Posts Tagged ‘Open data’

When is Tower Bridge opening

January 20, 2018

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: 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. 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: 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.


OpenTech – London – Saturday 11th September

September 6, 2010

Just a quick one to say I am attending this conference on Saturday. It always proves to be a very insightful and an inspiring day.

You can register your place here:

For general information have a look here:

It is such a good day, I actually start looking forward to it a month in advance! And this year it is being sponsored by!!!!

Hope those who can, come along.

Open Knowledge Conference and Where Does My Money Go

April 25, 2010

I attended the Open Knowledge Conference yesterday in London. It was a excellent day of talks about Open Data and the work different people and organisations are doing.

Some of my favourites talks included:

  • The Post-Analogue World, Glyn Moody, opendotdot – This was a fast paced talk which only made the topic even more interesting and exciting. I do hope Glyn writes about this, as there were some excellent examples of how the music industry could change its business models!
  • Making the Physical from the Digital, Ben O’Steen – An excellent talk on converting digital data to physical data, printing a book on one continuous till receipt was quite thought provoking. The MP’s expenses receipts, service not included, was a good idea – this area still leaves a nasty taste though.
  • The Straight Choice, Richard Pope – An amazing idea, store all of those election flyers. Richard’s synopsis of the bad, and some good leaflet was eye opening. Interested to see what sub-projects are spawned from this site.
  • Where does my money go, not sure on the presenters. This was an interesting presentation. Only the day before I was sent the link to the prototype visualisation and upon seeing it I was amazed at how they have represented such a huge amount of data in a clear and concise manner, and also that they had managed to “crunch/clean/process” this data to enable the visualisation. The talk made it very apparent the amount of work, effort and I am sure frustration that was put into getting, processing and undersanding the data…. And it is only 27,000 rows of data from a database of 27 million (if I remember correctly). Absolutely brilliant job.

All the of the talks I attended were brilliant, in fact I wanted to go to others but they overlapped.

Really enjoyed the day, big thank you to the organisers and presenters.