small enough compared with the overall system that it’s not that big a deal to the vendor. The council system is produced by a company who, my impression, would like to provide all the elements themselves (phone apps, etc.). That’s understandable, but it’s not the best solution for the citizens using the system or the bus companies.

      So, to me, the question becomes how to make sure you can work with the makers of the software and systems, or at least not against them. Part of that is producing standardisedish open data, and I’ve been talking to the author of about how to extend it for use with the data we have — only very minor extensions are required, but better if everybody uses the same vocab, for the core elements.

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