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Use and Deployment of Mobile Device Technology for Real-Time Transit Information (2011)

Chapter: CHAPTER SEVEN Findings, Lessons Learned, and Conclusions

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Suggested Citation:"CHAPTER SEVEN Findings, Lessons Learned, and Conclusions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2011. Use and Deployment of Mobile Device Technology for Real-Time Transit Information. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13323.
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Suggested Citation:"CHAPTER SEVEN Findings, Lessons Learned, and Conclusions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2011. Use and Deployment of Mobile Device Technology for Real-Time Transit Information. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13323.
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Suggested Citation:"CHAPTER SEVEN Findings, Lessons Learned, and Conclusions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2011. Use and Deployment of Mobile Device Technology for Real-Time Transit Information. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13323.
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Suggested Citation:"CHAPTER SEVEN Findings, Lessons Learned, and Conclusions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2011. Use and Deployment of Mobile Device Technology for Real-Time Transit Information. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13323.
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Suggested Citation:"CHAPTER SEVEN Findings, Lessons Learned, and Conclusions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2011. Use and Deployment of Mobile Device Technology for Real-Time Transit Information. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13323.
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Suggested Citation:"CHAPTER SEVEN Findings, Lessons Learned, and Conclusions." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2011. Use and Deployment of Mobile Device Technology for Real-Time Transit Information. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13323.
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48 CHAPTER SEVEN FINDINGS, LESSONS LEARNED, AND CONCLUSIONS SUMMARY OF PROJECT SCOPE The primary purpose of this synthesis was to determine the experience with providing real-time transit information on mobile devices in the United States and abroad, and how agencies are using this dissemination channel to serve the needs of their customers. Thus, the project examined and documented the state of the practice in the use and deploy- ment of real-time transit information on mobile devices using the following five dimensions: • The underlying technology required to generate the information that will be disseminated on mobile devices. This dimension covers the required underly- ing software, hardware, and communications. • The mobile technology used for information dissemi- nation, including handset capabilities, and the specific mobile delivery channels used, such as text messaging [a.k.a short message service (SMS)], mobile Internet, and smartphone applications. • The characteristics of the information, including mes- sage types, content, format, accessibility, and method of dissemination (push/pull); the use of standards; and the reliability and accuracy of the information. • The resources required to successfully deploy infor- mation on mobile devices, including capital and opera- tions and maintenance costs, agency staff requirements, customer costs, and other resources (e.g., managing an external application development program). • The contribution of mobile messaging to an overall agency communications strategy, including “infor- mation equity.” Here, information equity is defined as providing real-time information through at least two dissemination media in both audio and visual formats. The project was conducted in the following major steps: • Literature review, • Survey to collect information on a variety of factors, • Analysis of survey results, and • Interviews conducted with key personnel at agencies that have experience with providing real-time informa- tion on mobile devices. This section of the report contains the project’s findings, lessons learned, and conclusions. PROJECT FINDINGS Based on the literature review, the responses to the ques- tionnaire, and the case studies, there are four key findings of this synthesis project. First, although a limited number of transit agencies in the United States provide real-time infor- mation on mobile devices as of September 2010, there is a growing trend toward deploying this technology. As shown in the survey results, the majority of respondents decided to deploy real-time transit information on mobile devices to augment providing real-time information by means of other dissemination media [e.g., dynamic message signs (DMSs), Internet]. Also, in an era of service reductions and reduced overall budgets, transit agencies are using this type of tech- nology to provide better customer service. Nearly 40% of the respondents indicated that they decided to deploy real-time transit information on mobile devices as a more cost-effec- tive way of providing real-time information. According to CTIA—The Wireless Association®—the number of mobile phone subscribers in the United States as of the end of 2009 was estimated at 285,600,000, constituting 91% of the U.S. population. This mobile device penetration together with transit agencies seeking more channels through which information can be provided to their customers have created a significant market for real-time information on mobile devices. In examining the transit agency members of APTA, approximately 45 U.S. transit agencies are providing some information on mobile devices, with approximately 15 of them providing real-time information on mobile devices. Second, using a third party to develop real-time applica- tions and provide real-time information on mobile devices is overwhelmingly the approach that transit agencies are tak- ing, for a variety of reasons. There are five key elements of this study finding: • Many agencies have limited IT and related staff, mak- ing it challenging to develop applications and manage the information dissemination in-house. • The myriad mobile devices and operating systems, and the speed with which new devices are being released, create a demanding environment within which to develop applications and keep up with new technology. • With mobile content being used in other industries, such as entertainment (e.g., television, radio, movies,

