Archive for November, 2012


Improvements to MyMobile Bristol

Monday, November 19th, 2012

One of the strands of work associated with the project was to update the  MyMobile Bristol code to promote the use of public transport for visitors to the University of Bristol. MyMobile Bristol is a JISC funded project to develop a web application to deliver content optimized for smartphones within a ‘just in time’ and ‘on the move’ context. The information is targeted at students, staff and visitors of the University of Bristol and aggregates data from the University, Bristol City Council and other third parties. For the Greening Events 2 project, some of the development work focused on improving the MyMobile Bristol code. This development activity included adding new data sources, improving existing data sources and further developing the underlying software to improve functionality and robustness.

The Software

Mobile Bristol uses the Mobile Campus Assistant (MCA) software (https://wikis.bris.ac.uk/display/mca/Home)  to deliver information and data to mobile devices. MCA provides a solution that is capable of aggregating information from disparate sources and produces a website that is suitable for modern mobile devices. For example, MCA delivers the m.bristol.ac.uk and m.jisc.ac.uk websites.

MCA was originally developed as a JISC-funded rapid innovation project in 2009.It was then further developed in the MyMobileBristol project during 2010-11, funded by JISC through their Business and Community Engagement (BCE) programme (http://mymobilebristol.com).

The MCA Software is made of a number of key components:

  • A Resource Description Framework (RDF) store holds data that is loaded when the application starts and data harvested from remote sources.
  • Harvesters that retrieve data (HTML, XML, RSS etc.) from remote websites convert the data to RDF and store it in the RDF store.
  • A RESTful web interface that queries the data store and return the results as HTML, JSON, RDF or KML. The web interface returns HTML that is used by web browsers found on mobile devices. The pages might include JavaScript that will then query the service for points of interest (POI) and display them on a map.

Software Development for Greening Events II

Software development for the project covered a number of areas:

  • The facility to get information on a POI (point of interest) on a map was improved, providing more flexibility in what is displayed in an information bubble. This was particularly useful in displaying details of city car parks.
  • The way URIs are handled in the system as improved to remove unresolvable URIs.
  • The code for getting geo data from OpenStreetMap was improved. In the past it was stored in a number of locations and files – they are now all loaded in the RDF store.
  • A ‘Dynamic Navigation’ feature was added, so that it was possible to create a navigation list from harvested data rather than being preconfigured.
  • The system was updated so that you could add ordered POI to provide a list of points on a map to provide directions.
  • There were numerous updates to how geo-location data was stored and retrieved within the system.
  • There were general improvements across the code base.

Data

A key feature of the development activity for the Greening Events II project was to improve the existing data sources used in Mobile Bristol and adding new ones.

OpenStreetMap

An initial task was to refresh the data held about local amenities, such as cafes, pharmacies and cinemas.  A key source of data for this information is the community driven OpenStreetMap (OSM).  Some effort was given to improving the quality of information about POI (points of interest) around the University precinct, such as adding missing bicycle racks, post boxes and cash points. It was possible to use the tools on the OSM website for improving the quality of the data. A fresh export was then taken from OSM, converted to RDF and then used by the Mobile Bristol website.

Bristol City Council

Bristol City Council provides some data about local facilities. We took an XML file of local car parks and modified it slightly – we removed on street parking (as there were too many data points which made the map unusable) and fixed some incorrect latitude and longitude values. We were then able to include a map of city car parks.

Naptan

The Mobile Bristol website proves a map of city bus stops derived from the NaPTAN (National Public Transport Access Node) data source. The data was out of date (2009) and was inaccurate in some areas – for example, it had a cluster of bus stops within a city park.  A fresh export was taken and process for adding the data and using it within the system was updated.

University of Bristol

A number of new data sources from the University of Bristol were added to the system. For example, the locations of Video Conference Rooms were added so that staff might be encouraged to stay in Bristol for meetings rather than travel.

We added Walking directions from travel hubs to the University precinct, which coincided with travel information provided for visitors to the 2012 Open Days.

The software and sample data sources are available at https://github.com/ilrt/mca under a permissive Open Source license.