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TfL CIO Steve Townsend taking Olympics confidence into new projects

Edward Qualtrough | July 30, 2013
Transport for London (TfL) CIO Steve Townsend talks about his next projects, which include building on the underground WiFi rollout and a complete overhaul of TfL's end-user computing.

Data projects
One way swathes of Londoners might suggest transport in the city has improved in very recent years is the huge number of third-party apps which have used TfL data to aid getting around the capital, from timetables to real-time bus and train updates.

Townsend explained that TfL have strongly encouraged data transparency and a lot of their vehicle positioning data is made available through the London Data Store, a termination point or API, allowing developers to go and pick up what they need.

"We are utilising cloud services to make this available to make this available to the developers who are out there who want to make some of these fantastic applications.

"Open sourcing this information has been a huge success. But we do need to be careful because some of the ways the data is interpreted is not always beneficial to the travelling public.

"The advice we put out is based on years and years of intelligence on how best to run transport in London. You get conflicts, but at the same time opening up our data remains an extremely powerful way for a public sector organisation of getting travelling data across to the people."

Cloud compliance
While Townsend and TfL have been able to use the cloud to host services for developers, it's a different set of rules altogether for other aspects of TfL data — and whatever the cloud is defined as.

"We utilise the cloud for different functions. The cloud is such a strange term," Townsend says, "and I don't think we've decided as an industry what the cloud really means.

"People could say that most of my network is hosted in the cloud because we've sourced it externally; we could categorise that network as a cloud.

"There are elements of services where I offer software-as-a-service and storage-as-a-service as well, but some people don't really think that's a cloud while others do.

"What we're doing is utilising cloud services where it best fits the organisation and where it's driving real value, but we obviously need to adhere to regulatory compliance.

"There are certain elements of TfL data which we need to know exactly where it is at all times and apply the correct levels of regulation and compliance around that. And it's not just regulation and compliance, we also have a care of duty to understand the close protection of people's data."

 

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