by João Falcão e Cunha, Teresa Galvão and Jeremy Pitt
Research at the School of Engineering of the University of Porto and Imperial College London has been investigating how smartphones will enable you to enjoy the experience of travelling in a bus.
Pervasive mobile smart devices and sensor networks in public transport vehicles are enabling a new approach for enhancing the experience of public transport customers. The experience may actually start before a journey takes place, by planning a trip, and travellers could still be providing relevant information after reaching their destinations. Transport services and associated information services are closely coupled, and this relationship needs to be better understood. We claim that pervasive mobile services can be used for enhancing user experience in the transport services, and also for enhancing overall public transport services.
Research being conducted in public transport information services at FEUP, the School of Engineering of the University of Porto for the past ten years, and at Imperial College London for the past three years, has been aiming at providing users with real time information, but also finding ways to use the user feedback for benefiting all other transport service stakeholders. Mobile computing is a key enabler for making such a vision possible.
The MOVE-ME service
The MOVE-ME project has developed an infrastructure and a mobile application enabling users to access public transport information in real time. From 2012, this application enables travellers to plan their journeys based on real time or planned data from metro, bus, coach, and train schedules. The infrastructure brings together geo-referenced data from different transport companies, Google map data, and also relevant locations from tourist offices enabling multimodal journey planning. Real time multimodal travel planning can be done in a 60 minute time horizon. When real time data is not available or when the time window is larger than 60 minutes and shorter than three days, travel planning is done based on available published schedules over a three day horizon. With such time horizons the available infrastructure has been able to guarantee acceptable response time for a large number of simultaneous users.
The most advanced MOVE-ME service was launched in May 2012 in the Metropolitan Area of Porto, and in other regions of Portugal. Over 25 distinct metro, bus, coach, and train companies share information on their service, and over 20,000 Android and iPhone users are now benefiting from this service.
The MOVE-ME mobile service and infrastructure was developed by OPT (www.opt.pt) with research support from FEUP, in the context of the CIVITAS Elan European project. MOVE-ME won the 2012 CIVITAS European Technical Innovation Award.
Research on mobile advanced traveller information services
More advanced mobile computing research with the objective of enhancing public transport user experience has been under way at FEUP, in collaboration with Imperial College, London, for the past three years.
Current research is also addressing ways of extending MOVE-ME to enable travellers to pay for their journeys using their mobile devices. The Metropolitan Area of Porto has an open transport network with no barriers. In the future it is possible to envision an entirely pay-as-you-go transport service based on users’ mobile devices. As Web enabled smartphones become pervasive, ticket selling machines and validating machines could become redundant and unnecessary.
Mobile devices are also being used to measure users’ affective state in real public transport contexts, and how to share and disseminate real time information through social networks for the benefit of other travellers and also for the benefit of the control rooms of transport companies . Preliminary experiments have been conducted in Porto and in London transport services.
A prototype cloud-based mobile service to assess the relationship between affective state and travelling context has been developed and then tested with commuters of the Porto transport network . User’s affective state was captured using a simple emotional model of travelling mood, with cognitive pleasure and physical arousal dimensions based on Russell’s circumplex of emotion . Travelling context included noise, saturation, smoothness, ambience, speed and reliability. The findings show a strong correlation between mood and context, dependant on the user.
A prototype crowdsourcing application to share information has been developed and tested with commuters of the London transport network. The model borrows key principles from Internet based services. It strives to intensify win-win relationships between public transport passengers and operators. The structured exchange of information is sustained by a validation mechanism for data reliability, and an incentive mechanism to encourage passenger participation. Passengers benefit from rich real-time data to ease their journeys and improve travel experience, in exchange for their own participation providing and validating information. Operators gain access to rich customer generated data, which in an aggregated format may provide a real-time assessment of customer experience and of local performance across the entire network operation.
It is expected that ubiquitous availability of high quality Web enabled mobile devices and services will improve public transport user experience, both functionally and emotionally. Collaboration with users may also benefit public transport operators, with user’s feedback enabling them to enhance service levels.
Better experience leads to increased usage of shared mobility modes, and therefore to more sustainable cities in the future.
The authors would like to acknowledge the work of colleagues, PhD students, and collaborators at OPT. Funding from the following projects is also acknowledged: OneStopTransport QREN TICE no. 13843, MOBIPAG QREN TICE 13847, EU CIVITAS Elan, IBM CAS Portugal, INEGI, IDMEC Polo FEUP, UGEI - INESC TEC, PhD grants from FCT, Portugal.
 A. A. Nunes, T. Galvão Dias, J. Falcão e Cunha, J. V. Pitt: “Using social networks for exchanging valuable real time public transport information among travellers”, in proc. of the IEEE Conference on Commerce and Enterprise Computing, 365-370, 2011
 P. M. Costa, J. V. Pitt, J. Falcão e Cunha, T. Galvão Dias: “Cloud2Bubble: Enhancing quality of experience in mobile cloud computing settings - A framework for system design and development in smart environments”, in proc. of the 3rd ACM Workshop on Mobile Cloud Computing and Services (MCS’12), 45-52, 2012
 J. A Russell: “Circumplex Model of Affect”, journal of personality and social psychology 9, 6 (1980), 1161–1178.
by João Falcão e Cunha and Teresa Galvão
Universidade do Porto, Portugal
Imperial College London, UK