How to Create a Real-time Public Transportation Schedule App
There is a place where real-time transportation and the Internet of Things (IoT) meet. Let’s call it the IoTT; the Internet of Transportation Things. There are blue-chip companies, such as IBM and Cisco, looking to cash-in on “Intelligent Transportation”. The IoTT is the next step in connecting transportation.
All of this talk sounds exciting, but what does this mean for you as a developer? How do you get involved? This is where a real-time data stream network like PubNub comes into play. In the future you could develop software that allows devices to connect to a channel and speak to each other. Messages could broadcast current locations or destination. This information could group transportation for efficiency. Ok, well
You need to start with a simple example. Our current place and time in history is an interesting one. Public data is ripe and available for the picking! For example you can search for public zoning data or subway times, and many larger cities offer public data in easy to consume APIs. In this article, we’ll use the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) API that delivers a wide variety of metrics, statistics, and schedules for the Bay Area’s largest rail system
After gathering the
Once you get the estimated times of departure, you will display the times on a map infobox.
To simplify the example you’ll split data retrieval and displaying the data in the browser. First you’ll need “node” and “npm”. If these are strange words, then take a look at PubNub’s excellent introduction to Node.js. The node packages used are:
- Browserify to use node packages in the browser.
- ngeohash to encode latitude and longitude into a string.
- request for http requests outside of the browser.
- xml2js to convert XML returns into JSONs.
If you look at the example code
npm install in the command line. This will install the packages by looking at the requirements in
Next set up
index.html. This is where you will configure PubNub, jQuery, and GoogleMaps.
You should add one more script.
By using Browserify, you can use node packages in the browser.
app.js is the name of the main file. There will be more on that later.
You will also need a GCP API key for the Google Maps API.
This is for good security reasons. This means you need something server-side. For example you could call a Ruby script to do the file i/o. In this case, you will use node’s abilities separate from the client web application.
The code example has
allstations.js in the
js folder. This file uses xml2js, fs, path, and request.
Make a “GET” request to the BART API for information on all its stations.
Set up a method that parses the XML response.
Inside the method:
xml2js parsed the XML response to a JSON. Then you want to covert that JSON to a string for text storage. This gives you
Write to the file system.
JSON Output to File
If you look in
data/ you should see
allstations.json. Next you want to pull the necessary information for each station location.
app.js in the
js/ folder. With each change you need to use the Browserify command stated earlier in the article. Because jQuery is accessible from
index.html you will use this to open allstations.json.
The callback calls the “main” method. Inside “main” you call all your separate methods. Note that to simplify scope “that” has been set to “this” for
app.js. Take a look at the main pieces of data you get from parsing
This is how you format the JSON.
The JSON From the Dev Console
For each transit station get the lat, lng, name, and abbreviation of the station. Then make a separate object and push it to an array. This is how you encode the coordinates for each station into hash strings.
Note that the
extractHash method needs to use ngeohash. This is via the
geoToHash method written below.
According to the wikipedia article on geohash, 4 characters gives a +/- 20km error. This should allow you to see multiple stations, which can be a few miles from each other. You now have all the station hashes stored as
that.hash_table. Let’s assume you found your user’s hash. Compare the two with this function.
HTML5 has a geolocator built-in. This allows you to get the user’s location based on IP address.
If the browser has geolocation support then get the user’s current position. Assume your user is in the Bay area and spoof their location for testing purposes.
app.js to access the station data to display on the map.
Set local variables for the data.
Load PubNub and GoogleMaps
pubs() is called from line 130.
To get your unique pub/sub keys, you’ll first need to sign up for a PubNub account. Once you sign up, you can get your unique PubNub keys in the PubNub Developer Dashboard. Our free Sandbox tier should give you all the bandwidth you need to build and test your messaging app with the web messaging API.
gmap.js has been borrowed from one of the previous articles. The PubNub connection listens for coordinate messages sent to the channel “mymaps”. It then moves the user’s marker based on this information.
Note that GoogleMaps calls
initialize(). This function adds properties to the map. The important part here is adding a marker for each
Then add an event listener for info windows.
You have covered the basics of displaying items on the map. The next question is how to add info on departure times. Go back to
app.js. After calculating the hash_matches you would need to get data for each of the matches.
In this example only data for Millbrae has been saved. Use another ajax call on the Millbrae data.
main_two, which formats the data and prepares it for GoogleMaps. This JSON is really deep and confusing. This is an example tree to get estimated departures.
Using this tree. Loop through the arrays and pull the relevant information.
Go back to
gmap.js. You need to loop through the different destination names. In this case “Millbrae” has been hard-coded but this could be a variable that tries to match abbreviations between “hash_matches” and “destinations” to display the relevant times.
Create a string for the destination times.
Specify the info window.
And that’s it! If you want more on real-time mapping and geolocation using mapping APIs like MapBox, MapKit and Google Maps, we’ve got a ton of other tutorials. Check them out!