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Tokyo Metro plans app contest to make subway user-friendly

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

Tokyo Metro Co. says it has a plan to make the complex subway system easier to use and is offering passengers free data for an app contest with a ¥1 million prize to help that happen.

“We’d like to encourage (participants) to come up with applications that will be useful to people who regularly use the Tokyo Metro subway and to foreign visitors, as Tokyo will be hosting the 2020 Summer Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics,” the subway operator said in a statement Tuesday.

In addition to timetables and details on barrier-free stations, Tokyo Metro will also start providing new information, such as nearly real-time data on the location of all trains, alerts on delays, origin and terminus information for each train, and ways to discern which firm a train belongs to.

But how much of that information will be provided in English or other foreign languages remains anyone’s guess — Tokyo Metro’s website on the event is only in Japanese.

Tokyo Metro said it is the first railway in the country to make such information available to app developers. For now, “open data” will be made available only to contest participants, but whether to publicly disclose all of it later has not been decided yet, it said.

Open data is the concept of sharing data held only by the government, municipalities or industries with the public so it can be used to improve society.

The subway firms will be accepting app proposals from Sept. 12 to Nov. 17. The apps can must work with websites or with the iPhone, Android or Windows operating systems.

The top prize will be ¥1 million, but ¥500,000 will be awarded to another outstanding creator, with two other prizes worth ¥150,000 and four more worth ¥50,000 handed out.

Tokyo Metro spokesman Shogo Kuwamura said that by using Tokyo Metro’s data, people can, for instance, make an app that calculates the top 10 trains that are most often delayed.

“We are hoping that people will create apps that go beyond our imagination,” he said.

He also said another point of providing open data is that people can use it in conjunction with other sources of data, such as disaster information from the government, to make better applications.

The contest is part of Tokyo Metro’s 10th anniversary events, but is also being influenced by the government’s recent efforts to promote the open data strategy.

For more information, visit tokyometro10th.jp/future/opendata/index.html (only in Japanese).