Coming into work, I read about great public transit application for cell phones. What struck me is collaborative effort between 14 partners on project, and some Canadian talent as well. Kudos to Hossein Rahnama, a Ryerson University PHD student in computer science, for creating the Mobile Transit Companion. He worked on application funded by European Commission to direct passengers on a variety of transit systems.

You create a user profile when you register that may include vision impaired, then the app can switch to voice commands or gestures. Are there universal gestures, given that there are French and Swedish partners in project? There is also an option to be monitored while you travel. I like this for my granny who’s English ability is poor and would need sign-posts to guide her. But I would want to know if data is stored somewhere, then that would lead to privacy issues. Once granny arrives at a station then the app could trigger icons like elevators (great for her and good for parens with strollers) or a ticket icon. Also a watch icon will notify users when next train is coming. This feature is similar to GPS technology.

Dear Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) can you come up with something like the Mobile Transit Companion? In fairness to TTC, there are plans to equip streetcar or bus stops with technology to notify you of next 2 vehicles coming. But it rankles when homegrown talent like Hossein Rahnama has to go to Paris to flex his skills and solve practical problems.

I wish that there were more collaboration and library software and tools that kept in mind what the users want and use. I thought of that as I was talking about obscure cataloguing standards with a non-library person. Do we really need to included number of pages and height of book, in an age of e-books and self-service users? I hope I inspire you to dream of useful tools to minimize the pain points of your clients.


Later I read about librarian Mark Leggot who is trying to eliminate a major pain point of increasing electronic database costs and finite resources. Leggott of the University of Prince Edward Island proposes a free scholary journals database a la Wikipedia. His concept would call for 10 institutions to each pony up $5,000 each to pay for one librarian to do the groundwork to create a free database based on the Wikipedia model, therefore bypassing commercial vendors like Elsevier. Leggott is reacting to situations, like one academic publisher increasng their database fee by 120 per cent.

He anticipates about $3 million annually would maintain such a database. This would be an incredible deal for libraries and ensure perpetual access. Part of his argument is that the taxpayers have already paid researchers, scientists, and academics who work in public colleges and unversities. Is Leggot a revolutionary or is he a dreamer? I say dream big.

– Brenda

More reading:

Original article (today’s pdf August 10, 2010 page 33 or in print archives at Toronto edition)

Brief demo video


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