Lack of information represents friction to an economy and makes it less efficient than it could be. A source of friction for commuters is not knowing the fastest and most cost-efficient way to reach their destination. With new modes of transportation, such as on-demand ridesharing services and personal electric bikes and scooters, becoming mainstream, the need for timely information about routes and schedules becomes even more important than it was in a world where single passenger cars were the only viable option. .
Jonny Simkin, Cofounder and CEO of Swiftly, explains in the above interview that his company is removing the commuter’s friction through an app that looks at multiple transportation modes (e.g. car, bus, bike, walking, etc.) and provides the commuter with various options, which include both time and cost of the trip. In its calculations, the app blends various sources of data from public agencies, private entities and crowdsourcing to provide real-time updates. In those cases where the data isn’t available from public transit agencies, such as bus arrival times, they have developed a dedicated piece of hardware that allows them to collect real-time data.
He explains that they launched the app in San Francisco with virtually no marketing and it now has over 50,000 downloads and is opened an average of 31.5 times per month. The app has deep linking to other apps, such as ridesharing services, to make it easier for the commuter to order the particular modes of transit she needs to get to her destination.
It is the back-end, their data platform, that is the jewel of their product. With the data they collect, they are able to get an aggregate idea of real-time and historic traffic patterns as well as origination and destination information. This is the sort of information that is of great value to public entities, such as cities and transit agencies. As Simkin alludes to, private entities also find the data of great value, as it provides a good understanding of how people move and could help determine where to locate businesses and how to develop given properties. Simkin indicates they have begun to expand outside its San Francisco base to cities such as Portland, Denver and Vancouver.
[Updated 9/1/16 – Swiftly announced the addition of Michael Smith, the former General Manager and Chief Technology Officer of NextBus, as Co-Founder and Chief Information Officer at Swiftly. According to Swiftly, Nextbus is the current market leader in real-time passenger information systems for transit agencies. Swiftly indicates that Smith will drive the company’s data-driven real-time passenger information system and Mobility as a Service platform. This addition could greatly enhance the capabilities that Simkin describes in the above interview.]