Mobile Experience | Transportation
Bridging the Analog and the Digital to Grant Travelers Access to Real-Time Departures
Waiting for the bus to arrive can be unsettling. VVS, the public transport association for the Stuttgart metropolitan area, has made an effort to digitize their physical infrastructure to improve the experience. Currently, about one-quarter of the 4000 stops are equipped with digital displays to inform passengers about delays. VVS approached us to make real-time data accessible for all travellers at every single stop. We made use of emerging technologies to show departure boards on your phone with ease – enriched with an environmental map and weather metadata. zigzag not only mapped out the mobile product strategy and created the concept but also helped to design and fully develop the application itself.
Develop, Test and Iterate
We were combining augmented reality with text recognition for our custom algorithm. First, the stop sign gets detected using the camera and AR capabilities of the phone. Then the text is extracted and normalized to determine the station name and the direction of the line. The algorithm has been optimized continuously by evaluating the statistics – we scanned about 3000 signs during the test period. The results keep improving because user-generated content gets added to the database and analyzed there.
1 / 3
Feeding the database with sample images and heading out for real-world testing.
2 / 3
Improving the algorithm
Adding borders and sign dimensions lead to a more accurate text detection method.
3 / 3
Evaluating the stats
Iteration through constant evaluation of the statistics was essential for the process.
How to use emerging technologies to fulfill the needs of commuters and all other types of passengers
The app marks the beginning of the new generation of digital products for VVS by embracing new technologies. After a phase of conception and design, followed by extensive testing from zigzag and the VVS team, we launched the app in April 2020. ‘Smarte Haltestelle’ is available both for Android and iOS. We were pleased to learn the app was well-received by passengers because of its simplicity. Here we’d like to walk you through some highlights.
With the use of augmented reality and machine learning, the app detects the stop sign – under consideration of its dimensions and colors. Then text recognition enables us to extract a meaningful station name. As a result, the system provides real-time data for the departure board.
Using the current location to find stops within a 400-meter radius allows passengers to check live departure times conveniently – even before leaving the house. It also helps you find the closest stops in an unfamiliar place and to catch the next bus with ease.
We are very keen to improve the public transport experience by adding even more useful features. The integration of the existing VVS Live Map to show the real-time vehicle location is on the roadmap. Beyond that, the use of AR could support passengers to find their way to a station or train efficiently.