Tuesday, December 27, 2005

It's coming.... slowly

I've said in the past that technology isn't truly integrated in our lives, but that we're getting there. To illustrate this point in more detail, we can take the example of recent improvements in public transportation information services.

In London, they’re well up on this game. Transport for London’s website has a fantastic journey planner that can connect you between any two points in London and find the best route with an estimated time that’s usually pretty accurate – no mean feat given London’s varied geography and complex public transport system! Many bus shelters have displays showing estimated arrival times for busses, and of course so do all tube and train platforms. It’s great – that’s truly an example of technology that’s integrated seamlessly in to our daily lives.

The UK’s national Live Departure Boards service won some sort of award last year for most innovative something-or-other. I think our train system is an utter disgrace and a national embarrassment, but this is truly something to be proud of. It’s an online service that allows you to check on the progress of any train service, anywhere within the UK. You can also see the departure and arrivals boards at any train station. If a train is running late, it shows the estimated arrival time (though this should be taken with a large pinch of salt). It’s a fantastic service – I can check how my train is running before I leave the house, and if it’s late, I can spend an extra 2 minutes making myself beautiful. Of course, online journey planning and ticketing is very useful, but has been around for years. This is truly innovative.

But that’s the problem – for the service to be of any use, I have to be at a computer with net access. There are ways of getting timings through SMS or mobile internet, but at present they’re clunky and complicated to use. If tech was truly integrated, I’d wake up and unroll my expandable screen, which would automatically display my train times, that day’s weather, news headlines and so on. I shouldn’t have to go over, wait for my PC to boot up and then load up the webpage. It should be there without me having to give it a second thought. For me, that’s the future.


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