Students Start Testing a Mobile App for Jamaican Taxis

The work of the Palisadoes Foundation continues in preparing for the 2017 Calico Challenge. Today we interview Agyei Masters, a UTech student who is leading a small volunteer student team to create a pair of open source mobile apps for Jamaican taxis and their passengers. There are plans to integrate it into the Calico Challenge’s infoset project, and who knows, maybe these apps will be included in our 2017 efforts.

Here is what Agyei has to say.

Palisadoes: Tell us a little about your technology interests.
Agyei: I am currently pursuing a BSc in Computing, Minor in Enterprise Computing at the University of Technology. Formly a Student of the St Vincent Grammar School in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
I am also a Full-Stack Developer at Project Grapevine do work with a local Start-Up called The Vinelist.

Palisadoes: How did the idea for the app originate and what made you want to pursue it?
Agyei: The idea originated from a paper done by a former schoolmate, Charles Dean to create an intelligent urban transportation system in Jamaica, based on the Internet of Things. The intelligence I wanted to see was the ability to make me decide whether I should wait on the bus that goes straight to school, or should I just take the longer route on a normal bus heading to downtown. Which would be faster?

Palisadoes: Tell us about your student team.
Agyei: There are about five Collaborators on the project so far. Most are from UTech’s IEEE Student Branch, of which I’m a member, some other computing students and one student from the UWI Computing Society who was already a participant in Calico previously.

Palisadoes: What progress have you made so far?
Agyei: So far, we have created our first very basic “Alpha” version, which allows a rider to follow their favorite driver. We are looking at ways to test it thoroughly.

Palisadoes: What do do you expect from the app when it’s ready to be launched?
Agyei: Our main objective is to collect driver data and make that data readily accessible to the public, so they can wait less, and reach their destinations quickly and safely. This would also be interesting to transport companies. As you can see, we are working how to gather useful data for everyone.

Palisadoes: What challenges do you foresee?
Agyei: One challenge that we foresee is that drivers may reject using the app because they don’t want to be tracked. We hope that they see the greater benefit to using it however. They will know where the passengers are and hopefully it will lead to less congestion on the roads at popular pickup spots.

Palisadoes: How receptive have students been to the idea?
Agyei: Students are excited about the idea because it’s a problem they want to be solved. Students also have been contributing features that they would like to see as well.

Palisadoes: What technologies are being used?
Agyei: For the alpha version we used Native Android SDK to develop the app for the drivers which we are calling DoRoad. The rider app, OneStop, uses Cordova and the Ionic Framework. We used Google’s Firebase to store the data collected, and we are planning to migrate it to Infoset, a database created by the Palisadoes Foundation’s Calico Challenge last year.

Palisadoes: What kind of help do you need?
Agyei: Currently we need assistance getting drivers to test the platform, or someone who is always on the move.

Palisadoes: How does your product compare to international services such as Uber and Lyft?
Agyei: Our product has similar features to Uber and Lyft. It shows a driver’s current location on a map. Jamaica has unique challenges. We respect Uber’s model, but we are trying to let originality play its part.

How confident are you that your app will be a hit with customers?
Agyei: I am very confident that this will be a hit to customers. I know for certain that many passengers have the same issue I have when waiting on transportation in certain areas. I see it every day going to and from school. I believe that they will make great usage of the app.

Palisadoes: Are there any other projects that you plan to work on after completing this?
Agyei: Yes. I am planning to develop an app for errands to be done through crowd sourcing. There are other project ideas that I have but they need refining.

Palisadoes: Any advice you’d like to give students who plan to take up such projects?
Agyei: Doing projects like these is a great way to get experience with app development, but before rushing striaight into app development and trying to learn frameworks, they should try to learn the basics of the language they choose first. It is a common mistake I see some students making, trying to learn angularjs with no previous knowledge of JavaScript on which it relies heavily.