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Mobile & Wireless News

Transport For London Suspends Underground Data Service

The live data feed for the London Underground Departure Board has been suspended after it was swamped with app-based data requests

Transport For London (TfL) has confirmed that it has suspended its London Underground Departure Board (Train Prediction) data, after it was swamped by “overwhelming demand by apps.”

The suspension is only temporary, but a TfL spokesperson confirmed to eWEEK Europe UK that the service has been down since Friday 2 July.

Normal Service ‘In Two Days’

However he said that he hoped the service would be restored within the next 48 hours.

The spokesperson could not give the exact reasons for the crash, but pointed at TfL’s decision last month (15th June) to open up the data for commercial applications.

“The change in our T&Cs meant that developers could use our data for commercial gain, hence the rush,” said the spokesperson.

According to TfL, since the feed went live a fortnight ago, it received ten million hits a week. “This was one of the reasons for the crash,” the spokesman confirmed.

“We are really encouraged that the feed to our Tube departure information is so popular and TfL is doing everything to restore it as soon as possible but this may take some time,” said Steve Townsend, Director of Information Management for London Underground, in a statement.

“We’re sorry for the temporary disruption to this API Beta feed and we will provide an update as soon as we have further information,” he added.

Tube Data is popular

The crash shows that TfL’s data is proving extremely popular among developers, who are adding the feed to their iPhone or Android-based apps. This data feed is also provided to train stations and live traffic cameras, and will soon include data from bus stops and bus routes as well.

The crash also mirrors the increasing strain being felt on mobile networks, thanks to the increasing popularity of smartphones.

O2 for example blamed the data strain caused by smartphones such as the iPhone on a number of network failures last year. O2 has since scrapped its unlimited data bundles, as has many other operators.

Categories
Goverment IT News

UK Councils Save Millions With Smartphone Apps

Councils in the UK saved more than £200 million in 2009, through the use of innovative mobile apps and web services

Councils across Britain saved a total of £230 million last year by using cutting-edge location-based technology to manage and provide services.

According to the Local Government Association (LGA), mobile web-mapping and satellite technology was used to improve the efficiency of refuse collection, provide up-to-date information about public transport services and keep people informed about roadworks and planning applications.

Location-based services and apps

In South Tyneside, for example, the council has used location-based information to create the ‘My South Tyneside’ web facility. This includes a property search facility for finding schools, libraries and other local facilities, as well as email alerts about local news and events. It is estimated that up to £146,669 of savings were made using the online service, compared to the previous system of dealing with enquiries over the telephone or face-to-face.

Meanwhile, Derbyshire Dales, Telford and Wrekin and Huntingdonshire District and Merton councils have launched a free iPhone app which shows the hygiene rating of pubs and restaurants, as ruled by council environmental health officers. Lancashire County Council has also launched a free app for people to send in photographs of bus shelter vandalism, while Lewisham Council has a similar program relating to fly-tipping and vandalism for use on iPhone, Blackberry, Windows Phone and Android.

Back in May it was reported that waste management company Biffa was giving RIM BlackBerry smartphones to its staff, enabling them to relay information between the company’s 1,500 refuse collection trucks and the Biffa head office in High Wycombe. The company claimed this enabled it to capture information – including proof of collection – more efficiently and identify the location of its vehicles.

“Whether it’s bin men working smarter, fewer phone calls to inquiry centres, freeing up staff from time-consuming checks or reducing parking ticket machine maintenance costs, making the most of modern technology and data sharing has seen huge cash savings across the country,” said Councillor David Parsons, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Improvement Board.

“This is money which can be ploughed into vital frontline services on which millions of people rely each year, and is yet another example of councils striving to be more efficient to make their stretched budgets go as far as possible. As well as financial savings, tapping into gadgetry has led to better communication with all members of society, young and old, and raised awareness of the services councils offer and how to get the most from them,” he added.

Savings

LGA estimates that innovative location-based technologies and information sharing could potentially save councils up to £372 million by 2014/15. It claims that, as residents become more comfortable with accessing information online and via mobile phones, issues can be resolved more quickly and the need for extensive paperwork will be reduced.

This has been one of the principal aims of the government’s digital champion Martha Lane Fox, who earlier this year announced plans to deal with the digital divide, helping the government get poorer citizens online – and saving millions on paper-based access to government services.

“This issue isn’t just about fairness,” said Prime Minister David Cameron at the time. “As Martha’s work shows, promoting digital inclusion is essential for a dynamic modern economy and can help to make government more efficient and effective.”

Despite this, however, it emerged in August that Lane Fox has been given no budget to get the last remaining ten million Brits online – a project which she intended to complete before the end of 2012.

Categories
News Open Source

Vodafone To Sell £80 Android Phone

The 858 Smart will sell for 90 euros, and will feature Android ‘Froyo’ and access to social networking services

Vodafone is to launch a low-cost Android handset in the UK and other European markets this summer – the 858 Smart, which is expected to sell for 90 euros (£80) without a contract.

The device will launch in the UK, Germany and Italy and will run Android 2.2 ‘Froyo’, with Gmail, Google Maps, Google Talk and other standard features, as well as integrated access to social networking services such as Facebook and Twitter and Prepay Manager for topping up prepaid accounts.

Specifications

Weighing 100 grams, the Huawei-manufactured device will use a 2.8-inch touchscreen with 320×240 resolution, a 2MP zoom camera, 3G, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It will use a 528MHz Qualcomm processor and comes with 130 MB of memory and a SD card slot supporting up to 32GB memory.

The handset will initially be available in black or white with other colours to come. Vodafone said it plans to offer an online customisation feature allowing users to choose their own colour and add an image to the back cover.

Last month Vodafone announced plans to launch its first own-brand Android smartphone, known as the Vodafone 845.

The device has a 2.8-inch screen and offers Wi-Fi connectivity, a 3 megapixel camera and 500MB of built-in memory. It also provides access to the Android app store and, where available, Vodafone 360 – a suite of services that gathers all of a user’s friends, communities, entertainment and media in one place. the device is not as customised as some users might have feared however.

Android is continuing to take market share away from alternatives such as Apple’s iPhone, in part due to the availability of many different options including low-cost devices. It is shipping many devices including the HTC Sensation.

Android rose to 37 percent US market share, compared with 27 percent for the iPhone through March, according to data gathered by US market researcher Nielsen. That is up eight percent from Nielsen’s 3 March report, accounting for January sales, when the researcher said Android notched 29 percent, breaking a statistical tie with Apple’s iOS and Research In Motion’s BlackBerry platforms.

Nielsen also detected a shift in user perceptions, reflected in Android’s position, which has happened rapidly in the last six months. When Nielsen surveyed mobile consumers from July to September 2010, one-third of the respondents said they wanted an iPhone, compared with 26 percent who said a handset running Android was on their shopping list.

However, when Nielsen conducted the same survey from January through March 2011, 31 percent of consumers who plan to acquire a new smartphone said they were looking to buy an Android device. This gave it a marginal lead over the iPhone which dipped to 30 percent.

Another index of the popularity of Android is the massive increase in the amount of malware circulating for the devices.