With the Internet of Things, Riders Will Never Ask “Where’s My Bus?” Again

While 2014 has only just begun, there’s already a clear front-runner for this year’s most talked-about tech trend: the Internet of Things.  As computing technology becomes smaller, and data becomes bigger, there are more opportunities to digitize and customize the user experience for previously-analog items.

The Sacramento Regional Transit District has combined the insights gathered from their massive amount of transit data with Sacramento citizens’ ubiquitous mobile devices to help transit users more accurately plan their day. The result? Increased revenue and happier customers.

- Chris


“When you’re out at the bus stop, the one thing you want to know is, ‘When is my bus going to come?’” says Michael A. Mattos, chief of facilities and business support services at Sacramento Transit. “With this app, we can show them.”

Mobile Customer Service Drives Ridership and Revenue

Sacramento Transit serves more than 31 million passengers annually over 67 bus routes and 38.6 miles of light rail in a 418-square-mile service area. Their buses have wireless sensors that gather data every 20 seconds on the location and status of each vehicle. The data feeds into a Microsoft SQL Server database running on a virtualized environment of Intel Xeon processor E5 family-based servers and storage systems. Sacramento Transit's app accesses that data and data from other sources and presents it to riders in a way that’s visually rich, fun, and practical. Riders see a live map of all the buses on all routes and, with a tap or pinch, can focus in on the ones they’re interested in.

The application’s use of touch makes it easy to interact with complex data. “You can see right where your bus is, see if it’s on time, and see if there’s a different bus that might get you to your destination sooner,” says Mattos. “In the event of a service disruption, you’ve got information to help you minimize the impact. There’s even a social aspect— every station has a Twitter handle, and you can compare notes with other Twitter users.”

Streamline Operations

The application has the potential to impact Sacramento Transit's bottom line in several ways. “If patrons can find out when the bus is coming, we get fewer phone calls and complaints,” Mattos explains. “We can save in the call center, and that’s important given the tax pressures that are impacting our budgets.”

Increase Revenues

The app may also help increase revenues. “When we make it convenient and easy for people to get where they’re going with as little drama as possible, it makes the patrons who have a choice more likely to choose to ride the system,” says Mattos. “That pushes our ridership up, which drives revenues and lets us expand services for everyone. There’s also a green impact with fewer cars on the road.”

Sacramento Transit is adding Wi-Fi to its trains, installing hot spots at more train stations, and looking to give customers greater visibility into train seyes on the potential for integrated ticketing and gaming, adding further convenience and giving patrons fun ways to compete while they ride.

“Providing real-time access to data isn’t the way of the future—it’s the way of today,” says Kiefer. “People expect it, and organizations need to be looking for ways to provide it. The Intel-based devices with Windows 8 Pro are a great way to go, because they’re consistent with the existing enterprise infrastructure. We’re seeing more demand than we expected.”

Check out the full article on the Sacramento Regional Transit Department’s innovative app here.

In the comments, or on Twitter, tell us which previously analog item you think could use a digital makeover!

Did you know that by the year 2020, there’ll be an estimated 26 smart devices for every human being on Earth? Learn more in this Internet of Things infographic.

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