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Students show off smart city commuter solution in D.C.

This week a team of Ohio State students presented their HackOHI/O award-winning platform at the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Opportunity Project Demo Day in Washington, D.C.

Computer science and engineering majors Bobby Yost and Austin Reifsteck, electrical and computer engineering (ECE) major Andrew Fu, and Chinese and ECE double major Gus Workman make up Team Transity. At October’s student hackathon, HackOHI/O, they tackled a design challenge sponsored by Teradata, a global data and analytics company based in Dayton, Ohio.

Influenced by Columbus being named the Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge winner last year, Teradata posed several smart city challenges for hackathon students to solve through data analytics and visualization. Team Transity honed in on developing a worker commutability score for individuals and businesses as a way to reduce travel time.

“We were convinced if we developed a valuable metric that people could use, we could really upset path dependencies and improve their commute,” recalled Reifsteck.

Buckeye engineers Austin, Bobby, Gus and Andrew at The Opportunity Project Demo DayUpon seeing the team’s work after 24 hours, Teradata officials agreed. They named Transity the winner of their challenge during HackOHI/O’s awards ceremony. Furthermore, the company arranged for the team to participate in The Opportunity Project this week in D.C.

Teradata’s Peeter Kivestu said that by combining their hackathon challenge with a “designathon” the company held at the Ohio Digital Government Summit the week before, they adapted their own version of The Opportunity Project’s collaborative, user-centered technology development sprints.

“After understanding the nature of these sprints, which were focused on the power of applying design-centered thinking, technology and the combination of federal open data sets with other data sources, we decided we could jumpstart a similar application to smart cities,” he said. 

At The Opportunity Project event on November 29, the team conducted live demos of Transity to a range of professionals, representing tech giants like Cisco and IBM as well as federal agencies including the Census Bureau, Department of Education and Department of Transportation. They were the only undergraduate students among 12 groups presenting that day.

“We had the good fortune of making a lot of new connections,” said team member Andrew Fu, “and potentially exploring further opportunities with them.” He and his teammates are also grateful for support they have received from Teradata and data visualization experts at Qlik.

Screenshot of the commuter interfaceBlending federal and local open data with private sector big data, Transity’s commutability score quantifies how accessible is it to get from point A to point B in a city with diverse mobility options such as Columbus. The team developed interfaces for two audiences, commuters and city planners.

In addition to base travel time, the Transity commutability score factors in time of day traffic and pedestrian congestion based on cell phone positional data, as well as accessibility to services such as parking garages or bus stops. The score also considers the commuter’s mode of travel—driving, biking, public transit or walking—as well as time and day of week. All of these factors lead to different commutes, and thereby personalized Transity scores.

The city planner view adds insight from federal data on where people live, where those same people travel to for work, and socioeconomic information on the areas where people work. This new perspective could inform decisions that improve an area’s commutability.

Up next for the team is a trip downtown to present Transity to Smart Columbus officials.

“Transity is more than just an application,” Fu said, “it’s a platform that can provide a holistic view of patterns allowing analytics and what-if questions about daily commute journeys.”