Monday, May 30, 2011

SBS to WP 7 developer: Yes to bus times but don't overload our servers

SBS Transit has begun giving local developers in-principle approval to use the bus arrival times data, but only on condition that the developers do not overload SBS’s servers.

Windows Phone 7 developer Adi, who developed the app BusGuide, met with SBS last Friday and after explaining his app, received approval to use the necessary APIs (application programming interfaces) for free.

However, the access is only for a year; after that, the permission has to be renewed. One of the conditions for the renewal is that it does not add to their server load.

Adi, naturally, is pleased with the outcome. “Having the bus timing information is what makes taking the public transport a bit more convenient,” he said. “I do agree that they have to control the amount of traffic coming into their servers but keeping the data to themselves sure makes it inconvenient for smartphone users. Working together with developers to ensure a fair usage of the data should be the way to go.”

Adi expects to sign the contract next week. SG Buses and SG NextBus developer Muh Hon Cheng will be meeting SBS Transit tomorrow (Tuesday). Hopefully, his meeting will also go well.

Below is an edited version of the email interview with Adi.


Can you tell us more about your app?
I'm the developer of BusGuide. It’s the only bus guide app that will run on windows mobile 6.0 and older (ppc 2005, ppc 2003 etc..) I also ported the app to the Windows Phone 7, and this app was the first local app available in the WP7 marketplace. Released on 8th Oct, BusGuide for WP7 has close to 4,000 downloads.


When can you start using data?
I don’t have a date yet but I expect it will be as soon as I sign the official terms and conditions next week, if everything goes well. I hope they won't change their mind. I was told there are about seven APIs in all. Apart form the bus timing data, the GPS coordinate of each stop was mentioned too.

On what basis will the permission be renewed?
They mentioned that the APIs will be available for my use for a period of one year. It can be renewed upon expiry, but they will need to review the traffic usage coming from my apps, to make sure it’s not causing their servers to (be) overloaded. They mentioned that the reason they have blocked the data is due to many apps using proxy servers to poll for their data, which adds up to the server’s load. My apps do not use any proxy servers and pulls data directly from IRIS so it’s differently implemented from other apps available now.

Are you restricted to only using the data on the Windows Phone 7 platform or can you use it on other platforms?
I believe they mentioned I can use it on other platforms. I will be given an ID, or some sort of unique key which will identify me every time I make a request to their servers. This makes it easier for them to track who actually is using their data and how much traffic my apps are generating.

Will you have to pay for access? Run ads for SBS Transit?
Access will be given to me for free, and there was no mention that I have to run any ads. They did say though that I will have to include in my app a disclaimer which will state that the timing provided may not always be accurate due to traffic conditions.

How you feel about the situation?
I'm quite happy that they are open to the idea of providing developers access to their bus timing APIs. Having the bus timing information is what makes taking the public transport a bit more convenient. I do agree that they have to control the amount of traffic coming into their servers but keeping the data to themselves sure makes it inconvenient for smartphone users. Working together with developers to ensure a fair usage of the data should be the way to go.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I'm a web developer who started out with PHP development. Moved on to dot net development and started doing windows mobile apps in Feb 2010. Since then, I've released multiple apps for windows mobile and windows phone 7. You can fid out more about some of my apps here. http://www.myonline-site.com/apps.html



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2 comments:

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