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TfL plans HTML5 website overhaul and ditches Bing Maps for Google

21 May 2013

Transport for London (TfL) has announced plans to relaunch its website on HTML5 technology by the end of 2013 so it can be used on any mobile device.

The project – intended to meet rocketing customer demand for information on the go – is expected to go live in beta in the next two months in order to gather user feedback for a final development. The full website is expected to be live before the end of the calendar year.

The idea is to combine key information such as travel times, ticket purchasing and bus locations into a single portal that can be viewed on any mobile device, both now and in the future. This will help meet the needs of around eight million people who visit the site each month.

The organisation’s head of online, Phil Young, explained that the move is part of a desire to reduce its web estate from a current ownership of 70 websites to as low as ten in the coming years.

He said: “Certain elements of the products it would not be logical to integrate, especially some of the business products. But for customers, interacting with a single entity and integrating everything they do in one place, on one account, on a mobile device will make life a lot easier.”

The platform will be hosted with Amazon Web Services and the data used for the service will be based on a single API that will be made available to developers.

“Whereas before we had data sources from across the business and we interacted with those individually, we’ve now built a single data model on a single architecture so we can build on top of that. For example, all stations, bus stops and river piers are described in the same way,” he said.

“The nice thing is we can make this single API available to developers externally so it’s much easier for them to create fantastic products on top of that.”

As part of this standardisation, TfL is also cutting down on the mapping services it is currently using from five tools – including Open Streetemap, Navteq and Microsoft’s Bing Maps – to just Google Maps.

Young explained to V3 that the firm had gone through a consultation process to end up with this decision. “We commissioned a third-party specialist to review available platforms – and combinations of platforms – against our requirements. In this process there was discussion with the vendors as well,” he said.

“We made the choice to extend the use of Google Maps across the site on the basis of the best match to our requirements and some unique features like Streetview and indoor maps.”

Google's head of enterprise, Thomas Davies, added that the firm’s geospatial businesses is doing “very well”, as the firm continues to gain the backing of large organisations in its growing enterprise battle with Microsoft.

The revamp of the TfL website comes as the organisation embraces various new technologies to bring the network up to speed for the 21st century, with services such as WiFi on the underground and contactless payments on buses.

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Dan Worth

Dan Worth is the news editor for V3 having first joined the site as a reporter in November 2009. He specialises in a raft of areas including fixed and mobile telecoms, data protection, social media and government IT. Before joining V3 Dan covered communications technology, data handling and resilience in the emergency services sector on the BAPCO Journal

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