Jesmond trials travel app to cut journey times
Jesmond residents are getting a chance to trial a new smartphone app that could help them cut their journey times while alerting Newcastle City Council of transport delays and traffic bottlenecks.
The council is testing travel app Catch! to see if it might make travel around the city and surrounding areas easier. According to developer TravelAi, the Catch! app works by tracking users’ movements, learning their travel habits, then creating what the developers call a “living journey planner”: providing travel updates to users, warning them of travel disruption to their usual journeys and suggesting an alternative route.
“The aim is to start learning people’s habits so that when they go on their commute home, we can warn them if they need to leave early,” says TravelAi chief operating officer Peter Lindgren. “Technology should be there to provide information whether we know we need it or not.”
However, what makes Catch! unique in the crowded space of travel apps is that by crowdsourcing data from its users, the app can report back transport issues to the local authority, which can then take steps to solve or alleviate those problems.
Lindgren stresses that data collected from users will not be used for surveillance. The app uses a method called “cloaking” to “blur” a user’s exact location, such as their office or home address. “We don’t need to be able to pinpoint anyone, so we can strip out identifiable aspects of the data,” he says. “The data we pass on to authorities is not individual user data. They (local authorities) want to understand the flow (of people) through the system and the demands on the system. They are not interested in data on an individual basis.” Instead, he explains, the data is aggregated so that local authorities can see, for example, the aggregate road speeds that people travel through the city, rather than an individual’s speed.
A spokesperson for Newcastle City Council told JesmondLocal that it is trialling the app through the Streets for People project, which is taking place in three communities in Newcastle – one of which is Jesmond. A consultation on Streets for People project is taking place until the end of November and people can submit their views on the project, and the app, at www.streetsforpeople.org.uk
The app is available to download on iPhone or Android devices and further information about Catch! can be found at http://www.travelai.info/catch.html