Bixi on iPhone now (officially) available

2009-06-08-052

There has been an interesting controversy brewing about the use of a user-created application for iPhones and Blackberries to track Bixi availability. Spacing Montreal reader, Colin Guillas, sent us this article.

First, Bixi flexed their legal muscle and shut down a free iPhone app designed to actually make the system usable, since there weren’t even static maps at the stations.  Next, they told us that there would not be a public API made available for others to make the system available for use.  An enterprising user announced a hack that would allow users to access Bixi statistics in Google Maps.  Bixi responded by telling mobile users that their system was fully mobile enabled, and that all users had to do was visit their mobile enabled page.  Unfortunately, this site was extremely slow, bandwidth intensive, and not location aware.  It was beginning to look like Bixi not only wasn’t interested in mobile users, but was actively trying to discourage them.

Well, it appears that Bixi has had a change of heart and has forwarded the link http://map.bixi.com directly to the Google Earth-compatible KML file that they use for their real time maps.  Typing the above link into the mobile search field from within the Maps application on the iPhone or BlackBerry will quickly bring up real time Bixi stand data as well as allow users to plot routes and pinpoint their location using the GPS features of their device.  Even though it is a web link, it must be opened using Maps, not Safari on the iPhone.

It’s not known why the team at Bixi didn’t set this up earlier, since they have been using a Google Maps data embed all along, but let’s hope that this is a sign of more co-operation to come.  It is good to see that they have decided to embrace the technology instead of continuing to fight it.

16 comments

  1. The map is incomplete. I’m not getting any of the stations in western Old Monreal and Griffintown. Can you bookmark the address in Google Maps?

  2. C’est clair que c’est un petit boss des bécosses qui a fait un caca nerveux et a voulu montrer qui était le «boss», jusqu’à ce que quelqu’un de moins constipé ait ramené les choses sur terre…

  3. Minor correction: The “app” that Spark created was not an “app,” it was a mobile version of the Bixi map, and it was crummy. It was slow. Really slow. Like Bixi mobile website slow. Nice to see that Bixi has essentially adopted the GMaps hack that’s been available form ArtBeatMe. That said, there is still a lot that can be done through a proper Bixi app (and users are sharing ideas and building what they can on the Bixi Facebook page). I have my doubts that Stationnement de Montreal will consider investing the small amount of time and money to really get rolling now that they’ve adopted an adequate compromise.

    @Patrick: the map doesn’t always load everything in one shot. Zoom in to the rough area you want to look at (Old Montreal, Griff, etc.) and reload the http:// etc. in the title bar. The stations in the area you’re looking at will appear. My hunch is that the map won’t reload in real time, meaning you’ll have to keep clearing the search bar and re-entering the URL to get an update (all the more reason for Bixi to develop a proper app for iPhone, BB, Winmo, etc.).

  4. I agree with @Patrick. The map is incomplete, and I still prefer to use the one made by the “enterprising user”. You can get it on your phone by going to “http://bit.ly/bixi”

  5. Yesterday their map was not pointing to a kml file; this is good technical progress!

    I had asked them to do this; I’m still waiting for a bike path overlay :)

  6. This is not exclusive to iPhone (POS)- any phone with web access can use it.

  7. I don’t think the bixi non-bike technology plan was done by professionals, the fact is they are definitely making it up as they go along, and the Bixi roll-out has been seriously flawed in so many ways. We think the reason is because Bixi is run by Stationnement Montreal, the parking meter parasite, er, corporation who have not ever shown much in ther way of customer service/user friendlyness/ or a collective IQ over 65.

  8. Daniel, you should try at the Cycling overlay over at OpenSTreetMap.

  9. I haven’t made very thorough verification of this, not having personally visited all the stations, but Google Maps tells me that “some of the content has been hidden, zoom to see more”.

    On my iPhone, it seems to dynamically show markers as I zoom in, but on my HTC Dream, it seems like I had to reload the overlay for it to show be the stations (so zooming into my general area, and *then* loading the overlay worked well for me).

    I’d like to be able to bookmark it on my iPhone, but both the home-grown and the new official KML layers are easy enough to remember, and can usually be found in the “recent” tab anyway.

  10. The map is complete, you just have reload the bixi address in a new position on the map. A dedicated app would make more sense rather than typing it in each time.

  11. I’ve been using an app called iBix for a few days now and it works much better than Stationnement Montréal’s map compromise.

    It’s been on iTunes all week and the developers were careful not to appropriate any trademarked material, so should be there a while yet.

  12. After writing the above, I have to vouch for the $0.99 iBixi app as well. I *really* disliked the list view at first but now that the novelty has worn off and I only use about a dozen stations on a regular basis the favourite stations feature is actually very useful.

    All that Bixi has to do now is figure out why the bike I returned yesterday never clocked in, and maybe look into why the brakes and shifters keep dying on the bikes and I’ll be happy. :)

  13. The iBixi App is now called “Bixo” if anyone is trying to look for it still. After you install it it still installs under the name iBixi but you can’t find it in the Apps store under that name…

  14. Correction, it’s called “Bixou” not Bixo ((Typo) sorry about that…

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