Local newscasters have always known that it’s traffic and weather that keep people coming back for more, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to see heavyweights Apple and Google putting more muscle behind their real-time traffic technology. First up, Patently Apple reported late last week that Apple has filed a patent application that looks to be a blueprint for adding augmented reality features into the iOS Maps and Compass apps. The AR tech would let users point their iPhone cameras at an intersection or landmark to identify current location, and then request directions to a new location, which would be superimposed as turn-by-turn instructions over the camera’s captured images. Now, I wouldn’t want to try using an app like this while driving, but it could certainly be useful in walking situations, or in advance route planning. Kinda like having your own logistics manager.
Meanwhile, Google announced in a blog post yesterday that it’s making public the code for GTFS (General Transit Feed Specification) real-time feeds in order to help transit agencies share data about trip updates, services alerts, and vehicle positions. The MBTA out of Boston and TriMet out of Portland have already published GTFS real-time feeds, and the BART in San Francisco along with the MTS in San Diego have committed to doing so in the future. What does this mean? Presumably it means if your bus is running late in Boston, you can figure it out in time to pick up another connection.
I find traffic fascinating (when I’m not stuck in it) because of all the data crunching implications and network infrastructure requirements. Logistics planning has also made big money for some important companies – think UPS and Amazon. Apple and Google aren’t new to the game, but the consumer-focused developments they’re pushing are. And with more money to be made, I see better apps in our future.