The days of wondering how long it will be until the next BU Shuttle (BUS) arrives are over. A new feature on the BU Mobile application can track the location of BU Buses on an iPhone or iPod Touch. The app is free, and can be found at Apple’s App Store.
The BU Mobile app, which was first released in April, also offers iPhone and iPod Touch users quick access to some of the most commonly used programs and websites at BU—including the campus calendar, campus maps, course descriptions, the BU directory, and BU Today stories. A bookmark feature can save frequently used maps, a specific bus stop, or an event on the calendar. To date, more than 5,600 people have downloaded the BU Mobile app.
“The number of mobile visits to the University’s website has doubled over the past year, and over half of those mobile visits have been made from iPhones and iPods,” says Niall Kavanagh, a senior analyst at Information Services & Technology and lead developer of the BU Mobile Task Force, a collaboration between BU’s New Media and IS&T. “The BUS schedule has been hands-down the number-one feature requested from the community, so we expect the new BU Bus module to be well-received by the students, faculty, and staff commuting between the two campuses. I think they’ll also find the live bus positions incredibly useful, especially as the weather becomes colder.”
The module now provides real-time schedule information for the buses, including arrival estimates for each stop, by using a GPS tracker installed in each of the buses. It is also possible to find stop locations, set schedule reminders, save the stop as a “favorite,” and be reminded of particular spot times.
The app was designed and built by the BU Mobile Task Force, which chose to develop an iPhone app first, because iPhones are the most popular mobile device people use to access BU on the web, according to a survey the group conducted. More apps for more smartphones are in the works.
The app is just one component of BU’s mobile phone strategy. As more users visit BU on mobile devices, the BU Mobile Task Force is “always thinking about how best to present content specifically on mobile devices,” Kavanagh says. “We think about how the material will look on a small screen and how we can make it easier to read.”
The final phase will create new web content and applications designed specifically for mobile devices. An example of this would be a tour of the BU campus using a smartphone, according to Trevor MacDowell, lead project manager for web publishing at IS&T. “Point your phone’s camera at a building on the BU campus, and information could pop up—the building’s name, departments, and more,” he says.
Almond Dhukka (ENG’12) uses the app frequently. While he still has a few gripes (he would like to see a weekly and monthly view for the calendar and a search feature in the maps module), he gives it a positive review. “I think the fact that BU is willing to make an app that’ll help students get what they’re looking for faster is great,” says Dhukka. “It shows amazing progressive thinking and that they won’t stick with academic traditions. This is something BU’s been good at for a while—CourseInfo and Blackboard are proof of that. I think it’s a nice, succinct app.”
The BU Mobile app is free to download from Apple’s App Store.
The BU Mobile team has created a survey asking users what they would like to see in the next version of the app. The BUS module was created because of suggestions from users, so who knows what could be created next?
Amy Laskowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.