Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ideas on Linked Open Transportation Data for TravelHack

Earlier this summer I saw some tweets about a nice event here in Gothenburg: West Coast TravelHack 2011, 8-9 October. As I am a daily commuter (with Västtrafik's trams, buses and trains) and an information architect addicted to the linked data idea, and I also have a background as researcher in mobile informatics, I got two ideas and wrote them up as tweets (tweet 1 and tweet 2)

Today, I saw some tweets linking to two articles about the interesting FixMyTransportation:
Looking for hackers
I was reminded of my two ideas and also of my time as a part-time industrial PhD researcher. My research in the Mobile Informatics group, at the Victoria Institue and IT University, concerned the mechanisms needed to provide highly mobile professionals, such as new journalists, with contextualized information using mobile applications: "Mobile Newsmaking" (thesis, presentation)

So, I posted a tweet about FixMyTransportation it in Swedish and Karl-Petter Åkesson (@kallep), an old friend from my time as part-time researcher, kindly replied and said in his tweets back (tweet 1 and tweet 2): Why not get together with a couple of hackers and show how your ideas for a linked data infrastructure could enable nice apps and services for commuters. Great, I tweeted back -- but, I don't know that many great hackers as it's ten years since I did my research on mobile applications.

So, now I am looking for some great hackers to potentially explore my ideas on Linked Open Transportation Data at the TravelHack event 8-9 October.

Give every bus stop, tram route and train station etc. a URI
Identify "things" globally by using http based URIs (Uniform Resource Identifiers) - today all public schools, roads, ministers, and many bus stops, in UK have URIs

For example the URI identifies a bus stop in Manchester. Assigning a http based URI is what the two first principles of Linked Data say. 

The third principle say that you should provide useful information about the thing when its URI is dereferenced, using standard formats such as RDF/XML. So, if you you put this URI  in a web browser it will give you a nice html documentation of the metadata describing the busstop. A app or service could choose between for example a RDF/XML file or a JSON file.  See my Linked Data page for some nice videos, books, blogs etc.

Use a common vocabulary for transportation
And all these "things" can also be typed, described and linked using classes, properties and relationships from a range of vocabularies for different domains. 

For the transportation domain I have seen some nice tweets pointing me to TRANSIT: A vocabulary for describing transit systems and routes

There are also many general vocabularies and ontologies that are commonly used to publish linked data. You can 'cherry-pick' from some of the most common, for example Friend-of-a-Friend (FOAF) provides terms for describing people and their social network, SIOC Semantically-Interlinked Online Communities, and Dublin Core defines general metadata attributes.

Kudos to @peterkz_swe, @egonwillighagen, @wieselgren, @kallep
for nice interactions on Twitter inspiring me to write this blog post
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