Finns Alert to WAP Timetables
By Tim Bird, Mon May 28 00:00:00 GMT 2001

Residents of the Finnish capital, Helsinki, are using their m-phones to be at the right place at the right time.

Public transport in Scandinavia has always been streets ahead of equivalent services in other places. The trains and buses always seem to run on time, and the fares are good value.

In Finland, this efficiency is in the process of being supplemented by a new wireless phone facility that saves time for the passenger and increases the comfort and convenience of the transport.

The service, known as LocWAP, or to give its grander full title, Location Based Public Transportation Services for WAP, underwent pilot trials in the Finnish capital, Helsinki, that reached their conclusion in early spring 2001.

It has been tested on a couple of Helsinki City Transport (HKL) routes, namely the number 4 tram and the 23 bus, and the plan is to introduce it as a widely available service on four more tram and three bus routes during 2002, and within a few years on all the city's tram routes.

The service is an alert facility with which the user can check the progress of his or her bus, tram or train along its route and predict with absolute accuracy its time of arrival at any specified stop or station.

The user is alerted in advance of the transport's arrival by an SMS message via the Elisa network. The result: no more frustrated pacing on pavements or platforms for transport, at the mercy of Helsinki's famously fickle climate.

UK viewers and satellite TV audiences elsewhere in Europe have been getting wind of the service via a memorable commercial narrated by and featuring one of the brains behind the system, researcher Rycharde Hawkes, who is based in Hewlett Packard's research laboratories at Bristol in the UK. (The commercial can be found online Tim Bird has lived in Finland since 1982, and has watched the phenomenal spread of mobile technology through Finnish society with a mixture of alarm and fascination.