New app to make Calgary commutes easier

A new cell phone app currently being developed by University of Calgary Assistant Professor Dr. Steve Liang will enable users to record their traffic movement around Calgary, which will help the City of Calgary calculate vehicle travel times along major routes.

The project, called TrafficPulse, will cost about $280,000, and is funded mostly by the City of Calgary and GEOIDE (Geomatics for Informed Decisions), an organization that promotes research by bringing together experts from Canadian universities, industry, and government. Other partners include IBI Group and Cybera.

Cybera will provide appropriate resources needed to investigate the potential of using green cloud computing infrastructure to host TrafficPulse web services.

'€œTrafficPulse is innovative in that it'€™s a social networking-game for green transportation applications,'€ says Liang. '€œParticipants can compete for points with their social network friends by using the app.'€

Users would log into the app and record their travel by clicking a button on the screen, which works for travel by car, bus or even foot. Users can then rate the traffic conditions with a thumbs up or down. There is also an environmentally friendly component to the app; users who choose the most environmentally friendly method of transportation earn points, called '€œgreen karma'€. Walking earns the most points, but the the team is currently working on algorithms that calculate good driving behaviour as well.

There is also an augmented reality feature, where users can hold their cell phone camera up and have the nearest bus stops appear on screen. No personal information is gathered or stored by the TrafficPulse app; it is completely anonymous.

'€œBy using a social networking game approach, Calgarians can help us to understand the city'€™s real-time urban dynamics,'€ says Liang.

The team met with the City December 17 to discuss the project'€™s progress and future plans, and Liang is planning to have a 50-100 user test sometime in January.