The 112-year Hong Kong Tramways may be the oldest mode of public transport in the city, but it is also the most open-minded when it comes to sharing real-time information.
Since 2012, Tramways has implemented a real-time positioning system that gathers data from 600 passive tags buried along the tram tracks.
Tramways has recently collaborated with London-based Citymapper to make the data available on the latter’s urban transport app.
Citymapper came to Hong Kong last August.
The app combines information from major public transport operators to help users plan the best routes and get to their destinations at the shortest time.
Through Citymapper, passengers can tell when the next tram will arrive, and also have a better idea of the total journey time, which is updated every minute to reflect the latest traffic situation.
In May, Tramways will upgrade the tags and enhance the real-time positioning system further.
So far, other public transport firms are unwilling to offer outsiders access to their data.
Most of these firms are private companies, and it’s hard to convince them to open their data, Gene Soo, general manager of Citymapper Hong Kong, told StartupBeat.
They might be concerned about Citymapper taking away users of their own apps, Soo said.
Citymapper has to get the data from other sources such as government’s public sector information portal data.gov.hk.
But since such data is not live feed, accuracy is compromised.
When the traffic is congested or if MTR service halts due to technical or some other trouble, Citymapper won’t be able to update its data immediately to inform passengers.
Soo hopes the Hong Kong government, just like in Singapore, can play a more active role and require all public transport operators to open up their traffic data.
Hong Kong is lagging behind in terms of sharing information and data.
According to the Global Open Data Index compiled by Open Knowledge, Hong Kong ranks 37th, behind Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore and Japan.
For instance, as early as 2010, it’s mandatory for Taipei bus operators to equip their fleet with GPS devices and share operation data with the public.
If Hong Kong is serious about becoming a smart city, our government officials will have to do some catching up quickly.
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