49 and music), advertising, and consumer products, there is a significant body of knowledge available to facili- tate the development of useful and innovative mobile applications. • With the large number of mobile phone and smart- phone subscribers, there is a great deal of familiarity with mobile applications that are similar to real-time transit information. • The open-data movement is having a significant effect on agencies providing real-time information on mobile devices. As seen in the survey results and case studies, several agencies that have embraced this approach do not have to expend resources on in-house development. Thus, the use of third parties that either specialize in pro- viding mobile content or have the capability to develop tran- sit-specific mobile applications has been widely accepted in the United States as an effective approach to providing real-time information on mobile devices. As demonstrated by the applications described in the literature review and mentioned in the survey responses and case study inter- views, agencies in the United States, for the most part, are not developing their own applications. They are relying on third parties that specialize in developing, disseminating, and managing mobile content. Third, the costs of providing real-time information on mobile devices are not well understood and were discussed in a limited way in the literature and survey responses. The costs include not only capital, operating, and maintenance costs for the underlying systems, but costs to the customer to use mobile services [e.g., access to the mobile Internet and short message service (SMS)], costs associated with the labor to develop and manage mobile applications and third-party arrangements, and costs associated with regis- tering common short codes (CSCs) that are used for SMS. Although the cost to customers is relatively small if mobile access to the Internet and use of SMS are already included in their monthly mobile plan, the costs borne by the agency are not completely understood. However, many benefits are documented in the literature and mentioned in the survey responses. The most significant benefits are improved customer service, better transit agency image, potential increased ridership, and potential reduction in printed materials. Finally, it is challenging for agencies to meet custom- ers’ already high and escalating expectations for real-time information, given the way many agencies have previ- ously provided this type of information. Two primary fac- tors contribute to this finding (discussed further in another subsection): • Transitioning to providing real-time information on mobile devices from either not providing this type of information or using mobile devices for dissemination requires not only a shift in traditional transit organiza- tions but also incorporating this type of information dissemination into strategic planning. In addition, using the information that is generated to dissemi- nate by means of mobile devices could be helpful to parts of the organization, potentially requiring a shift in organizational roles and responsibilities. Further, efficiencies may be realized from deploying mobile information (e.g., removing fixed assets or reducing the volume of printed materials), but to date it does not appear that these are considered in strategic communi- cations planning. • Embracing an open-data approach, which is used often to provide information on mobile devices, requires resources to ensure that the data are accurate and have integrity. Agencies that have embraced this approach recognize that there are fewer resources required to ensure data accuracy and integrity than there are to develop mobile applications, given the large number of mobile phones and operating systems in the current market. Also, agencies may need to “filter” data that are made available for third-party application development because raw data can be misleading. Further, agencies may need to “educate” third parties (or even internal IT staff) that are not transit savvy but are developing mobile applications using agency data. Specific findings based on the aforementioned dimen- sions are as follows. First, as expected, the top two under- lying technologies are real-time arrival prediction software and automatic vehicle location (AVL). The top type of real-time information provided on an ongoing basis is next vehicle arrival/departure prediction time. The most common dissemination media for real-time arrival/departure infor- mation are the Internet accessed using a personal computer and the mobile web/Internet. Second, the overwhelming reason for deploying informa- tion on mobile devices is to augment information provided by means of other media. Further, many agencies think that it is a more cost-effective way to provide real-time infor- mation. A limited number of agencies performed a study to determine whether or not to deploy real-time information on mobile devices. To keep costs reasonable and owing to the lack of resources, many agencies use third parties to develop real-time applications for mobile devices rather than develop them in-house. This trend coincides directly with agencies that have embraced an open-data approach. A majority of the mobile operating systems were covered by the agencies surveyed in this project. Third, mobile real-time information uses SMS, push (pro- viding information automatically when new information is available) and pull (accessing a mobile website to seek infor- mation) actions, and a wide variety of transit-specific and

