Saturday, May 23, 2009

Life, the Universe and Everything (including bus stops)


If you take the bus all the time, free app tranSGuide is the bees knees. TranSGuide combines the plain vanilla bus guide with bus arrival times and is the local app I use most. What's nice, for lazy people like me, is that if you are at a bus stop, you can tap on the 'nearby' button and pull up the bus stop you're at to get bus arrivals. (Of course you can just walk over to the pole that has all the bus services to get the bus stop number, type it in and wait for the results, but that's like, you know, work.) TranSGuide also makes it easy to bookmark bus stops and bus services at a bus stop. 

The app is so nicely done that it's hard to believe that this is the first iPhone app by the developers, local firm Line 42. I spoke to Aseem Tandon to find out about their experience developing tranSGuide and to ask the burning question on everyone's minds, namely "What the heck is Line 42?"


Tell us about Line 42. Who are you guys and what is your background?
Line 42 is a team of 3 techies - Abhaya, Srijon and Aseem. All 3 have a background in CS/IT and have studied at NUS at one time or the other. Having worked together for a few years, we decided to venture out on our own with our ideas for useful software products.

Why Line 42?
The number of times we have been asked this! '42', as you may have guessed, is from Douglas Adams's Hitchhiker's Guide. This is a piece of literature that all 3 of us thoroughly enjoyed (still do!) and are big admirers of. 'Line' relates to the lines of code that programmers write. Hence, Line 42. It had a buzz to it when we came up with it, but every time we explain it, it seems to get less interesting! By the way, it's not easy coming up with a company name!

What was the inspiration for tranSGuide?
We wanted to develop something simple for the iPhone to begin with. Location-aware mashup apps seemed an obvious first choice. When we checked the app store for similar apps, we didn't find them very user friendly. So we decide to build tranSGuide, hoping some people would find our take on a Singapore transport guide useful.

What difficulties did you encounter in developing it?
There weren't any major problems really. The platform was easy to learn and develop on, so no technical worries. The only problem was finishing it up and releasing it. With the other projects we had during the same time, the completion and release of tranSGuide got delayed by a couple of months.

What new features are you planning?
Right now tranSGuide is only a bus guide. Obvious additions would be information related to other modes of transport. A map view has been heavily demanded by the users, so that's another. Let's wait and see how the app evolves over the next few months.

Any chance of better integration between the bus service database and the bus arrivals timing?
Not sure what you mean by better integration here. We have had quite some feedback from users regarding improvements to the features and interface. The next few updates will reflect those and hopefully make the user experience even better.

You develop for a number of platforms. How would you compare the iPhone with the other platforms?
It is a very developer friendly platform. We were all new to Obj-C and Cocoa when we started work on tranSGuide, but with the easy-to-use dev tools and rich knowledge base that Apple has put together, it was quite easy to get up to speed with things.

Are you guys working on any other iPhone projects that you can talk about?
We are thinking of building a few more apps, they are in different stages of development. However, we are not limiting ourselves to building iPhone or mobile apps. There are other products that are in the pipeline as well. Can't say more about those right now.

Is there anything in the iPhone 3.0 OS that you plan to take advantage of in tranSGuide or other apps?
An obvious thing for tranSGuide would be to use the native map API to implement a map view. A great feature that 3.0 brings with it is the in-app purchase framework. This could be well exploited, specially by game developers. There are some ideas we have that could also leverage the P2P connectivity and the Push service. We expect better and more useful apps with 3.0.

3 comments:

Guan said...

behind the application. I use this app quite often as well. I do agree that the arrival times don't always work, but the ability to search based on location is fab. Should have asked them how they update bus route information and schedules, which do change from time to time. Are they getting the info direct from SBS, or doing manual search or whatever?

Jimmy Yap said...

Good question Guan. I'm pretty sure they scrape it off the SBS site. However, it is a good question to ask how often the info is updated...

Mugunth Kumar said...

Hi Jimmy Yap,
Your blog in interesting.
Would you please write a review of my app,
http://mugunthkumar.wordpress.com/iphone-apps/stationalarm-sg/
on your blog?

Thanks,
Mugunth Kumar