Monday, January 26, 2015

Personalized Travel Advice From Your Pocket

While many of us are used to checking transport schedules on our smartphones, the i-TOUR app, created by EU-funded researchers, goes much further. It advises which form of transport is most appropriate to get from A to B in large urban areas wherever you are in Europe, and takes into account personal preferences, weather and changing circumstances. The i-TOUR team is currently discussing how to take the idea to the market.

Credit: © Halfpoint - fotolia

The rationale behind i-TOUR was to give every smartphone or tablet owner the means to have as smooth a journey as possible, particularly when in large urban areas, explains project coordinator Piero Trucco of Formit Servizi in Italy.

What makes i-TOUR different from all the other apps offering travel information is its ability to scan all transport modes before offering advice. While most apps require the user to select bus, car or bike, for example, i-TOUR makes that decision for the user – or at least advises on the most appropriate mode.

Arriving late for an appointment should also be a thing of the past for i-TOUR app users. If an accident delays the tram or a commuter bumps into a friend on the way to the station, i-TOUR can re-schedule while the traveller is still on the move.

Personalised route-planner

It is this ability to scan both public and private transport networks before advising on the best route that helps i-TOUR stand out from the crowd of navigation apps. “The app does not choose, a priori, one means of transportation. It does not ideologically favour public transport. It proposes the fastest and most economical way to get from A to B at a particular time of day,” says Trucco.

All forms of public transportation are also treated equally in view of the ultimate interest of the passenger, emphasises Trucco. The technology behind this involves an interface that is able to plug into different transport databases – from that of Rome’s bus company to those of the city’s car share and metro systems.

Each database is of course organised differently, which was a technological challenge for the project team. The solution is an open source system that gives each public transport operator responsibility for creating, maintaining and updating its service.

Each company’s local area network (LAN) can interface with the i-TOUR system, and a multimodal routing system then harmonises the structure and format of the data received from different companies so that it can be displayed on i-TOUR.

The ability to plug into individual transport systems “is, I think, from a technological standpoint, the app’s best feature,” says Trucco.

From prototype to market

The project’s study of privacy issues is “state-of-the-art” according to Trucco, and could be used for other apps. He believes that privacy is often neglected by app developers. The study results have been shared with the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), and have contributed to standardisation for security, particularly for navigation apps.

The i-TOUR team has a working prototype, and discussions have been underway on taking the app to the market since the project finished in July 2013. The remaining challenges are not technical but contractual, relating to licencing and privacy.

The business plan foresees two likely possibilities: the creation of a new company, or partnership with a technology company. Either way, the team has “a viable business case, and with a relatively small investment will be able to take the app to the market,” says Trucco.

Contacts and sources:
European Commission Research & Innovation


  1. Looks really helpful. I travel a lot and I always use such apps which help while on vacation. Right now I'm heading to Breckenridge and I've already installed some decent apps.

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