50 mobile platform standards. Further, several of the survey respondents monitor the accuracy and reliability of informa- tion disseminated by means of mobile devices. Fourth, resource requirements for providing information on mobile devices varied widely, but there was limited infor- mation regarding the actual cost to an agency. In some cases, customers have to pay (beyond a regular fee from their mobile phone carrier to use SMS) for an SMS message with real- time information. For example, Singapore Public Transport charges $0.30 Singapore dollars to receive an SMS. In other cases, SMS messages are free to the customer (except for the regular charge to send/receive SMS messages imposed by the mobile phone carrier). For example, Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet)’s SMS service is free to customers, but advertising supports it. In terms of saving resources, providing information on mobile devices has the potential to reduce the need for printed materials. Further, although participating in an open- data program requires resources to ensure data accuracy and integrity, it appears to save significant resources if real-time information applications for mobile devices are developed by third parties (at no cost to the agency). Successful third- party applications have been developed for several agencies, including the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, TriMet, Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART), Transport for London, and New York City Transit. Finally, information on mobile devices contributes to an agency’s communications strategy, even if a formal strategy does not exist, and is considered a way to attract “choice” riders. However, some agencies consider informa- tion equity when selecting dissemination media/channels, such as mobile devices. The use of advertising to support information on mobile devices varies widely among survey respondents. LESSONS LEARNED The four categories of lessons learned from the study are as follows: • Issues and challenges associated with providing real- time information on mobile devices; • Issues associated with managing a third-party develop- ment program; • Issues associated with operating and maintaining the hardware and software necessary to generate and dis- seminate real-time information by means of mobile devices; and • Overall lessons learned that would benefit transit agen- cies that are considering providing real-time informa- tion on mobile devices. The following issues are associated with providing real- time information on mobile devices: • There is still a need to provide information through other media when existing or potential customers do not have access to mobile phones or smartphones. • From the user’s perspective, the biggest issue is having to wait for a mobile page to render. • Applications tend to be easy for the public to use, but it is harder for the agency to determine how many appli- cations might be developed and for which platforms. • Keeping pace with multiple mobile platforms and developing applications for them is challenging. • Some users are not skilled on the use of mobile devices. • General issues associated with push services are to whom you push the information and when you provide information updates. • It can be challenging to inform customers about the accessibility and use of mobile services. • Funding, and internal policies, culture, and change present challenges. • When there is no mobile signal along the routes, cus- tomers will not be able to access real-time information on mobile devices. Several of these issues are contradictory, particularly the idea that customers are both comfortable and uncomfort- able with mobile devices. Further, the issue of relying on the dissemination of real-time information in areas where there is no mobile signal indicates that additional media must be used to provide real-time information. In terms of managing a program that supports third-party development of mobile phone applications, the most signifi- cant issues are as follows: • Ensuring the accuracy of the data provided to and data generated from third-party applications; • Future maintenance of the program, branding issues and disagreements regarding payment for applications and owner rights; • Lack of information governance, lack of understand- ing of information ownership, and lack of integrated policy, leadership, and management; and • The perception that the application comes from an agency rather than a third party, resulting in questions directed to the agency that the agency cannot address. In terms of operating and maintaining the hardware and software necessary to generate and disseminate real-time information through mobile devices, the following were identified as the most significant issues: • Labor-intensive in terms of monitoring accuracy; • Mobile service providers and the effect they may have on response time or signal availability;

51 • Formatting the information to be displayed on various handsets; • AVL system up-time (servers, software, and onboard equipment); • Number of mobile platforms and a rapid change in operating system versions; • Maintaining interfaces from an agency’s platform to the great variety of mobile solutions; and • Cost, particularly the capital expenditure. The overall lessons learned that would benefit transit agencies that are considering providing real-time informa- tion on mobile devices are as follows: • An executive or board sponsor is critical to deploying this type of technology. Without this “champion,” it is a challenge to obtain and maintain agency departments’ interest. • An architecture with a central source of all real-time information is important (from a regional perspec- tive). This simplicity has been instrumental in the implementation. • The source data (from the AVL system) must be thoroughly verified from a reliability and accuracy standpoint. • Usage statistics to indicate customer preferences among voice, SMS, mobile web, smartphone, etc., need to be collected. • It is more difficult to ensure that the real-time informa- tion on mobile devices is reliable than it is to provide the information on mobile devices. • It may be useful to test the real-time information on the Internet first, and then deploy it on a mobile website. • It is worthwhile to have only one service provider that knows the market, the new technology, and the agency’s data structure, interfaces, databases, and web services. • Exploitation of relationships with communication pro- viders and device suppliers is critical. • Legacy systems lacking standards or with dissimilar standards can be a problem, but a model that enables cloud deployment of such services can be helpful. • The “one customer” approach (regardless of the mode of travel being used or the information that is being requested) with one application (or suite of applica- tions that are rationalized) is an important driver. Users do not want to change between car parking, bus, train, subway, walking, and wayfinding applications—they prefer one application that is smart enough to respond to their needs. Further, the integration of ticketing with these applications may be a useful consideration. CONCLUSIONS Several conclusions can be drawn from the results of the synthesis. First, one of the most critical considerations for providing real-time information on mobile devices is the agency’s ability to develop, manage, and maintain mobile applications in-house or manage third-party application development and services. If an agency develops mobile applications in-house, significant resources will be neces- sary to— • Ensure that data/information from the underlying technologies are accurate and reliable (e.g., institute a monitoring program); • Develop and maintain the necessary software that operates on all the possible mobile platforms being used by existing and potential customers; • Consider the specific capabilities and requirements of the desired applications, including target mobile devices, desired functionality, usability, software secu- rity, and software performance; • Use additional dissemination media to ensure infor- mation accessibility and equity. This may require even more resources because some dissemination media require specific infrastructure [e.g., DMSs, interactive voice response (IVR)]; and • Keep current on mobile technology and update or mod- ify applications as new technology becomes available (e.g., when Windows Mobile 7 is released, Windows Mobile 6.5 applications may not run on smartphones with Windows Mobile 7). If an agency decides to use third parties to develop appli- cations or host and manage the dissemination of real-time information on mobile devices, fewer resources may be necessary than if applications are developed, maintained, and managed in-house and the dissemination is managed in-house. For example, using content/application provid- ers that specialize in software development and hosting for mobile messaging applications may require fewer resources than if development and management are done in-house. Further, “in addition to technical expertise, most applica- tion providers support content providers with expertise on the best methods and techniques for maximizing participa- tion and success of CSC applications” (Common Short Code Administration, Find a Partner and Implement a CSC, http:// www.usshortcodes.com/csc_partner.html, accessed May 20, 2010). However, the following activities are important to remem- ber in managing a third-party program: • Ensure that data/information from the underlying technologies are accurate and reliable (e.g., institute a monitoring program). • A third-party developer program for individuals must include the following: – Informing developers on the use of data and transit terminology;

