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Feature Stories - A smartphone app to travel smarter

Fancy a quick game of Flappy Bird while you’re stuck in a traffic jam? There could be a smarter way to use your smartphone. A mobile app, created by a team of European researchers, could cut rush hour traffic in your city by 5%.
Feature Stories - A smartphone app to travel smarter
Tripzoom is an app that combines social networking, gaming and rewards to influence people’s transport choices. Developed by the SUNSET consortium (Sustainable Social Network Services for Transport), tripzoom was launched in three pilot cities in 2013 and is now available everywhere.

The app gathers smartphone data to learn the user's travel patterns, then uses social networks to find possible car-sharing partners. It also uses traffic data to help users find less-congested routes and offers advice on ways of reducing their environmental impact.

"Tripzoom's people-centred mobility approach puts users at the heart of the transport system," Dr Marcel Bijlsma, the SUNSET project coordinator, explains. "The aim is to try to influence people to make smart travel choices."

Smart Phones, Smarter Travel

Tripzoom creates a personal 'logbook' that not only provides the user with insight into their travel behaviour, but is also used to provide tailored incentives to encourage them to use public transport, cycling or walking as ways of reducing travel times and costs as well as improving their health.

Users who tried out the pilot version of the system found that it made a real difference to their travel habits. One said that they ‘challenge their co-workers to travel greener when we commute to and from work every day’ while another user told the team that 'Tripzoom is a great new way for me to become aware of my actual travel. Now I get more motivated to cycle to work!'

"We assessed different types of incentives," Dr Bijlsma explains. These included: 'information about the user's costs, emissions and calories burned; points and rewards for good travel choices; and using social networks to challenge groups of people to reach shared goals.'

The tripzoom app is available online , while Mobidot – a spin-off company created thanks to the project – helps organisations to devise awareness campaigns and incentive packages that will encourage users to travel smarter. To assuage privacy concerns, the app ensures that the user is always in control of what travel information is collected and shared with others.

Reducing Congestion, Improving Lives

More than 250 million vehicles, 90 % of which are passenger cars, are currently on European roads — equivalent to one vehicle for every two people living in the European Union. The SUNSET consortium's research shows that cities which promote the use of the app could see a 5 % reduction in rush-hour traffic in most European cities.

"We believe that a people-centric approach can make a real difference in influencing and supporting people directly to make the smart travel choice in a flexible and cost-effective way," Dr Bijlsma says.

Working together across the EU

Dr Bijlsma led a team of researchers from nine organisations in five EU countries, supported by EUR 2.95 million in funding under the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). The team used three 'living labs', made up of volunteers from Enschede in the Netherlands, Gothenburg in Sweden and Leeds in the United Kingdom. These volunteers helped the research team test the real-life impact of different types of information and incentives in order to understand how to reduce congestion from private vehicles.

- Source: Dr Marcel Bijlsma, Novay, Netherlands
- Project title: SUstainable social Network SErvices for Transport
- Project acronym: SUNSET
- SUNSET project website
- SUNSET project factsheet on CORDIS
- Tripzoom app website
- SUNSET project video: a vision for next-generation mobility management

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