Five star intelligent transport applications from Tampere22.6.2015
All of us must eat something, live somewhere, take care of our health and move from one place to another. Different applications are constantly being developed for these different aspects of everyday life. The large numbers of users inspire application developers to create new service models. Around 30 applications related to transport have been developed in Tampere within the last three years. There are over 200 application developers or development teams in the region. The applications already have over 30,000 users, and the numbers are growing by approximately 10% every month.
“The applications developed in Tampere have received excellent feedback from users at app stores, 4.5–5 points out of five on average, which is exceptionally good,” boasts Tero Piirainen, who has been acting as the system architect in developing intelligent transport business at the University of Tampere for the last three years.
Currently, he is responsible for software quality assurance at M-Files Inc.
Tampere is a small but agile actor
“We are at the top level in Finland, and nobody has reached further than us even in Stockholm, London or Barcelona,” says Piirainen.
In the city of technology, there are enough expert creators, especially in the mobile business. Tampere is considered a city of developers, and people from other parts of Finland also come here. In addition to the experts, the positive attitude of the city has also had a significant impact on the position of Tampere.
“Without the city being actively involved, activity like this would be nearly impossible,” Piirainen says.
Money cannot solve everything
A large number of application developers are motivated by something other than money. Most of them cannot run their own business or make a living from the profits of application development. The developers’ activity is often due to an interest in technology or a personal need.
“Many people consider this a hobby or a way to maintain their professional skills. When you’re looking for a job, a good app can be an impressive reference,” says Piirainen.
Of course, large international companies also create travel applications, for example, and integrate Tampere in their own services.
The application developers are a very diverse group.
“Most of them have a background in technology. There are also teams with a brilliant idea, but no coding competence. They find an implementer with coding skills as a member of their team,” tells Piirainen.
Mobile payment as a part of the service
Application developers have two sources of income: application sales and advertising. In Tampere, the user normally pays 1–3 euros for a local bus application, and some of the applications are free. Transport applications are constantly developing towards a comprehensive service, meaning that they try to combine information about timetables and stops in the same package as purchasing a trip, for example.
“The goal is to include the possibility of mobile payments in the application,” says Piirainen.
In parking, the convenient payment method has already spread. There, the service developer gets a small chunk out of every parking fee paid via the application.
Opening up private interfaces
One of the trends is to open up the interfaces of private actors to create taxi applications or services that combine information from different car rental firms, for example. Opening up the data in the private sector enables the growth of business.
“Income streams no longer consist of one or two euros; instead, the application developer gets a small share of the overall service,” tells Piirainen.
Uber, the controversial yet rapidly spreading taxi service, is one such product. The company does not own any taxis, but it gets a provision out of every taxi trip.
Space for enterprises and developers
Digitalisation progresses and new applications are needed and built continuously. New kinds of transport services slowly shape the existing ones, and transport becomes increasingly a service. For example, fewer and fewer cars are sold to people living in cities, as services and joint use become more common.
“The activities take place in several layers. No single company can make it alone – other players are also needed to build a whole. There is a need and space for everyone who’s developing transport services,” says Piirainen.
The intelligent transport community has open doors
Application development is one of the sectors in which ITS Factory, the intelligent transport community in Tampere, has been active. The community’s starting point is developing and creating new business with the help of both existing companies as well as application developers.
The aim is to encourage developers to network and combine programming competence with graphic, commercial and design competence, with the help of different kinds of events and competitions, for example.
“Maintenance and continuous development are the lifeblood of a successful application,” notes Piirainen.
There are no limitations on who can join ITS Factory’s developer community. At ITS Factory, the data and software developed to distribute it are open, and anyone can join regardless of the level on which they operate or how actively they want to be involved. In addition to open public data, several of the community’s member companies also offer data and interfaces.
Public transport applications make everyday life easier
In Tampere, more popular applications for the everyday use of the people in the city are constantly being created. The bus stop guide application BusMonTRE and Nysse, which combines several different kinds of public transport information, are only a few examples of the available services.
Jere Käpyaho is an active member of the application developer community in the Tampere region. He has instructed the community in user interface design, among other things. The BusMonTRE-application he has created is a bus stop guide on smartphones for the users of Tampere public transport. When you want to know the time when the next buses arrive at a bus stop near you, the application displays a bus stop monitor quickly and easily.
“The application has been designed to be as simple as possible and only very carefully selected new functions have been added to the original idea. iPhone users in particular have embraced it,” says Käpyaho.
One of the most popular traffic applications is Nysse, which was developed by Hannu Tapanila from Tampere. Nysse is a versatile mobile application for public transport users that utilises several sources of data; it has received awards in many competitions. Its features include a journey planner, bus stop timetables and locations, transit maps and timetables, and notifications about service changes and disruptions, as well as the real-time locations of buses.
The application that was created for the Tampere region became so popular that it has also spread to other cities.
“The application development started out as a small project to meet a personal need, but thanks to the positive user feedback and increasing numbers of downloads, I have developed the application to be more versatile and support new cities,” says Tapanila.