BUS-TING SCHOOL BUS WOES
Most parents who have entrusted their children to home-to-school bus services would be no strangers to the anxiety over their children’s safety, from the time they leave the house until the time they arrive home safely.
Well, parents may now have one less worry as technology comes to the rescue!
In collaboration with the Singapore School Transport Association (SSTA), the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) developed an integrated tracking system that informs parents of the whereabouts of their children during the bus journey. This initiative is the School Bus Management System (SBMS) – a project aimed at addressing the needs and shortcomings of existing school bus operators through the use of technology.
All users need to do is download a user-friendly mobile application and receive automated notifications about where their children are at any time!
Where Art Thou, Little One?
Part mobile app, part sensor, part trip planner, the SBMS is an integrated system that not only addresses parental concerns, but enhances the services provided by school bus operators!
Designed by A*STAR researchers from the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech), this app’s mapping and tracking capabilities enable parents and school bus operators to track the locations of school buses and account for all the children on board. This frees up more time for the bus drivers and their helpers to focus on the children’s wellbeing and safety. With the simple touch of a button, parents can now know their child’s exact location without distracting bus drivers with frenzied phone calls!
The SBMS app even sends notifications to parents informing them when the school bus is 10 minutes away, or when the children have been picked up or dropped off! Imagine that extra 10 minutes which you could otherwise spend snoozing in your cosy bed instead of wasting it perspiring by the roadside in the sweltering Singapore heat, wondering when the bus would come!
The 'Magic' School Bus!
So where did the inspiration to turn an ordinary school bus into an all seeing, all-knowing, souped-up, technology-powered, door-to-door tracking module come from? A*STAR researchers listened to the many difficulties faced by school bus drivers and decided to bust those daily woes with a daily companion of the modern age—a mobile application!
Answering phone calls from ‘kiasu’ parents while manoeuvring through rush hour traffic and taking care of some 20 rowdy and uncontrollable kids makes it difficult for bus drivers to keep track of simple things such as where each child is supposed to get on and off the bus. To address this problem, A*STAR researchers came up with the idea of having each child wear a wireless tag that is electronically detectable by sensors installed within the school bus. This technology keeps bus drivers updated on the number of children on board. Through the app, it also then tracks and notifies drivers when each child is supposed to board or get off at the respective destinations.
This computerised integrated system also extends to route planning and route testing that were traditionally done manually. It automatically generates the fastest route within seconds so that the drivers can get the kids to school on time. Just like Google maps (or Waze) —only better, faster and smarter—locking in multiple pick-up points at any one time.
What about the possible bullying and mischief that breaks out on school buses every once in a while?
Well, the SBMS also includes a high-resolution, in-vehicle surveillance system with cameras installed in each school bus. Knowing that they are under scrutiny by these cameras could serve as a strong deterrent to any would-be bully intent on pulling someone’s hair or plotting a wedgie. Or that potential young litterbug who may think no one’s watching him stuff a candy wrapper under his seat.
The surveillance applies to the bus drivers as well. With their driving monitored by the cameras on board, instances of erratic driving such as speeding, lane weaving and sudden braking, could all be reduced!
Not Just another App!
“So…it’s just another app,” you say? Well it’s more than just that. It is essentially an all-in-one integrated system that turns every school bus ride into a safe and enjoyable one! Besides providing assurance to parents, with this app assisting the school bus operators, drivers are now able to focus better on the road. In fact, it is now undergoing further testing by its two partners. A*STAR researchers may also be looking at integrating more features into the system, such as incorporating existing traffic conditions.