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Station Master is an app that can seriously speed up the process of getting around on the London Underground. It started off by offering carriage and platform information, before being updated to full 3D station mapping around the UK’s capital.
The process of mapping London’s underground stations has been a time consuming labour of love, and it’s surely not scalable for hundreds of other cities around the world. In the meantime though, the unique approach is worthy of praise, and it shows just how good mapping apps can be.
Geoff Marshall is the man behind Station Master, and its creation came about after an unusual world record and the need for speed when traveling around the UK’s capital.
“I hold the world record for travelling to all the (London) tube stations in the fastest time,” Geoff tells us, “and for that we needed to know the correct carriage and door positions. Instead of having each of them on a piece of paper, we decided to put it all into an app.”
“We looked at other apps that were out there, and how many taps it took to get the information that you wanted quickly. We decided what we liked and what we didn’t, and then programmed our app that way.”
Geoff explains that once 3D station maps were added to the mix, they quickly won peoples’ attention. “The 3D maps (as we drew them) quickly stole the focus. We found out that those with accessibility needs really liked our app, so we focused more on improving those areas.”
Doing something new meant the Station Master team had to go out and do a whole lot of research, with Geoff explaining: “I will physically go to a station and jot down its layout, count all the steps with my own feet and write everything down. I took my iPad with me for a whole year, going to stations and entering information as I went along.
There are just two people at the heart of Station Master, but Geoff explains that friends and girlfriends chipped in, with app users also emailing and offering feedback and corrections. “It’s always nice when somebody gets in touch,” adds Geoff, “and we always appreciate it.”
It’s not just about offering features though, as the last thing that commuters want is to be bogged down in a confusing mix of options and menus, so the Station Master team also concentrated on making the app as quick and intuitive as possible.
“The nicest feature we have now is that the app geo-locates where you are,” adds Geoff, “and you can just ‘pull down’ from the home screen to instantly see your nearest station and get all the relevant information.”
That combination of ease of use and an impressive set of features really helps to set Station Master apart, and Geoff comments:
“As far as we’re aware, no one else does door/exit positions and there was certainly no one else to draw 270 maps of all the tube stations in 3D!”
In an act of camaraderie, Geoff explains that Station Master isn’t specifically attempting to beat other apps, with developers instead proving (perhaps surprisingly) friendly:
“Rivals is the wrong word; most app developers are very friendly, and we speak to both Paul Dias, the man behind TubeChanger, and Andy Drizen, from TubeTracker. It’s nice to talk to other developers.”
Station Master is already a brilliant app, but Geoff and his team have some ambitious plans for the future. He adds:
“We’d like our maps to be better. They could be real-time 3D maps, rather than static; having them rotate so you could view from all angles would be nice. Also, if there were beacons inside stations, it could show you were on the may you are within the station. Geolocation while deep within the station – that would be amazing.
Image credits: Station Master