We were delighted to welcome 35 students and their professors from Syracuse University in New York this week, as members of the TfL Online team presented our ‘digital journey,’ outlining the ways we continue to keep London moving through our use of technology and open data.
Rikesh Shah – Overview of TfL and our Digital Journey
Rikesh, the Lead Relationship Manager for TfL Online, kicked off the session by giving an overview of Transport for London, including details of the organisation’s purpose and the various transport modes we are responsible for.
He also went on to describe some of the challenges TfL face, including the huge population expansion London is set to experience over the next few years (equivalent to an entire Tube train of people arriving every week) and the extra strain this will place on the transport network.
Rikesh explained how TfL have been on a digital journey since 2001, embracing new technology from Oyster cards to open data along the way. Open data has been particularly important for TfL, and with over 8,500 developers producing over 500 apps with our data, we’ve really been able to place ourselves at the forefront of the open data revolution.
Tom Garratt – Open Data at TfL
Technical Architect Tom Garratt took up the open data story, explaining how this has been firmly on TfL’s agenda since 2007, and since then we’ve constantly offered more, richer data for developers to work with.
In the early days this data would come from various sources and be in a variety of different formats, which could make a developer’s life quite difficult in trying to marry the data to produce an app offering a range of travel information. The introduction of our Unified API (follow this link to see Part 1 of our 5-part series on the Unified API) made working with our data much easier, and we’ve been keen to support the dev community, helping them to build the apps that Londoners rely on every day.
Q & A and Closing Thoughts
Following the presentations, Tom, Rikesh and Lead Developer Tim Williams fielded some questions from the students, with the discussion touching on examples of the apps that are powered by TfL’s open data, our policy on security and risk management, as well as how we maintain the integrity of our data and the processes we use for testing.
As thought leaders in the area of technology and open data, we were delighted to present our story to our visitors from New York, and we hope that the session gave them a good insight into what we do, and possibly even some inspiration for the careers they will soon be embarking upon.
We’d love to hear what the guys from Syracuse University thought of the session – so if you were there, please leave us a comment below to let us know your thoughts or ask us any additional questions. Similarly, if anyone else has any general questions on the themes mentioned here, please do leave us a comment and we’ll be happy to answer.