A behind-the-scenes look at real-time transit in HERE WeGo

Philip Barker
Kettering 52° 23' 55.752" N, -0° 43' 32.988" E

Transit coverage from HERE continues to evolve and improve, with the latest real-time updates helping people to reach destinations on time even when they’re reliant on public transport. How does it all work though?

Bilal Khaddaj, a product manager in the Urban Mobility team at HERE, has been working on integrating transit coverage into the company’s services for the past couple of years, and explains:

“We started by delivering scheduled timetable information for cities, implementing a system so we can scale to deliver to more and more regions. However, this wasn’t enough, as our users wanted to be informed about delays and disruptions during their daily commute. This triggered our quest to introduce real-time support to cover this missing piece of user experience.”

Real-time times two

There are currently two different types of real-time coverage, comprising real-time routing and real-time next departures. Real-time routing can provide details of delays or changes in schedules, which can then be taken into consideration when recommending the best transit route.

Real-time next departures can provide delay information for transit lines at specific stops, with real-time departure information making it a lot easier for people to time their journeys. Regions where real time-routing is supported can would ultimately benefit from real time next departures as well.

The HERE WeGo apps already provide real-time in 29 cities around the world, spanning Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the UK, the USA and Spain. Bilal says that we’ll be able to tap into far more real-time coverage over the rest of the year and beyond.

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Tapping the source

The data for real-time transit updates comes from both transit agencies and source aggregators, and Bilal adds: “There are companies out there that gather and aggregate content on behalf of those agencies, and these support us and provide information”.

Once there is a new real-time source, Bilal’s team can start coding it to make real-time transit visible in the HERE WeGo apps. “There’s no one way to code real-time information, and that’s why it’s very difficult and challenging for us from an engineering standpoint. We need to intake and process that real-time information, and usually data is provided by APIs so we generally have to write and implement code that can retrieve the relevant information.”

The integration process for additional real time sources can be accelerated in certain cases, and Bilal points out that general API readers can also be used. “For sources that have common data formats, our existing tools can be slightly adapted to integrate additional real time sources,” Bilal says.

Once Bilal’s team has the relevant information, it’s time to make this visible to the end-user on the HERE WeGo apps. Different colours and icons can be used to highlight changes in the line schedules.

Challenge worth accepting

Adding real-time transit coverage may be a technical challenge in itself, but with a talented team of engineers on hand it’s not actually the toughest part of the job, with Bilal highlighting sourcing issues as a bigger challenge.

“The technology side of things is obviously tricky, but that’s something we can resolve at our end. The major challenge is getting the source data and getting the clearance to use it on HERE WeGo.”

It’s a task that’s well worth taking on though, and the end result is a service that can make your journey by public transport a whole lot easier.

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Topics: Transit, Mobile apps, Features, HERE for Android, HERE for Android beta, HERE for iOS, HERE WeGo, Editor's picks

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