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September 16, 2013

TIM Partners with Makers of Transit App

TIM Brasil recently announced that Moovit, which makes a free public transit app, would provide the locations of TIM stores on the app. Additional terms of the deal state that Moovit will automatically be installed on TIM devices starting in 2014 and that TIM users can use Moovit without incurring data charges until December 11.

Moovit is an app that helps public transit passengers obtain real-time information about routes from crowd-sourced information. This is very helpful for determining ETAs, fastest routes, and vehicle crowdedness while waiting for a transit vehicle to arrive at a given stop. It also has a social feature that lets friends track each other on routes to facilitate get-togethers.

Ness Tziona, Israel-based Tranzmate develops the Moovit app for Android and iOS devices. The crowd-sourced model that it uses is based on Waze, an app that uses anonymized data from drivers’ phones to provide traffic information for automobile drivers. The app was originally designed to show the location of red-light cameras before it grew into a source for traffic information. Waze CEO Uri Levine is on the board of Tranzmate and had considerable input into Moovit’s architecture.

Rio de Janeiro-based TIM Participações (TIM Brasil) is the Brazilian subsidiary of Italian telecom firm Telecom Italia Mobile. The company provides mobile and landline phone service and is also an Internet service provider. In November 2011, it acquired AES Altimus and the 3,400 mile fiber optic network it was building for $1 billion. The acquisition was a huge boost from an infrastructure standpoint, since the network was expected to cover 21 cities throughout Brazil.

It comes as no surprise that the bus, train or trolley often does not arrive on time. The twice-daily commuter rushes, mechanical breakdowns, special events and accidents often make published transit schedules meaningless. Having accurate real-time information about transit vehicles will help passengers avoid ‘waiting in vain’ as the Moovit website aptly puts it.

The app is pretty smart as it ‘looks ahead’ to advise a passenger commuting over multiple routes about missed connections.

There are some potential disadvantages with the technology. Since Moovit tracks GPS data from devices, it won’t be able to provide real-time information about subway transit. Anyone who has ever received bad information from a crowd-sourced site like Wikipedia knows that such information is not always accurate.

Most of the information for Moovit does not have that problem; since users mostly run the app and let Moovit track their commute and thousands of other riders. Any input where users can enter information at their discretion would be subject to accuracy problems similar to those on a site like Wikipedia. The app is supported in several major U.S. cities, but if a given city does not yet have enough riders using the app, crowd-sourcing falls short on promises.

With Moovit, the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. Riders in Brazil, the U.S. and other countries using the app will be much better off with it than without it.

Edited by Blaise McNamee

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