GPS Bus Clock

Working as part of the Urban Sustainable Development Lab, with Angus Taggart writing software, I designed and produced a large scale physical prototype of an internet connected public clock. Aimed at opening up smart cities data to vulnerable user-groups who do not use smartphones, the Bus Clock uses real time GPS public transit data, counting down to an accurate, continuously updated arrival time for the next bus.

Many vulnerable user groups do not own or use smartphones, and because of this, shoving data into an app does not make it accessible to everyone. As part of the Urban Sustainable Development Lab, we were tasked with researching and implementing potential solutions for various user groups. The initial prototype (made during a hackathon with Angus Taggart, Shi and Kriss Blank) was a light up beacon, displaying different colours depending on proximity of the next bus to arrive at a given stop.

During the subsequent research phase, in which we visited nursing homes and sheltered housing to consult with residents, it became obvious that some aesthetic changes to the next prototype would make it far more practical and usable for the intended user groups. Whilst levels of familiarity with tech did not vary in lock step with age, very few of the people we interviewed from ages 70 – 100 used smartphones or any digital technology. Analogue clock faces were one of the few universally understood items, so we recentered the next prototype around this.

Many of the places we visited were on the extremities of single bus routes, which consequently did not have shelters, resulting in frail residents not going out much in winter, for instance unable to risk waiting around in snow for a delayed bus. We determined it would be useful to have a GPS connected countdown to the next bus in a lobby, or other public space, within these housing complexes.

The clock face was designed as a semi-circle, such that it couldn’t be mistaken for a normal clock, and sized for legibility. The final prototype measures 58 by 38cm, constructed from laser cut plywood and acrylic. Inside, a Raspberry Pi consults a configured transport operator and bus stop to get a current best estimated time of arrival for the next bus. Rather than simply counting down, the timer continuously refreshes to reflect current data from the transport operator. The hand is driven by a stepper motor and belt drive, and has light sensor end stops with which it can calibrate itself each time its powered on.

The finished Bus Clock

Initial prototype: Angus Taggart, David Hayward, Shi, Kriss Blank.
Research: David Hayward, Angus Taggart, Alastair Somerville
Design and construction: David Hayward
Software: Angus Taggart