52 – Making resources available to developers and set threshold for their use; – Managing developer registration; and – Developing and maintaining terms of use and pri- vacy policy for developers. • Procure the services of a mobile content/application provider that specializes in providing real-time infor- mation on mobile devices. According to the survey results and literature review, the following companies, listed purely for informational purposes and not as endorsement of any kind from TRB or its sponsors, either host/manage mobile content or develop/ manage real-time transit information applications: • Advanced Communication and Information Systems • ExactTarget • GovDelivery • Affiliated Computer Services, Inc. • Infogain • Avego Ltd. • Kizoom • Syncromatics • NextBus • Avail Technologies • RouteShout • Clever Devices • Trapeze Group Second, there is a strong relationship between the open- data approach and the resources necessary to create useful and accurate real-time mobile applications. Two of the survey respondents that take this approach have a total of 61 mobile applications (as of May 21, 2010) that have been developed by individuals based on the agencies’ open data (not all of these provide real-time information). Each agency’s focus has been on ensuring that the underlying data are sound so that the resulting applications yield reliable and accurate informa- tion. In being able to focus heavily on the data rather than developing the applications, each agency has been able to save considerable resources, particularly in the IT area. It would be virtually impossible for their limited IT staffs to support and maintain applications for all the mobile phone and smart- phone types and operating systems currently available. The open-data trend in public transit is significant. ***According to City-Go-Round™, of the 780 U.S. tran- sit agencies identified in City-Go-Round (City-Go-Round, Apps that help you get around, http://www.citygoround. org/), 107 have open data. Only seven of the 107 are provid- ing real-time information, but the remaining 100 agencies have open data. This confirms the movement toward transit agencies making their data available to the public. For example, one of the systems provides real-time infor- mation on a mobile phone using three screens through which the user selects the route of interest, then the direction of travel, and then the specific stop. Then, on the fourth screen, the real-time information for the specific route and stop of interest is displayed. Third, providing real-time transit information on mobile devices is beginning to be more prevalent than the use of more traditional dissemination media, such as DMSs and IVR. Part of this trend is the result of higher customer expectations for on-demand and real-time information, transit riders’ increas- ing ownership of mobile devices, and agencies’ desire to reduce labor and operating and maintenance costs associated with more traditional media (e.g., installation, data commu- nications to/from DMSs, power to DMSs). For example, in Great Britain, the use of virtual dissemination media, spe- cifically SMS and wireless application protocol (WAP), has greatly increased since 2005 (the number of local authorities using SMS almost doubled between 2005 and 2008). The higher customer expectations for immediately avail- able and real-time information are apparent not only in the transit industry but in many other industries, such as news services, traffic information, and banking. Transit custom- ers’ increasing use of mobile technology is evidenced by statistics such as those for Orange County Transportation Authority reporting California—75% of bus riders have cell phones and 64% have text-enabled cell phones. The need to understand better the reliability of providing real-time information on mobile devices is part of this study conclusion. Several papers state that using SMS or other mobile methods to provide real-time information may not be as reliable as necessary, owing to several factors: • “Delivery of a single Short Message depends on the reliability of many devices. Each device in the path is highly specified, requires high performance, automatic recovery mechanisms and dependability” (Robby Benedyk, “Operational Reliability in SMS Routing,” Tekelec presentation, undated, p. 3). • “Mobile clients connect over wireless links, which are especially susceptible to overloading due to their restricted bandwidth. As they move, mobile clients can connect to different access points using various net- working technologies. Therefore, continuous informa- tion delivery requires seamless handover” (Mühl et al., “Disseminating Information to Mobile Clients Using Publish-Subscribe,” IEEE Internet Computing, p. 49). • “The baseline reliability of SMS service is no better (and in some cases worse) than that of other communication media such as e-mail, traditional telephony and VoIP [voiceover Internet protocol].” (Meng et al., “Analysis of the Reliability of a Nationwide Short Message Service,” INFOCOM 2007, 26th IEEE International Conference on Computer Communications, May 6–12, 2007, p. 9). • For applications that require the location of the mobile device, “at low battery levels, the GPS location read- ings are far beyond an acceptable range” (Cevallos et al., “Feasibility Study on the Use of Personal GPS Devices in Paratransit,” May 18, 2009 http://www.

