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London's Citymapper capitalises on "decade of data"

Sam Shead | Sept. 10, 2013
Founder Azmat Yusuf claims Citymapper is on half of iPhones in London

One of the world's leading data scientists Alex "Sandy" Pentland said this week that we are entering a "decade of data" that will present new opportunities for the next generation of developers and start-ups.

Speaking at the O2 Arena in East London on Tuesday, the director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Human Dynamics Group and the Media Lab Entrepreneurship Program said that the abundance of data was going to drive the next generation of start-ups.

"The revolution that will come from data is going to dwarf the revolution that came from the internet and change every part of society," he said to an audience full of aspiring entrepreneurs. "Data will run the world and you guys have the opportunity to shape it."

One start-up in London capitalising on the abundance of data is transport app Citymapper. The iOS, Android and web application aims to make it as easy as possible for users to navigate around London, displaying useful information such as how much each transport method costs, the weather at a chosen destination and how many calories one would burn if they walked or cycled.

The Tech City firm behind the application -- founded last year by former Google employee Azmat Yusuf -- uses Transport for London's (TfL) data to deliver its app, which is the third most popular free navigation app in the iTunes store after Google Maps and NavFree, despite only covering one city in the UK.

Yusuf said in a rare media interview with Techworld that the app, launched at the start of last summer, is "probably" installed on over half of the iPhones in London and said the Android version, which launched roughly a year later, is also gaining traction.

Citymapper can apply its unique algorithm to any city that has open source (free to everyone) transport data. The application is built on Python but the mobile apps require iOS and Android developer kits, while the web app uses JavaScript.

"We have our own algorithm so we can basically plug any data set into that and it will work," said Yusuf, who added New York City to Citymapper at the end of August.

New York City added to Citymapper
"New York is hard because it's just a massive city," said Yusuf. "Some cities are going to be easier than others. It also depends on the quality of what you want to do with your first version of the city. We tend to update all the time so you can launch a mediocre city pretty fast," said entrepreneur Yusuf, who has an international education and is competent in a range of computer languages.

Despite New York City covering such a large area, Yusuf said the city's Metropolitan Transport Authority (MTA) has some good quality data.


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