MIEBUS Bus Location System Gives Users Real-Time Updates On Smartphones And Other Devicesmanagement system Co.,Ltd
Talking with CEO Ikuko Shigihara at Management System Co., Ltd.’s Tokyo office.
Points to be noted
- MieBus is a joint academia-industry R&D project with Ibaraki University
- Benefits an ageing society by improving bus convenience and encouraging active use
- Supports local revitalization by encouraging bus use
Some people rely on buses for everyday transportation, but many people take no opportunity to ride a bus outside of sightseeing, vacations or work trips. Both groups feel the same anxiety about using public transportation - When is the next bus coming? Did it already come and go? How can we know? MieBus bus location system can provide relief to anyone worried about unclear bus schedules. Bus location is tracked using GPS and visualized on a map, allowing users to access bus location updates using a smartphone or other device. Riding the bus is easy and convenient using this system that provides both the arrival time of the next bus, and the adjusted arrival time for the rider’s destination.
MieBus has 5 winning features.
- ①Nearby buses and bus routes are charted on the map.
- ②Touch each bus icon to see if it goes to the rider’s destination.
- ③Touch each bus or bus stop icon to view each route and see if it goes to the rider’s destination.
- ④View all bus stops and route schedules.
- ⑤Search by bus stop name to find precise location of each bus stop.
MieBus can also encourage local revitalization: the bottom of the screen displays local announcements and tourist information. Users can touch the banner to easily access links to local shop information.
We asked Ikuko Shigihara, CEO of Management System Co., Ltd. (Hitachinaka City, Ibaraki) and creator of MieBus, more about the inspiration behind this app.
“First, I made the MieTetsu site, mostly for fun. That site displays train schedules over Google Maps, and the train icons move on the map according to schedule. One day, I showed MieTetsu to a supervisor of the community bus system in Hitachinaka, just to show off. He said, ‘Please make a bus version of MieTetsu!’
Then he explained, ‘the bus is often off schedule, so it would be convenient to have a bus version of a map like MieTetsu.’ He was trying to encourage me… but at the time, MieTetsu only moved the train icons according to the official schedule, it was basically just entertainment, not a practical tool. We discussed whether it was possible to use GPS technology to show the actual location of buses. That’s when I started to work seriously on developing the MieBus system,” Shigihara explains.
MieBus started from a casual conversation with the supervisor of the community bus service. Shigihara agreed, “It would definitely be convenient to know exactly where along the route the bus is. I also thought that since bus schedules and routes are declining every year, we could encourage positive attitudes about buses, increase users and contribute to sustainable operations.”
She elaborates, “When the number of buses is reduced, the boomer generation feels that they have no choice but to keep driving their own car to get around town, even if they want to stop driving. It’s important to keep public transportation like buses available as Japan’s population ages.”
MieBus can contribute to a healthy society by expanding bus ridership, and gives hope for advancing the convenience of community bus services and revitalizing local bus companies. The heavy reality of the situation encouraged Shigihara to take action. “Thoughts and wishes aren’t enough. If I want change to happen, I need to do start by doing something myself!” She kept this straightforward approach as she developed the system.
The first step was to learn more about GPS. She heard that a teacher at National Institute of Technology, Ibaraki College named Okamoto was an expert on GPS, so she asked him right away. Okamoto agreed to more than answering her questions about GPS technology - he was also kind enough to lend her some equipment.
In order to develop a MieBus system that uses GPS, Management System Co., Ltd. made a contract for joint research with Ibaraki University, and Shigihara enrolled herself in the Urban and Civil Engineering graduate program. Joint development with the university progressed well because she could seriously study possible ways to make a system that would be more convenient for users. This environment allowed Shigihara to focus on development while gathering input from a wide source of opinions.
In her first year in the graduate program, Shigihara focused on development of the system, working on ways to install equipment on buses and make an app for passengers. She was also invited to join the investigation committee for the Aobadai and Dodaira bus lines in Hitachi City. The requests were the same: People wished that there was a way to know exactly when the bus would arrive while they were waiting at the bus stop. Shigihara felt the need for the MieBus system even more strongly than before. For 4 years, she ran her company in the day time, and went to the graduate program in the evening to continue her research and development. The completed MieBus system finally became a reality thanks to her dedicated work.
Moriya City in Ibaraki installed MieBus in February, 2017. This first run of MieBus in a public system enjoyed plenty of attention including TV news features. As a city with many workers commuting to Tokyo, the introduction of MieBus in Moriya City was expected to improve the convenience of local buses and promote ridership, goals which were also calculated to encourage more workers to move to Moriya.
Management System Co., Ltd. is eager to use its experience in Moriya as a springboard for national expansion. The future of MieBus will continue to grow with other current products in development including a compatible taxi request app and a bike share app. Soon users all over Japan may finally have immediate answers to the question they have been asking for years - When is the next bus coming?
Interview Date: October 10, 2018
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