Waiting for a bus is the bain of many peoples lives! They wonder when the next bus is due, is it already full and what time will it get them to work.
To address the issue, three teenagers; Akhil Voorakkara (CEO), Jack Lane (CFO) and Steven Harris (chief design officer) created ‘LifeStats’, a start-up company which uses their coding skills to help give more accurate information to passengers.
In recent years, bus stops around Ireland have featured simple LCD screens telling commuters how many minutes away a bus is. Though they’re rarely the most accurate, they have given the public some information to work with. But the trio behind LifeStats want much more detail.
“There are loads of datasets available to work with,” said Voorakkara, the impressive driving force behind the team. “The creation of Dublinked, a Smart Dublin initiative, made this all possible.”
Huge amounts of datasets are free and available to the public and after trawling through what was available, LifeStats found what they needed to make it all possible.
Soon we may be able to find out the bus capacity, commuter head counts, location, and accurate real-time estimates of when buses arrive at bus stops!
Speaking about his coding experience, Voorakkara said;
“I’m big into CoderDojo, I’ve been teaching for a few years at the dojo in IT Blanchardstown. So I got some boards and, thanks to the libraries available on GitHub, I programmed them to handle these datasets.”
The idea itself is simple: it involves installing a palm-sized piece of hardware on each bus stop, where commuters can swipe their smartphones across them using Bluetooth technology and their screen shows everything they need to know.
With prototypes currently being tested along their bus route to school, the project is gaining momentum, with investors and organisations such as Dublin City Council interested.
Having won a prize at the Apps4Gaps awards recently, LifeStats has received money and advice from the event organisers, the Central Statistics Office (CSO), and will be at the Dublin Tech Summit 2017. The start-up has backing from Smart Dublin and is currently undergoing a feasibility study.
“We’re working with CSO and Smart Dublin to access the datasets and work out which are under-reported,” said Voorakkara. “That’s how we got original lists of datasets: we proposed our idea and were sent some relevant documents.”
LifeStats, creating smarter cities
Beyond bus stops, LifeStats wants to get information like lane traffic on motorways right into people’s palms, car parking space availability and even, most interestingly, real-time petrol pump prices tailored to a commuter’s location.
“They are all fun things to look at but, when we talk with people, it’s simply measuring capacity that commuters can’t get over,” said Voorakkara. “Heading for a bus or a train and knowing if there’s room to even get on, that’s what people are excited by.”
Studying for their Leaving Certificate, Voorakkara, Lane and Harris are marrying their schoolwork with LifeStats and, as Voorakkara attests, it’s the power of the open-source community helping them get their project over the line, not a school curriculum.
“I’m in my Leaving Cert year,” he said, “and my coding has been mostly self-taught. I did the odd course during school holidays but mostly it’s me going to the library, getting books and reading up on it. I’m also friends with coders so I can always ask questions. The community helps.”
There’s an awful lot of activity in the internet of things space, especially when it comes to city planning solutions and anything related to smart cities.