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Red squirrel by hedera.baltica

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Red squirrel by hedera.baltica

Red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) perched on a tree knot. Wiewiórka (Sciurus vulgaris) siedząca na sęku. <a href="https://flic.kr/p/2hQD3qd" rel="nofollow">https://flic.kr/p/2hQD3qd</a>
Uploaded November 25, 2019 at 09:03AM

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Flameeyes
14 days ago
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London, Europe
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Tracking smartphones is helping TfL update it’s Journey Planner

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Tracking how people move around tube stations by following their smartphones has lead to a number of changes to TfL’s own travel guides.

The data collection, which began in July 2019, is harnessing existing Wi-Fi connection data from more than 260 Wi-Fi enabled London Underground stations. Although TfL has long been able to track people entering and leaving stations through their Oyster cards, and calculate their journeys, the interchanges inside stations couldn’t be monitored other than by manual counting, which is slow and expensive to carry out.

The Wi-Fi data adds the missing piece into the puzzle.

TfL notes that the data is depersonalised so that it has no way of knowing which individual is doing what, but they now have more than 2.7 depersonalised pieces of data to play with, and that has already been throwing up some interesting insights about how people use the network to get from A to B.

For example, a person starting at Waterloo has many different routes to get to King’s Cross, and the tracking found that many different routes are indeed being used.

Now that they have the data, it’s time to make practical use of it, and TfL’s first update has been to their website’s Journey Planner to more accurately reflect the time it takes to travel through stations.

Through collecting data TfL says that it has gained a greater understanding of the routes people take across the network, where they interchange and how long people may have to wait at certain points along their journey due to crowding or maintenance work.

TfL’s own in-house data scientists worked through the data and identified a number of situations where the time taken to travel through a station was longer than they had previously said on their website.

TfL has now adjusted Journey Planner timings for journeys involving 55 stations.

The changes are focused on stations where there are periods of time where crowds build up and slow down how fast (or slowly) people are able to get around the station.

Some examples include Canada Water, which in recent years has become hideously slow to get from the Jubilee line up to the Overground or the exits during rush hours. At high tourist areas like Bond Street, Covent Garden, Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus, times have been adjusted to take account of higher usage outside of peak periods due to theatres, museums and other leisure activities nearby.

At stations towards the end of Underground lines in outer London, times have also been adjusted to take account of increasing passenger numbers.

Work is also underway to see what further information can be sourced from the depersonalised Wi-Fi data, such as understanding where customers interchange on certain key routes in London, such as King’s Cross St Pancras to Waterloo and Liverpool Street to Victoria, to see whether better alternatives could be suggested at busy times.

Unsurprisingly, the the aggregated data is also being used by TfL’s advertising partner, Global, to improve where it positions advertising and its ability to report back on how visible adverts are on the network.

Lauren Sager Weinstein, Chief Data Officer at Transport for London, said: “These changes to our online Journey Planner using depersonalised Wi-Fi data collection is just the start of wider improvements we are hoping to introduce which will provide better information to our customers and help us plan and operate our transport network more effectively for all. As we do this, we take our customers’ privacy extremely seriously. It is fundamental to our data approach and we do not identify any individuals from the Wi-Fi data collected.”

Work is now underway to improve data around crowding at platform level to help customers consider alternatives before they travel, and that is expected to be released as a public service next year.

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Flameeyes
34 days ago
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Amongst the leaves by hedera.baltica

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Amongst the leaves by hedera.baltica

Red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) hiding amongst the fallen leaves. Wiewiórka (Sciurus vulgaris) kryjąca się między opadłymi liśćmi. <a href="https://flic.kr/p/2hCBmhb" rel="nofollow">https://flic.kr/p/2hCBmhb</a>
Uploaded October 30, 2019 at 08:43AM

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Flameeyes
40 days ago
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IMG_6957a by jamesricher

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IMG_6957a by jamesricher

HUMAN BEHAVIOUR <a href="https://flic.kr/p/2a1GpLS" rel="nofollow">https://flic.kr/p/2a1GpLS</a>
Uploaded November 09, 2018 at 08:09PM

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Flameeyes
41 days ago
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More evidence that HS2 is more about capacity than speed

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A submission into the HS2 review has found that over 50 stations that are not part of the HS2 network will be able to offer more train services once HS2 is built.