53 fta.dot.gov/documents/TRANSPO_Feasibility_GPS_ Paratransit_Final.pdf, p. 30). • “An SMS may fail to deliver to a handset on its first deliv- ery attempt for many reasons” (“Reliability of SMS,” http://www.cardboardfish.com/support/bin/view/Main/ ReliabilityOfSMS, accessed May 23, 2010). Fourth, although using third parties to develop innova- tive real-time mobile applications definitely saves resources, agencies might consider that not all existing and potential customers will have mobile devices, and not all applications will satisfy the needs of all customers. Thus, several survey respondents mentioned that traditional dissemination media for real-time information that can meet the needs of indi- viduals without mobile devices should still be assessed for deployment. For example, TriMet and BART recognize that they will not be able to cover all customers if they provided real-time information only on mobile devices. Thus, they both have active marketing programs to continually assess the information needs of their customers. Finally, a few survey respondents mentioned personaliza- tion of information as critical to the success of providing information on mobile devices. The use of location-based services and social networking provides a certain level of personalization because customers will only receive infor- mation based on their location and interest, respectively. Further, many mobile applications allow users to customize the information they receive, such as signing up for real-time alerts for only certain routes, stops, and time periods, and saving “favorites.” SUGGESTIONS FOR FUTURE STUDY Based on the survey results and literature review, the follow- ing areas are suggested for future study to assist agencies in determining how they might approach deploying real-time information on mobile devices. First, one issue that is criti- cal for the success of providing real-time transit information on mobile devices is delivering the information in a timely manner. This issue might be studied from both the techni- cal perspective (e.g., mobile network availability) and user perspective (e.g., accuracy and reliability requirements). Further, new technologies (such as 3G networks driven by Evolved High-Speed Packet Access, 4G networks, WiMax, and Long-Term Evolution) might be assessed for reliability and usability. Much more information could be sought regarding the capital and operations and maintenance costs associated with providing real-time information on mobile devices. Now that more agencies throughout the world are deploying this technology, research into these costs conducted over the next several years might yield more data than are available currently. Further, a study could be done into the resource requirements of working with mobile content/application providers and independent application developers, as well as the resource requirements associated with moving to an open-data platform. “Modeling” could be helpful to agencies in determining the most effective method for providing real-time infor- mation on mobile devices. A model could help an agency select the most appropriate method, taking into account the mobile phone ownership of existing riders and the popula- tion served by the agency, and resources required for each approach (e.g., open data and development of applications by individuals), in addition to factors such as whether the agency wants to attract new riders or maintain existing rider- ship, and several other factors that have been mentioned in this synthesis. More in-depth information regarding the use of location- based services and social networking as mobile dissemination media might be made available to agencies. This could be in the form of a guidance document that provides information on the state of the art of location-based services to provide real- time information and examples of how specific agencies have used location-based services and social networking to provide customized real-time information. The examples could come from both the United States and abroad.

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TRB's Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) Synthesis 91: Use and Deployment of Mobile Device Technology for Real-Time Transit Information examines the use and deployment of real-time transit information on mobile devices.

The report explores the underlying technology required to generate the information to be disseminated, the mobile technology used for dissemination, the characteristics of the information, the resources required to successfully deploy information on mobile devices, and the contribution of mobile messaging to an overall agency communications strategy, including "information equity."

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