School buses are an integral part of a kid’s life, but their unpre-dictable pick-up and drop timings are also one of the biggest causes of worry for their parents. Rarely do they come on time due to other students making them wait or delays on their routes.
Meet Gautam Kumar, 28, project director at Roboticwares, and his offering FarEye for Schools. FarEye, at its simplest, is a GPS plus SMS-based bus-tracking system that assists school authorities in managing the bus routes and keeping an eye on their bus staff while saving the parents a lot of worry regarding bus timings for pick-up and drop.
When asked what really set off the spark for this idea in his head, Gautam answers, “We were looking into some of the problems faced by schools and parents with regards to running of the school buses. The issues affecting the former were generally regarding safety, finances and timing, while the latter were concerned specifically about safety and timings of pick-up and drop.”
The application opens up to a login page where you need to enter your credentials. You are then taken to a screen that handles all the requests. A list of all vehicles powered by FarEye (and the ones
you are authorised to view) is shown on the top left corner of the screen. Simply choose the vehicle of your interest. You will be immediately shown all the details pertaining to it, viz, fuel level, speed, route, distance travelled and time spent stationary. The login page can also be opened on Android-and ioS-based mobile phones.
FarEye comes with its own GPS module along with an external antenna and u-blox GSM modem. The GPS is accurate up to ±10 metres and the device comes with a replaceable warranty. The GPS module allows it to track bus movements very accurately and the on-board software maps the used routes to show you the location at any moment of time. The GSM modem is included to transmit to a server details like location, speed, stationary time and estimated time of arrival, where all this data is utilised to provide the functionalities described below.
Tracking of the movement. School authorities can track the movement of all the buses in real time anywhere in India. They can also keep track of time, stoppages and speed. Monitoring and tracking of buses improves day-to-day bus operations. It helps the school in identifying misused vehicles, unauthorised trips and entry into restricted areas.
Avoiding long wait and missing the school bus. Parents get automatic alerts via SMS a few minutes before the bus reaches their stop. It saves a long wait at the bus stops and even helps kids avoid missing the bus.
Graphs and extensive reports for analysis. Fuel reports and graphs are generated for a variety of parameters like fuel economy, speed and driving performance. These are analysed to take corrective actions.
FarEye comes packaged in an enclosure measuring a reasonable 8×3×1.2 cm3 and weighing 150 gm. It uses an 8V to 28V supply for its operation and needs 1 mA in sleep mode and 90 mA during transit. It operates at an optimal temperature of 40-65°C and relative humidity of 80 per cent. The GPS channel operates at L1 frequency in coarse/acquisition code. It has a hot starting time of less than one second, tracking sensitivity of 160 dBm and horizontal position accuracy of 5 metres. The GSM client is RoHS-compliant, lead-free and soldered on an ENIG multi-layered PCB.
Kumar had to face challenges in order to get the product up and running. He shares, “There were issues in making the system easy to use for parents. They aren’t the most technology-savvy people out there and we had to keep that in mind while finalising the design. The new design is very easy to follow with a detailed write-up in case of further help. The new user interface is capable of drawing up reports, which are designed to help the school authorities get all the requisite details in just one click. To make matters transparent, we even provided an application programming interface (API) to schools where parents can see the bus details without logging in.”
FarEye is programmed to bring a live view of the selected vehicle on a map, which is constantly updated throughout the duration of the route. It is capable of pan-India coverage. The application allows you to geo-fence, i.e., you can define an area on the mapso that you automatically get an SMS alert on your phone when the vehicle enters that zone.
FarEye is designed to generate reports incorporating a host of different critical parameters as per the users’ demands. Some of the parameters are speed, number of stoppages, idling time, distance travelled along with a one-year history of the routes taken. The application also stores/sends details of sudden brakes applied (if any) and presents them in a report for the extra-paranoid parents. There is a mobile website (www.fareye.in) to assist in tracking the vehicle details via a smartphone. A host of similar features are covered completely in the documentation.
When asked about plans for monetising this solution, Kumar replied, “our plan to monetise FarEye is pretty basic. We provide the solution to schools and charge them for the system along with a per SMS charge. It is, as of now, a finished product. But, we are ready to take feedback from the parents, schools and the industry to add features to it as and when required. The present system took us close to a year to complete. This is including the pilot and all the prototypes required to reach the final product. We have already completed the provisional patents and are in the process of filing a complete patent.
As of now, parents can heave a sigh of relief as their kids can now be safer and more in their sights than ever before.
The author is a tech correspondent at EFY Bengaluru