Hoping for a smoother ride


Nimmbus is the latest app set to be launched by BMTC for live tracking of buses. However, some say that an app may not solve the issue of poor ridership.

The Nimmbus mobile app was scheduled to be launched on Dec.23, 2022 by the Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC). However, the app launch has been delayed due to technical difficulties.

The Nimmbus app is being developed by two companies Manipal and Amnex. A software developer working on the app said that they are now in the final stage, but BMTC wants  a few more features to be added which is causing the delay. The app is designed for the public to use and for BMTC’s internal use. It is built on a  system called Automatic Vehicle Monitoring System (AVLS) . The app will provide options for live tracking of buses, a panic button (if a person presses the panic button installed in the bus, it will alert the control room),and live footage of the bus.

To ensure all these features function efficiently, cameras and panic buttons are being installed on all buses. The Global Positioning System (GPS) tracker has so far been installed in 4000 buses according to an official from the transport corporation.

Malkan Ahmed Sayed, a student from Delhi, who now lives in Bengaluru said that she heard about the Nimmbus app but could not find it on Google Play Store. She now uses Google to get information on bus timings. “I live in Dasanapura where connectivity is very bad. After 12.30 PM, we have a bus only at 4:30 in the evening. Due to this, we use more autos and cabs,” she said. She added that apps like this will make more people use buses as they will know if they can wait and take a bus instead of using autos.

Other third-party apps like Moovit and MyBMTC provide static information like bus numbers, bus stops and timings. TUMMOC, a transit application is  used only for bus pass validation. Amogh A, founder of the Telegram group ‘Friends of BMTC’ said, “People usually end up not waiting for the bus and book an auto or cab as they don’t know the timings. Having a bus tracking app will definitely be useful for commuters as it will increase reliability,” he said. He runs two groups, one for general bus information and another that provides live updates of buses, which is done by people of the group who alert other members if they pass by a bus in an area.

Others feel that the app caters only to a specific group of people, ones that are internet savvy and those that are not frequent users. “I live in Marathahalli where there is a bus every few minutes. A tracking app makes no difference for someone like me,” said Shaheen, a volunteer at Bengaluru Bus Prayanikara Vedike, a volunteering organization that deals with various urban mobility issues in Bengaluru. She said that it is not surprising that the app is taking time to be launched. “The app is just the front end. It has to be custom made to the needs of the BMTC; there is a lot of work that goes on in the back end, as it is a specialized application. It requires a lot of testing and trials,” she said.

Experts say that the transport corporation does not have technical manpower to successfully utilize this system.

Shaheen added that connectivity and frequency are the main issues that deter people from using public transport and not the lack of an app. “This cannot just be fixed by an app. If we want buses to function more efficiently, we need to give them that priority on the roads as well. If we do not want separate bus lanes then how can we expect them to be on time in traffic?” she asked. She added that it would help if information on bus routes and timings could be made available at all bus stops.

The BMTC in the past has tried several times to introduce live tracking of buses. In 2016, it launched the ITS system along with an android app to track buses in real-time. Then in 2019 it launched another app, ‘MyBMTC’ which was developed by a teenager. Before the pandemic, the corporation had an app that provided live tracking but is no longer available as the contract with the vendor company Trimax expired. BMTC also previously displayed bus routes, timings and driver contact details on their website. Passengers like Malkan say that if they can bring this back it will benefit them.

Roshan Toshniwal, a public transport expert, said, “The two reasons why live tracking has not been successful are cost and technology. The frequent breakdown of the Automatic Vehicle Location System and the absence of adequate technology infrastructure and data analytics team impacts sending necessary information through a mobile phone to users. “

He added that for more people to use public transport there needs to be a lot more done than just an app. “They need to harness the power of data to improve efficiency in operations. Travel should be simplified by providing basic information so all people know instead of frequent travelers. A lot more has to be done for them to start being profitable and break even.”