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7 CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION bility, and method of dissemination (push/pull); the use of PROJECT BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES standards; and the reliability and accuracy of the informa- The proliferation of mobile phones and smartphones has tion. The fourth dimension covers the resources required to resulted in high levels of reliance on these devices to provide successfully deploy information on mobile devices, includ- basic and personalized communications. The increasing use ing capital, operations, and maintenance costs; agency staff of these devices provides many opportunities for information requirements; customer costs; and other resources (e.g., dissemination by private and public transportation entities. managing an external application development program). Further, public transit customers have relatively high expec- The fifth and final dimension is the contribution of mobile tations for real-time information at all stages of their trips. messaging to an overall agency communications strategy, These expectations, combined with the rapidly increasing including “information equity.” Here, information equity and widespread use of mobile devices, have led many trans- is defined as providing real-time information by means of portation agencies in the United States and abroad to provide at least two dissemination media in both audio and visual information through mobile devices. One additional factor formats. in providing transit information by means of mobile devices is the functional capabilities of these devices [e.g., loca- The primary focus of the synthesis is on determining the tion service, Internet browsing, and short message service experience with providing real-time information on mobile (SMS)]. Finally, with U.S. transit agencies facing decreasing devices in the United States and abroad, and how agencies budgets, providing information by means of mobile devices are using this dissemination channel to serve the needs of (“virtual” dissemination) may be more cost-effective than their customers. The synthesis includes a brief discussion disseminating information through more costly infrastruc- using social media on mobile devices as an additional way ture, such as dynamic message signs (DMSs). of providing real-time transit information. Supporting the myriad mobile devices and platforms A review of the relevant literature in the field is combined available in the marketplace has become a challenge as well. with surveys of selected transit agencies and other appropri- Agencies are turning to third parties that are familiar with ate stakeholders to report on the current state of the prac- the most current devices and platforms to ensure that the tice. The survey was designed to obtain information on the information can be made available on a variety of mobile aforementioned dimensions of providing real-time transit devices without having to employ staff that is knowledge- information on mobile devices, including the characteristics able about all the platforms. Not only is this a more cost- of the underlying technology that generates the real-time effective approach to providing the information, but it also information, the mobile devices and the mobile displays/ ensures that customers will have access to the information messages, the required resources, and agencies’ experience regardless of the type of device they are using. with providing mobile information, particularly the role that mobile information has in an agency’s communications This synthesis examines and documents the state of the strategy. Based on survey results, several case studies were practice in the use and deployment of real-time transit infor- developed to describe innovative and successful practices, as mation on mobile devices using the following five dimen- well as lessons learned and gaps in information. An impor- sions. The first dimension is the underlying technology that tant element of this report is the documented interviews with is required to generate the information that will be dissemi- key personnel at agencies that provide real-time information nated on mobile devices. This dimension covers the required on mobile devices. underlying software, hardware, and communications. The second dimension is the mobile technology used for informa- tion dissemination, including handset capabilities, and the TECHNICAL APPROACH TO THE PROJECT specific mobile delivery channels used, such as text messag- ing (SMS), mobile Internet, and smartphone applications. This synthesis project was conducted in five major steps. The third dimension covers the characteristics of the infor- First, a literature review was performed to identify the char- mation, including message types, content, format, accessi- acteristics of the underlying technology, mobile devices, and
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8 mobile information/messages; resources required to deliver REPORT ORGANIZATION information by means of mobile devices; and contribution of mobile information/messages to an agency’s communica- This report is organized as follows: tions strategy. See the References for a list of references and Appendix A for a complete list of literature reviewed. • Chapter two summarizes the literature review; • Chapter three describes the underlying technology, Second, a survey was conducted to collect information mobile technology, mobile information, use of stan- on factors such as types of underlying technology; types of dards, and the reliability and accuracy of the mobile mobile technology and delivery channels used; characteris- information; tics of mobile information, use of standards, and the reliabil- • Chapter four presents information about the resources ity and accuracy of the information; and necessary resources necessary to deploy real-time information on mobile to deploy real-time mobile information. In addition, infor- devices; mation regarding how mobile messaging contributes to an • Chapter five discusses the contribution of mobile mes- agency’s overall communications strategy was explored saging to agency communications strategy; through the survey. The survey instrument is in Appendix • Chapter six presents case studies from selected agen- B, and the list of agencies responding to the survey is in cies that have experience providing real-time informa- Appendix C. tion on mobile devices; • Chapter seven summarizes the results of the synthesis Third, the survey results were analyzed. Fourth, tele - and presents conclusions; phone interviews were conducted with key personnel at • Appendix A contains the bibliography for literature agencies with experience providing real-time information that was reviewed; on mobile devices. Chapter six presents case studies from • Appendix B contains the survey instrument; selected agencies that have significant experience with pro- • Appendix C shows the list of responding agencies; and viding information on mobile devices. Finally, the results • Appendix D provides additional information. and conclusions were prepared and documented.