Thursday, August 18, 2011

Crowdsourcing Realtime Transit Updates

Real-time data crowdsourced from transit riders will improve information sharing for Pittsburgh's public transport.
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University released a new smartphone application that will help transit users create a database of real-time information of their local transit agencies.
Cities and transit agencies around the world are making riding easier for their customers by offering real-time arrival data not only at stations and stops but also online to be accessed from anywhere. Unfortunately, many of these systems require hardware to be installed in every vehicle and run on expensive, proprietary software that cash-strapped agencies are often unable to afford.
Additionally, the level of information available in these systems is limited generally to arrival time estimates, which can be of limited use to riders with disabilities. For these passengers, information about the space available on a vehicle is of paramount importance.
Researchers at the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Accessible Public Transportation, a part of CMU’s School of Computer Science, recognized these problems. They decided to tackle them head on.
The idea is simple: many transit agencies can’t afford to install proprietary Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) systems in their entire fleet. Yet, with the proliferation of GPS-enabled mobile devices, many transit vehicles already have a latent ability to be tracked.
The CMU team took this to heart and came up with a solution. The result is a program called Tiramisu, available on a mobile website or to any iPhone users in the app store application.  Tiramisu uses crowdsourcing methods to gather and supply transit riders with real-time information.

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