Simple Offline Airport Wi-Fi Tracker in R

April 2, 2017

(This article was first published on R –, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

@visualisingdata rebroadcast this tweet today:

The Google Maps interface is a bit meh and the “formatted” data is also a bit meh but the data is useful when travelling (NOTE: always use a VPN in airports on both your mobile devices and laptops).

You don’t need their app or online access to take advantage of this data if you’re willing to do a tiny bit of work.

You’ll find an R-generated version of the airport Wi-Fi finder below or via this direct link.

The premise is simple:

  • grab the airport data KML that the Google Maps interface uses (NOTE: Visit the original URL from the Tweet occasionally to see if the KML URL changes)
  • make cleaner, more formatted text for the popups
  • toss up a leaflet map
  • add a searchable DT::datatable interface
  • render the R markdown page to HTML and keep it with you
  • refresh the generated HTML right before you go on your world tour

The code is directly embedded in the generated R markdown document and also in this gist so I won’t pollute this post with code blocks.

I’m hoping @bhaskar_vk will apply is mad, l33t Leaflet [email protected] $k1llz to this crude, quick hack and kick this up a notch as there is substantial room for improvement. If you give that a go as well, drop a note in the comments or on Twitter. Some ideas for improvement:

  • better markers (please, not those airplane ones 🙂
  • way better text cleanup
  • link the table and map (I think that means using Shiny but I’m likely wrong about that)
  • make it better on mobile (it works on mobile but there are different design considerations to make it more usable on tiny glowing rectangles)
  • make a “trip planner” Shiny app, letting folks select their airports and produce a handy digital reference card for them as they move about the globe

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