Home The Internet IS a Series of Tubes: Real-Time Mapping of the London Underground

The Internet IS a Series of Tubes: Real-Time Mapping of the London Underground

Two of our favorite topics to geek out over here at ReadWriteWeb are the real-time Web and the Internet of Things. Today, we (like everyone else across the Internet, it seems) ran into a rather nifty looking website that merges those two realms rather successfully using open data from the London and U.K. train systems.

The live train map for the London Underground is a nearly real-time Google Maps mashup that shows the various trains of the London Underground as they move about their subterranean travels.

The real-time Web, put simply, is a set of technologies that allows the information we see on the Internet to change as quickly (or nearly so) as what it represents in the real world or online. It’s the weather forecast, your friends’ status updates on Facebook and the pitch-by-pitch tracking of an afternoon’s game. As for the Internet of Things, it is the connection of the Internet to everyday objects. In this case, it’s data on every train in the London subway system as provided by the London Data Store, an open-data effort with the Greater London Authority.

The train map, created by Matthew Somerville, takes data from the Transport for London API and plots it out on a Google Map. On it, yellow pinpoints represent train stations, and the plethora of slowly moving red pinpoints represent an army of trains. Clicking on a red pin identifies which train you’re looking at, the station it just left and where and when it is expected to arrive.

We asked Somerville how real time the page really it, and he explained that while “the API itself appears to be pretty-much real-time” the page itself was put together in a few quick hours and currently requires a user refresh to keep truly up to date. With a bit more coding, he explained, the page could be just as real time as the API itself, which he presumes uses the same information as the platform indicators for telling when trains are arriving.

As with many real-time technologies, the map shows a very real future for the merging of the real-time Web with the Internet of Things. Soon enough, the objects we interact with on a daily basis – whether trains, planes or our refrigerators – will interact back with us, in real-time.

While Somerville acknowledges a number of faults in the current incarnation, he also notes that the source code for the project is available for download on GitHub. The code for this project is based on his previous mapping of all the trains in the U.K.

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