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Photos: Apps to make the commute fun and beat the rush-hour traffic

The colourful future of data
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By Nick Heath on
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1 of 7 Nick Heath/ZDNet

The colourful future of data

Charts and tables loaded with impenetrable data are set to be a thing of the past as data visualisation - the process of taking raw stats and representing them in instantly understandable and often colourful ways - begins to take off.

To speed the process along both the UK government and the Greater London Assembly (GLA) are making data available to be turned into visualisations.

At a recent event in London, new data visualisation projects were showcased aiming to change the way public data is viewed.

One such project is Chromaroma, a game that allows London commuters to score points during their daily journey and to track the routes they have travelled using colourful visualisations of the capital's tube network.

Chromaroma keeps track of people's trips by scraping journey data from Transport for London's computer systems, which log every time a person enters or leaves a tube station using a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) Oyster card.

This allows Chromaroma to plot the journey that PAYG Oyster card carrying commuters take on a map, such as the one above. The peaks represent how often players have used their Oyster cards at a particular tube station over the past week.

The game works by giving players Chromaroma points every time they make a journey. They can also earn additional points for activities such as getting off a station earlier than normal, completing a journey a couple of minutes more quickly than usual or by visiting a new station.

At present the only people that can play Chromaroma are those with PAYG Oyster cards who have been invited to take part.

Photo credit: Chromaroma

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2 of 7 Nick Heath/ZDNet

Commuters can also form teams, for example with work colleagues, and compete to see who can rack up the most Chromaroma points.

Here you can see Chromaroma's representation of the routes that different teams of commuters - represented by different coloured lines - have travelled on London's tube network.

The game has been running since January and is open to about 100 players at present, although the plan is to open Chromaroma up to more people this year.

The venture has been developed by the Mudlark production company and receives funding from 4iP, a body funded by Channel 4 to promote public service media.

Photo credit: Chromaroma

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3 of 7 Nick Heath/ZDNet

This is a journey planner produced by Placr, a location-based services company, which produces real-time maps of London showing the quickest routes for travellers to make their way across the capital.

The Placr system works by pulling in information on tube and train arrival and departure times from Transport for London computer systems, as well as data on how fast road traffic is moving from vehicles fitted with specialised GPS units.

The Placr system is being tested using 40 million records of tube and train journeys in London and 500 million data points, showing how fast vans and bikes fitted with GPS units are travelling across the capital. This information shows when and where delays typically occur on the tube and train networks and how fast road traffic tends to move at different times of day.

By combining this historical information with data showing where delays are occurring in London's transport network at present, Placr's computer system is able to predict what will be the fastest route across the capital at any given time.

Here you can see a map showing the quickest route for a van to take across London at different times of day, based on the data Placr collected about when and where jams typically occur on London's road network.

Photo credit: Placr

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4 of 7 Nick Heath/ZDNet

The graphic above shows the average speed of road traffic in miles per hour during the morning rush hour in the central London area (map shown below).

Once Placr has completed tests of the journey planner system, the company hopes to make the service available to the public online.

placr rush hour london

Rush hour in central London

Photo credits: Placr

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5 of 7 Nick Heath/ZDNet

The capital of the US, Washington DC, has provided open access to public data online for many years.

Today 431 datasets, ranging from highways data to police statistics, are made available online by the DC (District of Columbia) authority and a variety of visualisations and applications have been designed to make that information easy to understand.

CTO for the District of Columbia, Bryan Sivak, was at the recent GLA event showing how both DC officials and the public had designed new ways of accessing the authority's information.

Pictured above is an overlay designed for Google Earth to allow people to see what crime reports the police have been called to in a neighbourhood in recent months.

Photo credit: District of Columbia

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6 of 7 Nick Heath/ZDNet

This is the iLive.at website, where people can type in an address in DC and see a wealth of information about that neighbourhood on one page.

The icons on the map show the nearest banks, shops, police stations, hospitals, libraries, train stations, sports grounds and other facilities. Reported crimes are also plotted on the map.

Pie charts at the side display the ethnic make-up of the area, number of homeowners and other demographic information.

Photo credit: District of Columbia

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7 of 7 Nick Heath/ZDNet

The CapStat Mapping Application allows people living in DC to plot a wide range of city data, such as scheduled highways maintenance works and local crime reports, onto Google Maps.

Users can filter the results so that only the type of crime or maintenance works they are interested in is plotted on the map.

Photo credit: District of Columbia

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