Widget Wednesdays episode 2: Parking

In our last blog post, we took a deep dive into the Student Portal interface and explored the Routes Widget; one of the many widgets that the portal is comprised of. Today we continue the exploration with the Parking widget.  Please note that the portal is under development and these designs are subject to change over future iterations.

Waterloo Portal parking widget

This widget will support students who drive to campus. At the moment, the portal widget itself is quite simple. Using public data, the widget displays a list of parking lots, the number of spaces available (with a coloured indicator bar) and the time the data was updated.

Let’s take a look at where this data originated, as it very well might give you, and us, some ideas on how to improve it!

In the fall of 2010, a 4th year design Software Engineering project team proposed a plan to help alleviate student parking woes on campus. They connected with Parking Services and pitched their idea: retrofit their equipment so that they could capture and send live data from the student-used lots to the public at large. WATpark was born.

The site first became operational and ready for public demonstration with Lot C data in October 2011. Since then, lots N, W and X have been reporting data. Beyond the car counts, WATpark provides other information such as the location of each lot, and predictions on how full lots are. You can access the original source of the Parking widget through the web at http://www.watpark.ca and also on the Android Market.

The story behind the data is representative of IST’s current and future collaboration with Waterloo students. Since 2012, staff from Parking Services and IST have collaborated with project team members helping to ensure the continuity of the initiative.

How does the portal widget itself get the data? In addition to displaying the data on WATpark properties, the portal team has collaborated with Waterloo’s Open Data API to provide “endpoints” which can be used freely, as per University of Waterloo - Open Data License Agreement v.1. Most notably, the license allows anyone, including IST’s portal team, to “copy, publish, distribute and transmit the Information; adapt, modify or translate the Information; and use the Information […] by combining it with other information, or by including it in [our] own […] application.” Thus, as WATpark improves their own service, they will pass on the benefits to the Open Data API. The portal team used the API to access the data, and then customized the display.

What other data or features could improve this widget?  Feel free to comment and share your ideas. You never know, they might show up in a future release!

Thank you to our portal team for this week’s guest post.

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