Smarter Travel LIVE! Hackathon

Disrupting disruptions at the Smarter Travel LIVE! Hackathon 2016.

Published on 16th March 2016 by Jonathan Ginn

This past weekend (12/13th March, 2016) a Base team arrived in Vauxhall, London bright and early to attend the Smarter Travel LIVE! Hackathon.

Our 6-person team (2 back-end developers, 2 app developers, a designer and a front-end developer) was much heavier on the front-end department so we played to our strengths, aiming to make a product that felt as real as possible, from the API all the way up to the user interface.

Day 1 was a long day – starting from Bournemouth at 7am, driving to London for 10am, and working until about 9:30pm before collapsing into our respective hotel rooms. The Sunday was more of the same – 8am to 4pm.

The event was a great opportunity to meet other teams in the Travel industry. Matt Whittle also attended the event representing CycleStreets. Here’s his post about the event.

We were especially impressed by the IBM/TransportAPI team’s use of IBM Watson to use machine learning on traffic cams, determining the level of traffic. Also in attendance was FasteRoute, who tackled analysing school runs in Buckinghamshire.

What we created

Four briefs were provided from various sources. The one that jumped out at us was Traveline’s:

The challenge is to consider how daily disruption information could be captured and made available as Open Data that can be associated with Traveline’s existing Open Data products and services. This disruption information is not planned, and is not reported by real time systems where they are present; It may not yet be captured in any way.

One of the key factors in disruption information is unifying it into one system that can relate directly to bus services and lines. Right now, bus companies generally handle their Twitter and Facebook seperately – or link the two together – firing out tweets to keep their users up to date on the changes and delays in the network. However these tweets are not consistent and hard to decipher as a passenger.

We created a system that lets you take a LatLng of a disruption and it will utilise TransportAPI to determine which Bus services that affects – across any operator. This means we can take data from any source that supplies real-time disruption info, including Elgin’s www.roadworks.org.

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Traveline are correct in saying that disruptions do not yet seem to be captured consistently. We built a web system for an operator to add their own disruptions. These operator disruptions – combined with the external sources – creates a live dashboard of the current issues on a network with indications on when they might resolve.

When submitting a disruption, the operator can post those over to Twitter and Facebook automatically, or create new outgoing messages on ongoing disruptions to keep users up to date.

User generated disruption reports

One of the greatest assets an operator has is their own passengers. Passengers equipped with a mobile app (on iOS and Android), can view our real-time feed of disruptions but also add their own to the system. With a simple reputation system, users can earn points over time by submitting accurate disruption information or ‘+1-ing’ another user’s disruption.
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One of the key factors in generating user involvement is incentivising users to take the time to use the app. Points earned through reports could be translated directly into rewards by way of a discount in mobile ticketing in the operator’s app. It also provides a much greater connection from an operator to their most passionate passengers, giving them opportunities to engage with active passengers.

Further Opportunities

TransportAPI provides a ‘Buzz’ of location-tagged tweets that talk about buses. We could potentially take this feed and address users directly, alerting them that an app exists that could save them money and help operators. This could swiftly turn negative tweets into positive action.

Twitter-Bot-Response-mockup

At Base we’ve worked in public transport for over 7 years. Our product, Passenger, brings a suite of products under one roof to provide a great experience for bus operators and passengers, including mobile ticketing and journey planning. It also provides operators with a central dashboard to control their systems.

With Passenger, we could integrate all of the elements from our hackday into an ecosystem that already exists, enhancing the experience for all. With the Passenger dashboard, mobile apps, and mobile ticketing, every aspect of our hack project is feasible. The outcome of this project would be consistent and easy to understand disruption information across any operator.

Want to learn more? If you’re at Smarter Travel LIVE! this week (17/18th March), visit Base and get a hands-on demo of Passenger in the Enterprise Zone. See our presentation of this hack project from 4:30pm on the 17th.

Interested in the tech stack behind this hack? Check out Chris’ post here.

Published on 16th March 2016

Developer Evangelist

Jonathan Ginn