Freezing my arse off tonight waiting for what seemed like way too long for the bus to come, I had an idea of how to make bus tracking even easier than it already is.
The CTA Bus Tracker is a great site run by the CTA that lets you check when the next bus is coming for buses along many routes in the city. The website has a very simple WAP interface which is easily navigable on a mobile device's browser. But there's still quite a few steps you need to go through to find out the time you want:
1. Load up the site
2. Choose your route
3. Choose your stop
4. Choose your direction
It's cold here, and one's fingers can freeze in no time at all pressing that stupid little five-way navigation pad.
All this information is encoded very simply and straightforwardly into a URL as follows:
You wouldn't want to type that in, of course. But it's not particularly easy to get to through the series of links, either. Plus, each page load can take a significant amount of time if your phone has a slow data connection.
This is where a new technology called Microsoft Tag comes in handy. It is a 2d barcode technology which lets you snap a photo of this funky looking little geometric-looking tag thing and magically, using your phone's browser, punts you off to the website which was encoded in the tag! the cool thing about the microsoft solution is that the website is not actually encoded in the tag. instead, the tag encodes some unique identifier which the Microsoft Tag reader app reads, then checks with a server to determine which web site to go to. The upshot of this is that you can change where any given tag points to dynamically, through a microsoft web site.
I imagine a tag printed on a sticker, stuck to every bus stop in the city. all a rider would need to do is take a photo of the tag (the reader app works is available on most smart phones, including windows mobile, blackberry, iphone, any phone that runs java....) and it will bring you to the exact page of the cta site which will tell you how long till the next bus comes ....
how can we make this happen?
is it illegal to put stickers on a bus stop? (probably yes)
but what if it's for a useful purpose? (probably yes, still)