Renee -- March 19th, 2011
Press Release from the JMU IEEE Computer Society:
19-year old JMU IEEE Computer Society member Matt Jeanes first came to JMU from Fairfax, VA as a freshman Computer Science major in 2009. Jeanes and a friend started using the HDPT buses to get across campus to eat at the new East Campus Dining Hall daily. They became frustrated with the need to constantly refer to the paper schedule to determine when the bus would arrive at their stop, so Jeanes, who has been learning how to program computers since before he entered high school, decided to write a simple computer script that would quickly determine which inner-campus bus would be coming by the stops they regularly used next.
After using a Motorola Droid smartphone for a few months, Jeanes realized that he could carry his digital bus schedule program with him if he converted it into an Android application. Jeanes was already familiar with the computer language required to write the app, but he needed to learn the framework specific to the open-source Google Android platform. So, he downloaded a development kit over winter break and started using online documentation to learn the skills he would need to turn his computer application into a mobile phone app. Within a week, Jeanes had a working rough draft of the JMU Bus app on his Droid, and uploaded the first public version to the Android Market in March 2010 for other Android users to download for free. Jeanes said his decision to publish the app, which he initially developed for his own use, for others to download was a “spur of the moment” decision. “I thought it would be cool if I ever saw someone I didn’t know using the app,” he said.
In Fall 2010, Jeanes joined JMU’s IEEE Computer Society and introduced his app to the students in the club. The club members responded enthusiastically and offered for the club to partner with him to help test and market the app. Using feedback from the IEEE club members and user comments in the Android Market, Jeanes added functionality and more routes to the previously-developed free version and also released a premium version of the app that costs $2 in the Android Market.
The current version of the JMU Bus Schedule app allows a user to determine which routes can get them from their current location to their desired destination, and displays the arrival time of each bus based on the schedule published by HDPT. It also includes a simple interface for browsing routes and stop times, and the premium version allows the user to save common trips for quick reference. The app currently estimates actual bus locations by ‘crowdsourcing’ – making use of data contributed by users voluntarily – but once the HDPT buses are outfitted with GPS tracking systems later this year, Jeanes’ app will be able to track routes in real time, including late-night routes with no fixed schedules. The premium app has an average rating of 5 out of 5 stars in the Android Market.
With word about the app spreading due to the JMU IEEE Computer Society members distributing flyers as well asword-of-mouth advertising from club members, friends, and users of the app, the free version now has over 1600 downloads, and more than 100 copies of the premium version have been purchased. Jeanes now sees other students on campus using his bus app and asks whether they have any suggestions or feedback for improving it. Because of the positive feedback he has received about the Android app, Jeanes is currently developing an iPhone version, which he expects to release in April 2011. Jeanes explains he has bigger plans for the app now: “I’m thinking about expanding the bus app to other colleges in Virginia and seeing where it goes from there.”