The app Ally not only offers useful info on the quickest way to get from A to B, it also looks to use crowdsourcing to sustainably improve public transport networks.
Many smartphone users know the app Allryder. What many possibly don’t know: Allryder is now Ally. The app delivers not only quick and easy routes to get from A to B, it also works towards another goal: in areas with an existing public transport system, Ally provides data to optimise it. In areas where there is no such network, the app could be used to set one up.
The former case relates, for example, to cities such as London, where a double-decker bus could be replaced by a smaller model so long as knowledge and data about use and capacity during certain times is available. This helps save money and also creates more space on the road and reduces CO2 emissions. The latter case relates to the numerous cities worldwide that have no public transport system. In these areas, small entrepreneurs and organisations bridge the gaps but information on the informal transport sector is hard to come by.
Take Istanbul, for example. According to Ally, the informal sector covers 70 per cent of transport, using services like private mini buses. But knowing when and which routes these buses take is not clear and the whole thing is logistically not very effective.
Track Your City
But how does Ally gather its data in places where there is no official information? Here, crowdsourcing is the key word: people on the ground feed information into the app. As part of the first step, small groups of citizens and international employees of Allryder are motivated via social media to map the public transport system in their city using a simplified version of the app. 100 active users are enough to chart a city that has over one million residents. To map out Dar es Salaam (population 1.3 million) in Tanzania, a group of students from the University of Dar, equipped with a GPS tracker, wound through the city, plotting out all minibuses and other unofficial transport until they were all recorded. More here: Track your city.
In the second step, the app is made accessible to all, allowing the people to use the available information and improve upon existing data. If the app is used by many people and the information library constantly expanded, reliable statistics on people’s mobility behaviour can be formed, which can then be used to make public transport in the respective cities more efficient and, in the best case scenario, more sustainable.
Of course, the whole thing could be taken even further. What if the corresponding CO2 emissions to each connection point were indicated? Ideally with the most environmentally-friendly option ranked first. The app that can do that – that’s the app we’re waiting for.
Tea after Twelve has an interesting interview with co-founder Maxim Nohroudi: Big Data – Improving the Public Transport System