Sunway researchers develop bus-tracking system

PETALING JAYA: Students and other residents in Bandar Sunway can now spend less time waiting for buses because they’ll know exactly when the vehicles will arrive at their respective stops.

The residents are not using psychic powers, but are making full use of the Shuttle Bus Tracking System, developed by the Sunway University College School of Computer Technology’s research team.

The team — made up of the school head, Associate Prof Lim Tong Ming, and lecturers Daniel Leow, Terence Le Grange and Lyon Laxman — created the system that uses GPS (Global Positioning System) technology to track the two buses that ply the route in real time.

The research was funded by an internal grant by the Sunway University College.

Buses plying Bandar Sunway’s 6.5km bus route, which passes landmarks such as the Sunway Pyramid Shopping Centre, Sunway University College, Sunway Medical Centre and Sunway Lagoon Theme Park, are equipped with a GPS device each.

“The system gives users an indication of when a bus will arrive at the stop nearest to them, where it has stopped and if it’s going to be delayed,” Le Grange said.

The positions of the buses are transmitted to a web server hosted at the Sunway University College using a 3G (third-generation) cellular connection. The server will then display the location of the buses and their estimated times of arrival on digital displays around the university.

Other residents of Bandar Sunway can send a text query via SMS (short message service) to receive information on the locations of the buses.

The system also factors in several variables, such as weather and traffic conditions, to better help users estimate the bus arrival times.

Leow explained that the system uses historical data to help with the calculations. “The system notes how long it takes for buses to arrive at various stops on rainy days and rush hours, in comparison to normal periods, and will adjust its estimated times of arrival accordingly,” he said.

Well received

According to the team, the students and residents are generally happy with the system and find it useful. It conducted a survey of 100 residents and students, 90% of which said they are satisfied with the service.

Now, the team is considering expanding the system to cover a wider area.

But, Leow said, such an expansion will depend on the company that manages the shuttle bus service — Sunway Travel.

“We have had discussions with representatives of the company, but there are no concrete developments yet,” he said.

He said that widening the tracking system to bus routes in areas adjacent to Bandar Sunway would also pose some challenges.

There will need to be support from other bus service companies, municipal councils and the communities, for example. Then, there’s the matter of cost, as well as the issues of vandalism and pilferage. The Bandar Sunway system cost about RM15,000 to set up.

But if these hurdles can be overcome, Le Grange believes that communities in nearby Subang would benefit from having a bus-tracking system, as well as those elsewhere in the country.

The team expects to receive a science grant from the Ministry of Science, Technology and Information next year, which will go towards perfecting its tracking system.

One possible improvement to its system is the ability to let users know how full or how empty a particular bus is. “This will be a helpful addition because there’s no point rushing for a bus that’s already full,” said Le Grange.

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