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Weekend Roundup: Google Maps for iOS returns, the value of smart public transport, ITU conference showdown

Google Maps’ triumphant return to iOS 6

Less than three months after Apple unceremoniously wrested Google Maps from its iOS platform, the beloved navigation app has finally made its return to iPhones around the world. This week Google finally launched an official version of the app for iOS 6, meaning those of us who have been relying on browser-based Google Maps or other, frankly, subpar mapping apps can find our way again.

The app introduced a handful of new features, including more maps, rotating 2D and 3D views, and turn-by-turn navigation, which until now was only available on Android versions of Google Maps. But what will be most noticeable to some users is the app’s updated aesthetic - a sleek, modern design that goes hand-in-hand with Google’s recently launched iOS Gmail app. As its competition with Apple in the mobile space ramps up, the search giant appears to be porting its own aesthetic over to iOS, rather than adopting Apple’s real world-mimicking look. Whether this is deliberate attempt on Google’s part to coax Apple fans over to Android is up for debate, but it’s a theory that's hard to discount.

Unsurprisingly, many iPhone owners were as thrilled as we were about the news. The app shot up the App Store charts immediately, landing the top slot soon hours after being released. As the New York Times described it, "Google Maps for iPhone is an astonishingly powerful, accurate, beautiful tool", so download away, if you haven’t already.

Smart cities need smart transport

Over the past few months, we’ve been giving the concept of smart cities a fair amount of thought. Since our editorial director Riyad Emeran’s chat with Intel about its plans to develop smart city-targeted tech earlier this autumn, we’ve come to value the extent to which the notion perfectly highlights the importance of technology in the public space.

This week, Jamie Carter explored the idea of smart public transport - something which will no doubt please those of you who depend on the likes of the TFL and the National Rail, as so many of us at ITProPortal headquarters do.

As Jamie rightly points out, one of the most important approaches to better, more intelligent public transport is the use of information to incentivise people in urban areas to abandon their road-hogging and pollution-causing cars. Smart information ideas include “Internet kiosks, a Siri that can tell you where your bus is, GPS-enabled monitors on trains, and city-wide free Wi-Fi,” as well as more carefully designed fare programs. But that’s not all - the widespread adoption of smart cards, networked infrastructure, queueless commuting are essential, too. Appropriately enough, the TFL this week announced that London buses will begin accepting NFC payments, so perhaps we are due for smarter transport sooner than we thought.

Who owns the Internet?

In early December, the world’s nations descended on Dubai to discuss telecommunications regulation at the UN’s ITU conference - the first such official gathering since 1988. And, given that the past two decades produced paradigm-shifting changes that must be contended with, things quickly came to a head.

It should come as no surprise that attendees were fundamentally split over how to handle Internet governance. The UK, the US and their allies have publicly opposed the treaty, which calls for greater Internet regulation, but this week, those countries refused to sign the document. The so-called Western powers advocated for an Internet that is free of institutional or governmental meddling. But that approach was unlikely to gain support from Russia and China, who led a bloc of nations that want to redefine the Internet as a system of state-supervised networks enabling increased government intervention.

Intrigued by the showdown, our own Will Dalton spoke to a member of the US delegation, who insisted that her country’s approach was the right one. “There’s been so much positive growth, innovation, and investment [due to the Internet], especially in developing countries, and we wouldn’t want to see that reversed with anything that could hamper this,” Danielle Coffey said of the treaty. Follow the links for more details about how things played out and for some analysis of the conference's key moments.