From free information to open data

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Nowadays,  public transport companies have started to offer tools that help the commuters  to better organize their trips. Mobile apps or websites where people can plan the trip, be it in the next minutes  or the next day.  These tools are useful in that they give free information.

It might be argued that it is hidden advertising or the transport company. That might be true for large cities where several organizations fight for customers. In most of the case, a single company, most of the time backed by the local authorities,covers the whole city. Is it from moral duty, a high level of consciousness or just because it is the custom ? No one knows. It might be just evolution. The fact is that more and more public transport companies are going in this direction.

The real question is whether such actions are enough. Should a public company limit itself to offering the tools that exploit the data or go further and offer the data itself ? Most of the time, the IT systems behind are proprietary, i.e. not standard. The data itself is not in a standard format and sometimes contain information that should be kept that way., the information that matters most to the eye of the public is always the same. 1% of the information is what public  wants in 99% of the cases. How do I go from point A to point B? At which time will my bus arrive? Where to I change the bus?  The other 1% of the cases is about how to interconnect, cross match, or make better use of several such data sets.

The transport companies have no obligation to open their data. But isn’t opening data sets  the right way to serve its customers ?   The numerous third party free mobile and desktop applications that help commuters to better organize the trips could exit only because of open data policies from public transport companies.


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