Business jumping on open data to provide real-time screens for OC Transpo riders

SEE VIDEO http://www.ottawasun.com/2013/03/21/business-jumping-on-open-data-to-provide-real-time-screens-for-riders

Put your phone away or use your data to surf.

Ottawa’s first real-time bus arrival screen has debuted inside a downtown coffee shop and riders can thank a private business for its launch.

Located inside the Treats coffee bar — right on the Transitway — at Kent and Albert Sts., “we put it up without much fanfare,” said Beyond 2.0 president Ryan Androsoff.

Now, OC Transpo passengers can seek respite from extreme temperatures or relax on a plush chair and enjoy a cup of dark roast before heading out the door.

Androsoff and developer Sean Kibbee, who created ocbustracker.com, approached Treats owner Adib El-Khoury about putting up the display in February.

“It took zero convincing,” said Androsoff.

“They were really interested.”

For regular customers, the screen is an add-on feature, said El-Khoury.

”There’s bus stops everywhere around here, all around our location. It’s primary bus stops, too,” he said.

And the buzz is bolstering business.

During the last snowstorm, “there’s a lady that had a little baby in a carriage that came inside,” said El-Khoury.

“Instead of being outside getting snowed on, she was inside having a coffee in the warmth, waiting for the bus to come and it actually — the bus was late.”

The screen currently displays predictions for two stops: Slater and Kent and Albert and Kent.

Routes are listed, showing colour-blocked times for “not only your bus, but the next bus and the third bus after that, and it really works,” said 

customer and veteran rider Jim Backs.

Anything in blue means there’s time for java.

The pilot will run for another month and Androsoff is looking to expand across Ottawa.

GPS raw data was made public almost a year ago.

“The possibilities of this are truly global,” said Androsoff.

“The real promise of open data is it can actually create a whole new class of entrepreneurs.”

Although the city has been looking at implementing screens for years, they’re bound by bureaucracy.

Seeing the private sector jump onto the data is fine by Beacon Hill-Cyrville Ward Coun. Tim Tierney.

“They did beat us to the punch, absolutely, without a doubt. I’m very happy about it,” said Tierney.

“It’s one of those things where I think people want it.”

Transpo stations could see screens set up by the end of December, Tierney said.

For more information on the screen, visit beyond20.ca

kelly.roche@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @ottawasunkroche

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