5/01/2012

Campus Safe Ride Lookout App

This is my submission to 2012 UChicago Mobile App Challenge. It is a rather simple idea inspired by the need to wait for University of Chicago safe ride shuttle outside at night (possibly in bad weather) due to the lack of arrival information of the shuttle ahead of time. This app aims to solve exactly the information communication problem.

The Idea
This app will be in constant look out for the safe ride shuttle for you.

The Problem
Safe ride is a great service provided by the University and many friends I know use it regularly to get to places not served by the University shuttle at nighttime or in bad weather. The most important concern -- they put it in the name -- safe ride tries to meet is safety. Arguably, convenience of the rider is another concern. But these commitments have been challenged by the unpredictable wait time. This creates problems: standing in the cold or at very late hours is not very pleasant, much less is it safe. At the same time, safe ride drivers would like the riders to be ready to get on the shuttle when they arrive. It is a very reasonable request that saves everyone's time, but in practice, because the approach of the shuttle is not always well communicated in advance and the wait time is unpredictable, many riders and drivers miss each other. The result is that both the riders and drivers are unhappy.

My app will solve these problem to make using safe ride even safer and more convenient. By providing users with more information about the location of the shuttle and notifying the user when it comes within the vicinity of the user, the user can minimize their time exposing in the cold or to danger and the shuttle can wait less and run more efficiently.

The App
This location-based service (LBS) app notifies its user to walk outside when a safe ride shuttle is approaching the user's location. There will be two components to this app. One component lives on the shuttle driver's smartphone to acquire location data (via GPS or Wifi) and send the update of the shuttle location back via data network or SMS message to a server backend. The other component lives on the user's phone to acquire the user's location (via GPS or Wifi) and show the safe ride shuttle's latest location on a map (only) when it comes within the proximity of the user. So the user can get prepared and head outside before the shuttle arrives.

The limit on the viewing of the shuttle location to the user's vicinity is designed to enhance security by only informing the needed audience. Also, the app will require a UChicago email address to sign in to make the information of location of the shuttle even more secure. There are a lot more this system can do beyond these basic capabilities. For example, the user can make reservation from his or her app with a click since the app knows his or her location (and with this feature, we can only disclose the shuttle location to users that have made a reservation).


This is my very first youtube video in which I proposed this app:

If you like the idea, like the video, share it with your friends and vote for Safe Ride Lookout at the 2012 UChicago Mobile App Challenge! I will update the progress here before it becomes significant enough to move to its dedicated space.

Update

5/10/2012
Vote for this app at: http://techincubator.uchicago.edu/page/vote-your-favorite-app so safe ride may survive and improve. My hope is that this app along with an automated reservation-dispatch system, which I suggested above, might save the cost needed to keep this service alive.

2 comments:

  1. Why not just add safe ride GPS on TransLoc?

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    Replies
    1. That is totally doable, but out of our control. (TransLoc has their proprietorial technology to communicate the GPS location via a transponder and I believe they charge the school for a subscription fee.) From what I heard, one concern that vetoed your suggestion is safety: you don't want the exact location of the shuttle to be disclosed to everyone (who can access TransLoc). So the main idea of this app is that the location of the shuttles are only disclosed to UChicago members nearby the shuttles, as if you are just looking out for the shuttle from your window.

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