25 June 2019

Rwanda: New Technology Seeks to Ease Public Transport Convenience

Under the current City of Kigali public transport guidelines, a bus ought to be ply a route picking and dropping off passengers at bus-stops every after 15 minutes.

However, users of public transport say that's not the case while local bus stops are often characterized by long queues especially during the rush-hours.

To bring down the long queues, the immediate option would be to increase the fleet size of various public transport operators which is not quite feasible as it would require sizable investments.

Germain Rwibutso and Albin Shema have been working to present a solution to the challenge. The duo have already come up with a solution using their knowledge in software development and Artificial Intelligence.

Rwibutso and Shema who own a technology startup (Binary Earth), thought of developing a computer system soon dubbed 'GERAYO' that would count and inform bus operators on the number of passengers on every bus-stop, that would make deployment of the buses on various routes easily manageable.

Rwibutso who spoke on the behalf of the company said that they got the idea after they landed an opportunity to work with Akagera National Park to locate the Giraffes in the park.

"After getting the opportunity of working with Akagera National Park in locating the Giraffes we came to realize that the same concept could be also applied to the transport system", he said.

How does Gerayo work?

Every bus-stop will be fitted with an unmanned camera, with a capacity of taking pictures of passengers, do a head count and send data to the servers programmed to process the data.

Bus operators will be notified on the waiting customer numbers and can deploy buses accordingly.

Rwibutso adds that this will all done by the system using artificial intelligence and will a time lapse of only 5 seconds.

He said that the system has been tested during the pilot project with 97 per cent accuracy. On reaching out to Rwanda Utilities and Regulatory Authorities they were advised to incorporate the bus management and scheduling system to make it more effective before it is released for public use.

On privacy concerns, Rwibutso said that the public should not worry about their identity because the system will be tuned to delete the pictures once the number of passengers has been recorded.

Rwibutso added that the kind of data they will be keeping is the figures because going forward they will need the statistics to improve the operation of their systems, making it more effective and efficient.

They plan to roll it out is within the next two months, starting with Nyamirambo- Kigali City Center Route, given the heavy traffic of passengers on the route, Rwibutso said.

Rwibutso is convinced that Gerayo will spare passengers the time they lose when waiting for the bus and it will also put more cash in the pockets of the bus operators.

"We hope that our solution will have an impact on the time passengers spend waiting for the bus. Bus companies lose a lot of passengers to motorcycle riders especially those who are impatient, that's why we believe the solution is ideal for bus companies", he said.

Getting it done

Rwibutso reckons as developing their own devices was the greatest challenge they encountered, ordering them from China, configuring them and connecting them to each other was not an easy task.

Given they did not resign from their salary jobs, Rwibutso recalled that it was difficult for them to balance work and their idea given that both were demanding. This often saw them work late into the night.

But shortly they were relieved and happy when their innovation began capturing data.

Rwibutso said another task emerged when the system started to enter in the data as they needed to configure it to analyse the data collected.

On the start, they are targeting more 500 bus-stops across the city before rolling the concept out to secondary cities and eventually cross the border regional countries.

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