When is Tower Bridge opening

One of the traits that I believe makes a good product manager outside of knowing your customer(s) is being able to recognise a real problem. For a while now I have had a “problem” that has bugged me and I have wanted to solve for myself (I see the customers of this product those that suffer the same problem I do).

What is my problem?

I commute by bicycle across London. I live in South East London and I work north of the river. This means I have a choice of bridges to cross, from Waterloo down to Tower Bridge. In the morning I am more of a creature of habit and typically cross Southwark bridge, however in the evenings I like to mix it up a bit and typically as I leave my place of work I try to decide which bridge I should cross. Tower Bridge is actually one of my favourite bridges (from the choice) to cross, however Tower Bridge has a risk associated with it – will it be open when I arrive to cross it? This is definitely a first world problem, but if the bridge is open you don’t know until the approach at which time it is too late to turn around and take another bridge (I know I have tried), and then you have to sit and wait for the operation to complete. Whilst it is nice to witness, it adds at least 20 minutes to the commute (effectively doubling the time), and compresses all of the traffic so making it more dangerous.

My problem, fundamentally, is I need to know as I leave the office is Tower Bridge due to open that evening, if so I will take another bridge. I always check my phone before I leave the office, so if I had a notification I would be alerted to this fact and make an informed decision.

The research

So the first bit of research is, can you get the time of the openings on the web and the simple answer is yes, Tower Bridge kindly provide this on their website: http://www.towerbridge.org.uk/lift-times/ a quick Google search gave me this information.

Next up is, do I need to scrape this data and then offer this data as an API service, or am I lucky and has someone already done this? Well, another Google search and I have an answer. https://tower-bridge-lifts.herokuapp.com/ provides a RESTful service where I can get the time and date for the next lift (as well as vessel name and direction of travel)! This work was completed by Andre Parmeggiani, you can see his other work on his github page – I am very grateful that he did this work.

So that is it, everything is perfect I have the foundations in place to build the product (something I wanted to do for myself) and I had a week break over the Christmas period. Time to break open the Head First Android Development book and start learning how to code up an app.

The Product

Well, the simple solution is an MVP in the shape of a mobile app that tells me when the next opening is. My MVP is to consist of:

  • I can interact with app to check what is the next opening of the bridge
  • I get an alert within 4 hours of the next opening of the bridge so that when I check my phone before setting off I will see the alert and make an informed decision of the course to take.


Now I will admit, I think I might have gone a too much on the minimum for the interface, as I went with as basic as possible (I only had a limited amount of time). However I think this MVP is viable as testing showed I can interact and get the next opening information and I get alerts / notifications. I have also become a bore as I can tell you when the next opening is…. 🙂

I am pleased to announce the app is available from the play store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.itssmee.apps.towerbridge next up is to write the same app for the iPhone.

Please help yourself, and if you like it please rate me and I am happy to take suggestions.

And finally, thank yous

I would to thank Andre Parmeggiani and his API

Also, I would like to thank Nicolas de Camaret for his Flickr post which I used as background for the app – I really appreciate that.


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