Transport for London CIO criticises public service IT

Public services are not providing enough personalised technology, according to the Transport for London (TfL) group's chief information officer (CIO).

At London Connects in Westminster, TfL Group CIO Phil Pavitt said that developments in IT for the public services needed to be centred on the individual user but he did not believe this was happening.

Pavitt also said that many members of the public were critical of public service IT due to headlines of big IT failures and their ignorance of many of the smaller successful technology schemes.

He said that his own biggest challenge with TfL was that although there was lots of data available, there was still work to be done on the killer application' of real-time. This allows users to personalise their own journey depending on their route (taking into account disruptions) or other aspects of their lifestyle.

Pavitt said that TfL had been experimenting with technology in order to make travel and transport as personalised as possible, and was working on making a difference with lifestyle.

He said: "[One example] is with the tube map. If you put in key data like height and weight and you get off one stop normally than you would, it will show you how many calories that you will lose walking the distance, rather than travelling the distance."

"Many people would say so what?' but for someone who wanted to make a lifestyle choice, that would be a very important thing to do."

Another big challenge was with foreign visitors, and the fact that millions of people were going to visit London for the Olympics in 2012 who don't have English as their prime language.

"They'll be arriving in London Luton, expecting it to be London, not realising that there is a lot of travel needed to get to the games. These are the challenges that we have for us as well as the whole of government."

TfL also revealed news on its iBus project - a 117m Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) project which started in 2005 and provided an advanced bus communication system involving satellite tracking and GPRS.

Martin Davey, head of TfL's technical services group, said that on the 25 July half of the 8200 London buses will have migrated to the new system, which aims to be complete by early 2009.