The probability of one’s bicycle remaining in an operable condition decreases sharply as the semesters proceed. Add to that the cases of a few unfortunate thefts, and you have a fair share of the hostel zone relying on the campus bus services. It is, after all, the fastest permissible way of travel in the campus. A strict professor at 8 in the morning, getting back to the room when there are two free slots, going outside the institute, etc. are multiple scenarios in our campus lives where we need the bus. But here’s the rub. How do we get to know where the bus is? Do we wait for it or walk? None of us is keen on wasting additional time for that bus which might or might not come . These were the questions which the GEOTAGG team asked themselves as they set out to devise a bus tracking application for campus buses.
The indigenous dynamic bus tracking application tracks the moving and stationary buses alike, giving a fairly accurate estimate of the positions of the buses. A moving bus is marked in green on the map, and a stationary one in red. Likewise, ‘H’ marks a bus heading to the hostel zone and ‘M’ a bus departing to the main gate.
The app uses data from GPS units in the buses which track their positions of the buses. The information is then relayed to the servers in the Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) laboratory in the Building Sciences Block. It is then processed by a dedicated team in the lab which caters to data analytics.
The app has received accolades from various quarters and is being funded by The Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India, which is the exclusive sponsor of this project. This is the pet project of the Center for Excellence for Urban Transport, Civil Engineering Department, IIT Madras.
The app has been received well by the students and there are quite a few regular users of the application. Rahul Revu, a fourth year student, opines, “ I use the app on a daily basis. It is all the more useful for Narmada residents like me as we previously could only guess if there was a bus at Jamuna or not.” Third year student Hari Prasath feels that “sometimes there is only one bus shown in the map”. As one GEOTAGG member explained, this is due to a sporadic loss of GPS information resulting from hazy connectivity, simply because of the large size of the campus. Work is underway to rectify this problem.
The application can be downloaded from here.
The following is an interview with one of the members of GEOTAGG,
Q. How and when was the idea conceived?
When we started missing too many slots, to be frank. Me and my team members are from Mandak, and many a time we would come to Jamuna, only to realise the bus had just left. So once we started thinking about, you know, developing a tracking system for the buses. This was our third year. We then approached Professor Lelitha Devi from the Civil Engineering department, and she helped us out from there. Our end goal was to make more people use public transport, and that obviously depends on the accuracy of the information on timings. So we finalised on this idea.
Q. What were the challenges faced in your venture?
We struggled to find good vendors while purchasing the G.P.S devices. Good deals were hard to come by. We moved on to a couple of routes outside the institute too, and the connectivity issues aggravated. One more problem was that the drivers felt that they were being monitored, instead of the buses. They felt uncomfortable being tracked all the time.
Q. How do we ensure that more such relevant projects are taken up in the institute?
Start early. Be interested in small projects in the topics you like, and then go meet the professors. You would be surprised to see how approachable they are. Once you start early on such small research, you would definitely come up with pertinent topics sooner or later. You shouldn’t not make use of the abundance of resources in the institute! Also, start posing research problems in simple and elegant ways. Abstract research has its benefits, no doubt, but when you start off with a very relevant, small problem, your research will start making more sense to you.
Q. Is there anything more in this project you are working on?
In fact, yes. The bus drivers have requested us to give details of the average speeds, distance traversed and mileage of their vehicles. We are thus working on an efficient database which would assist the drivers in their understanding of the bus. Apart from that, the tracking software is now fully established.
Q. Can you suggest any more such institute related topics which can be made into full fledged projects?
For one, we can have a marking system for the bikes in the institute. It would be easier to determine any violation of rules, and would serve as a better database to the entering and leaving vehicles, when compared to the pen and paper files at the entrance gates. But that would make us unpopular with the students, right. So let’s not elaborate on it.