Anyone who’s travelled by public transport will recognize the situation. After the fastest recorded sprint ever, you’re just in time to see your connecting bus, tram or train pull away before your very eyes. Connexxion calls these ‘break light delays’, and it’s a problem that’s nearly impossible to solve. Because no matter how you adjust the timetable, someone will always be just a second too late.
Never miss the bus again
Public transport company Connexxion asked us to come up with an app that could reduce the number of just-missed-the-transfer passengers. An intriguing challenge, and one we thought IoT could play a role in overcoming. Yeah. IoT. A technology that was still in its infancy at the time. The concept: let passengers’ smartphones exchange location information with iBeacons installed in the buses. Is someone in danger of missing his/her bus transfer? Then he/she can use the ‘Stappover’ (Transfer) app to send a connection request to the bus driver.
Pioneers of promising technology
A smooth transfer is especially important in rural area. Miss your transfer there, and you’re likely to have to stand around for 30 minutes waiting for the next one. A waste, of course, and it leads to stressed-out passengers and drivers. That, while in a lot of cases, there’s time available in the timetable to wait an extra minute or two.
Thanks to the iBeacons, and based on geographical data, it only takes a split second to determine what time bus 1 will arrive at the transfer point, and how long bus 2 might need to wait. Is that longer than four minutes? Then a transfer wouldn’t have been possible anyway, and the traveler would get a message explaining that. But if it’s less than four minutes, the bus 2 driver would get a transfer request on his on-board computer.
The real revolution of Stappover is happening on the back-end. The app uses a bunch of back-office sources to collect the traveler’s data, validate it, and get it to the right bus driver.
A solution in less than six weeks
To solve this public transport challenge, we travelled through the country ourselves. To see what it’s like first-hand, to observe passengers and drivers, to test the accuracy of iBeacons, and to discover all the different variables.
We started with a pilot in the IJsselmond region, where we installed iBeacons in buses and tracked their routes in real time. We used Bluetooth and GPS to link this data to the exact location of Stappover users. To communicate with drivers, we built a messaging system into the existing bus hardware.
One step at a time, we collected more and more user feedback and sharpened the functionalities. The app was ready for use within six weeks, and Stappover is now being rolled out in all regions in which Connexxion buses run.
The traveler can submit a transfer request up to two minutes before the departure of the connecting bus. The bus driver receives this request via his board computer with the message: 'You have a transfer passenger’. The driver then assesses whether the extra transfer time requested is possible. If it is, the bus driver will wait for the passenger, so that he/she doesn’t have to wait in the cold or the rain until the next bus arrives.
Missed the bus by a hair?
That is a misery of the past. With an app for all Connexxion labels, missing a switch is a thing of the past. You simply request the transfer during your bus journey and the driver will wait until you are on the bus!