Analysis by Sub-national transport body, Midlands Connect and sent to the Oakervee HS2 Review found that of the 73 locations that could benefit from HS2’s released capacity, 54 are stations not even served by HS2 trains.

That’s because of the great sucking sound caused by HS2 taking intercity trains off the regional railways and releasing tons more space on the railways for the regional services that carry commuters and families between the smaller cities.

As has been previously reported, although the headlines talk about the High Speed intercity element of HS2, the big impact is actually the average commuter heading into work each day.

By moving long-distance traffic from the current rail infrastructure onto the new high speed line, HS2 will create the extra room needed to improve local and inter-regional services.

That is due to the timetable impact of sharing fast and slow services on the same railway line — as there needs to be fewer slower trains to avoid the fast trains being delayed. Good for intercity services, but a pain for the regional travellers who don’t live in the big cities.

According to the report, HS2’s capacity-releasing effects on the conventional network mean that — for example — Coventry will be able to benefit from new direct connections to and from Derby, Sheffield, York and Newcastle; more frequent services to and from Shrewsbury, Telford, Leamington Spa and along the Coventry-Birmingham commuter corridor; as well as less crowded trains on existing stopping services to and from London.

If the economy is to reballance, then boosting regional travel options would be essential, and that’s what HS2 is really about. Get the intercity services off the existing tracks so that regional railways can be improved.

That is also why the suggested cost cutting plan for HS2 to cancel either the Euston or Old Oak Common stations in London would be so short sighted as it severely hampers either the capacity boosting at Euston to reduce commuter over crowding, or the ability to divert North-to-West travel by avoiding central London.

The report says that the projected benefits of HS2 released capacity have been calculated using the projections outlined in local rail strategies, existing rail models and the Midlands Connect technical programme.

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Flameeyes
67 days ago
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UNICEF’s Innovation Fund slides from “blockchain” into cryptocurrencies

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UNICEF — the United Nations Children’s Fund — has had some unfortunate dalliances with blockchain hype, mostly courtesy the UNICEF Innovation Fund.

UNICEF’s February 2018 initiative to mine cryptocurrency for charity has, thankfully, quietly disappeared — some time between October and December 2018.

A December 2018 press release lists six blockchain companies the UNICEF Innovation Fund has funded for 2019. All of these appear to be building standard blockchain applications — doing things that absolutely don’t need a blockchain and don’t benefit from one. Except when you’re applying for funding.

Of the six companies’ home pages, one has a “This is your website” generic placeholder page, and another has a bad SSL certificate — that is, a cryptocurrency company not quite managing cryptography.

UNICEF’s latest initiative, though, breaks new ground in bad blockchain innovation — they’re funding the next round of these with cryptos. UNICEF will accept donations of Bitcoin and ether, then pay the blockhain developers with the cryptos.

The press releases I saw describe this as funding “open source technology” — where “open source” is what blockchain developers call themselves now, for better feel-good points than admitting you’re into cryptos.

The press releases claim this news is “embargoed” until early October — and never mind that the Ethereum Foundation themselves blogged about this in August. (Crypto PR is mostly terrible.) I contacted the New York office to ask about the initiative; I’ll update if they reply.

The first round of donations will be from the Ethereum Foundation, who will also supply “mentors” to the developers. Using a private instance of Ethereum as your back end datastore is the hip and happening architecture in 2017 — just ask the World Food Programme!

UNICEF straight-facedly claims that the mere act of using cryptocurrency for this new programme is a “transparency” initiative — though the problem you actually need transparency for is how humans select other humans to get the funding in the first place. Deniable malfeasance works perfectly well on the blockchain.

One piece of cryptocurrency transparency I’d really like to see from UNICEF — a full conflict-of-interest accounting of the crypto hodlings of everyone at UNICEF involved in these blockchain initiatives.

UNICEF charity money will be spent on blockchain nonsense, blockchain marketers will cite this as further evidence of how cool blockchains are for the next three or four years, and any production system will have an inefficient Ethereum-based backend bodged into place by some dedicated ETH hodler.

Waste happens when you’re funding innovation — and that’s fine. The whole point is to do things you aren’t sure of. Not everything works out, and a certain percentage of snake oil merchants are going to slip through.

But “blockchain” has a sufficiently bad track record that no-one at UNICEF has an excuse not to know better. This is like chemistry innovation funding phlogiston, or medical innovation funding anti-vaccine activism.

 



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Flameeyes
76 days ago
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