May 24, 2007 The mobile phone's abilities remain vastly underused by the average owner; mobile applications have yet to really take root in our lives. But forward thinking companies like Finland's VTT realise the value of having a screen in every pocket that they can communicate with, and are moving to use the ubiquitous cell phone in creatively commercial ways. Their latest project is a real-time public transport information system operating in two of Finland's major cities.
VTT has developed a mobile guide for users of Finnish public transport systems, delivering real-time information on buses or trams to mobile phones. Hooking into a positioning system that tracks a number of trams, trains and buses, passengers can get access to real-time information on how far away their ride is, and when it's going to turn up at their stop.
The Mobile Guide for City Travellers (KAMO - the acronym's from the Finnish translation) is a new mobile application that offers journey planning and stop-specific timetable information. Passengers can also pay their fare via the application or follow their route stop by stop during the trip and select an alarm to wake them up before their stop on long trips. Travel news concerning problems or changes to public transport is also available via the KAMO application.
The service is based on Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. Once loaded into the mobile phone, KAMO can be accessed using the phone's menu. For those who've got it, RFID remote reading – featured by Nokia's 6131 NFC model, for example – can enhance the speed of usage. Touching the RFID tag with a mobile phone opens the application on the phone's display without the user having to access it separately via the menu. Tags can be used for mobile travel ticket purchases or accessing stop-specific timetable information. As NFC phones are not yet widely used, the application also works on Nokia's other S40 and S60 models.
The service is designed to serve both city travellers using public transport regularly and casual passengers such as tourists. To date, the application is only available in the Helsinki and Oulu regions, but can be expanded to cover other cities and towns.
The service will soon be enhanced with a range of additional services to provide information on local events, news reports and location-based advertisements. Users will be able to tailor the KAMO application to offer information only on certain routes, adding and removing services as they need to.
The development of the service was funded by Helsinki City Transport (HKL) and the City of Oulu. The KAMO service will be published at the UITP World Congress organised by the International Association of Public Transport in Helsinki from 20 to 24 May 2007. The application will be piloted during the congress – visitors will be able to load the application onto their mobile phones at VTT's stand and use the application when exploring the city.
One of VTT's objectives is to study the dissemination of mobile applications by means of "social media". In the autumn VTT will select a group of schoolchildren or students who will be offered the opportunity to use KAMO and distribute it further via SMS messages, for example. The purpose of the campaign is to study the efficiency and impact of a novel advertising approach and obtain experience for the commercial launch of KAMO.