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The Transit Advantage

Recent Adventures in Mobile App Development

When the Department of General Service’s Green Gov Challenge code-a-thon ended about a month ago, Acumen’s busy season of civic hacking and innovations contests came to a close, for now. In case you missed out: Back in June, Acumen cultivated our civic hacking chops at Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’s (VTA) Hack My Ride 2.0 event, which was convened to address transportation challenges in the South Bay.

Over the summer, Team Acumen developed AcuTransit, a unique smartphone app that provides users with in-depth route information, maps, and points of interest based on VTA’s wireless, low-energy beacons and GPS. In September, three state agencies sponsored the 25K Find a New Way Contests with the goal of discovering the best ideas for improving state government, with a total of $75,000 in cash prizes. Acumen is proud to have taken part in all three contests. So what were they all about? Caltrans asked participants to come up with an innovative concept to improve operations, safety and/or efficiency within the transportation sphere.  Transportation being our passion, Acumen’s brainstorming led to two solid concepts:

  • QuickAlert, a social media environment for highway traffic alerts and mapping.  Users can view and submit text, photos, or video by way of a unique, social media-type feed.
  • OneCard, an interoperable smart card allowing users to pay fares for all regional public transit, Amtrak train travel, and toll roads throughout California. After Clipper and FasTrak, we think OneCard is the next logical step.

ABC challenged Californians to address the problem of underage drinking through education, prevention, or law enforcement. Acumen’s idea:

  • WeRFID, a high-tech approach to state ID card verification.  Using radio frequency identification (RFID), IDs are more secure and can be linked to a fingerprint, curbing minors’ access to alcohol.

DGS’s contest was innovative in and of itself — the state agency held an all-weekend code-a-thon and turned the assembled techies loose on the new Statewide Open Data Portal to push for sustainability in government.  We sent a few of our resident tech experts to Sacramento to join in the fun, and here’s what they came up with:

  • An app that uses GPS to allow users to locate nearby electric vehicle (EV) charging stations.  We strongly believe in EV development, and increasing access to charging stations is a major step forward in the adoption of cleaner tech in vehicle transportation.

For Team Acumen, bringing our trademark innovation to the ranks of mobile app developers has been a big challenge and a fair amount of fun, and we can’t wait for the next opportunity.