48°F & Rain 7 day forecast Sunday, November 23, 2014

Grand Valley State University's Beacon Since 1963, Allendale, MI
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Bus tracking feature coming soon for Android

Grand Valley State University is updating its mobile application to include a tracker for The Rapid buses for the Android. The update took effect for iPhones users last year, allowing some students to follow The Rapid along its routes.

Jonathan Engelsma, associate professor in the School of Computing and Information Systems, worked with students to create the bus-tracking feature for the app. Engelsma said the app has been around for several years, but the university just added the newest feature last year for the iPhone.

“We haven’t done anything promotional, just put the feature in there,” he said. “It’s become the most popular feature of the app. Especially in the cold weather, people want to know when the next bus is coming.”

He said the university hopes to add the feature to the Android app in the near future, and it is working to adapt it to the different programming and software that Android uses.

Engelsma said he worked with The Rapid to develop the feature, and the bus company controls the data and technical work that updates where the buses are.

“All the buses have trackers on them and periodically send updates,” he added.

Jennifer Kalczuk from The Rapid said the company didn’t have to do anything extra to make the feature work: it just allowed GVSU to use the data.

“The buses already had the tracking device on them, so we just made the data available,” Kalczuk said.

Since the bus tracking feature on the app just tracks the GVSU routes, the feature isn’t very useful to most people outside of GVSU. Kalczuk said The Rapid has a mobile website that people can use to track the buses in real time, but it’s not packaged into an app.

Delord McMath, a Rapid bus driver on the GVSU routes, said he likes that the buses are tracked because it creates accountability.

“Your employer needs to know where you are because if something happens they can identify the location,” McMath said.

For each route, he said he has time points that he is expected to meet. He has a list of stops that are at certain time points, such as Kirkhof and Walker Fire Station, and is expected to be at each at a particular time to stay on track.

“(The time points) are what keeps us on time,” he said. “That’s how dispatchers know where we are, so it’s like a GPS system.”

Students with Android phones can be looking out for the bus-tracking app in the near future as Engelsma and those developing the app work to adapt it to the programming Android uses.
shillenbrand@lanthorn.com



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