The Apple Watch will tell you if your train is running late

Apple and its developers are announcing a lot of apps being retooled for its new smart watch, launching next week, but one particular app caught my eye. Crowdsoured public transit app Moovit says it will have an Apple Watch-optimized version of its app ready when the wearable goes on sale whenever that date happens to be.

There are several smartphone apps that will help you navigate the complex train, bus and metro networks of any big city, but the only problem with them is they’re in your smartphone. When you’re rushing to catch a train, or on a crowded sidewalk trying to find the closest bus stop, the last thing you want to do is whip out your device. Putting basic, yet pertinent information you need to navigate a crowded cityscape on your wrist is an ideal use case for a wearable. Moovit says an Android Wear version of the app will also be released in [company]Google[/company] Play sometime in the second quarter.

Moovit Apple Watch 1

 

The [company]Apple[/company] Watch app will give you a tiny map showing the nearest public transit stops so if you’re in an unfamiliar area, you’ll know where to head to catch your bus or train. Tap on one of those icons, and you’ll get arrival times for every train or bus that stops there. While actually planning a trip might be easier on your phone than on the Watch’s limited display, once you have an itinerary entered, Moovit will show you the trip details. For example, Moovit will show you directions to a transit stop and your expected time arrival at your destination.

Also, if you have favorite itineraries programmed into Moovit – for instance, your daily commute to work – the Watch will display the next arrival and departure times of the buses and trains you typically take. Finally, the app will ship alerts to your watch face on service disruptions for those same oft-used transit lines.

Moovit Apple Watch 2

 

This would have been an awfully handy thing to have this week at Mobile World Congress where accessing the Barcelona metro system is a must unless you like 2-hour cab lines. A simple glance at my wrist would have told me where I needed to go to catch my train, and how long I had before it arrived. Instead, I stood around at crowded intersections looking like a rube as I tried to access Google Maps on my phone. ETA information also would have been quite helpful since I often found myself arriving either 30 minutes early or 30 minutes late to appointments.

Moovit, which is often described as the Waze of public transit, has been on a bit of a tear lately. The Israeli company recently raised a $50 million Series C round, and it has expanded into 500 cities in 50 countries while racking up 15 million users contributing transit data to its database.

 

The big 4 carriers will bring LTE to Chicago’s subways

4G services are finally coming to Chicago’s subways. Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile are collectively installing a $32.5 million LTE upgrade in the Chicago Transit Authority’s 22 miles of subway tunnels, allowing commuters to continue chatting, streaming and gaming when they go underground.

As a Chicagoan I know the frustration of losing your smartphone connection when your train car dips below ground level, but you non-Chicagoans may be asking yourselves “Chicago has subways?” Yes: While the name of the Chicago metro train system is the “L”, which is short for “elevated,” Chicago’s two main lines go underground for about 20 stops when they approach downtown.

That means for many L riders, the last 10 or 15 minutes of the commute becomes a wireless dead zone, forcing you to deal with the reality that you’re in a train packed wall-to-wall with other people. When the carriers complete the upgrade – targeted for the end of 2015 — we should be able to continue surfing to our hearts’ content.

[company]T-Mobile[/company], which is taking the lead on the project, will coordinate the construction of a distributed antenna system (DAS) throughout Chicago’s tunnels. Then all four of the operators will connect their networks to it. You can think of a DAS as a cell tower broken into its component parts. Instead of putting a cluster of antennas at the top of a mast, T-Mobile will install individual transmitters throughout the tunnels, which will connect back to a central location called a base station hotel somewhere in the depths of the city. The carriers will all install their network gear in that hotel.

This isn’t the first DAS to appear in Chicago’s subway. Allgon Telecom built a 2G network in Chicago’s subway a decade ago, but the voice-centric system barely worked then and it’s next to useless now. Hopefully, this long-needed upgrade will finally fix Chicago’s underground dead zone problem so we can return to the warm embrace of our smartphones at the end of our commutes. What else are we going to do? Talk to each other?

Moovit, the Waze of public transit, rakes in another $50M

The meteoric rise of Waze was a huge success story for the Israeli tech scene, and the country is now aiming to repeat that success with another crowdsourced transportation company – this one focused on public transit rather than individual drivers. Moovit has raised a $50 million Series C round, bringing its total funding to $82 million.

Nokia Growth Partners, BMW i Ventures, Keolis, Bernard Arnault Group, and Vaizra Investments all participated in the round along with existing investors BRM Group, Gemini Partners and Sequoia Capital.

Moovit

Like Waze, Moovit relies on its community of commuters to report on the state of a city’s bus, train, metro and trams systems in real-time. Its iOS, iPhone and Windows apps track users as they navigate the transit system and queries them on specific conditions; for example, how crowded a train car or bus stop is. The techniques it uses are very similar to accident and traffic reporting features on Waze. That not only gives Moovit commuters an idea about delays and possible alternatives to their regular routes, it lets Moovit finely tune its mapping and navigation services for people trying to get where they’re going by public transit.

When we last checked in with Moovit a year ago, it had 3 million members in its crowdsourcing community but in 13 months its grown to 15 million in 500 cities spread through 45 countries.

Athens public transit moves to smartphone ticketing

Thanks to the help of Masabi and MasterCard, the entire urban transit network of Athens, Greece, can now be ridden with nothing more than a smartphone. The city’s bus, tram and metro lines have moved to Masabi’s JustRide mobile ticketing system with MasterCard handling the payments.

What that means is Greeks (or tourists) who download the JustRide mobile app for Athens can buy tickets and passes for the entire transit system on their smartphones. Those tickets are then displayed on their screens to show fare inspectors along with a QR code that can be scanned in at automated stations. If you’re familiar with the smartphone ticketing system used by Boston’s metro system “The T” or on New York City’s Long Island Railroad and Metro-North Railroad, then you probably have a good idea of how it works.

Masabi's mobile ticketing app displaying a ticket for the MTA's Metro-North Railroad

Masabi’s mobile ticketing app displaying a ticket for the MTA’s Metro-North Railroad

Masabi is actually a London-based company, but the Athens deal is its first big European contract outside of the U.K. where it does ticketing for rail lines and ferries. Now that it’s working with MasterCard though it might have an advantage in bringing more cities under the Masabi umbrella. By integrating with the MasterPass secure payment system, JustRide now comes with its own payments processing system so transit agencies don’t need to provide their own.

IBM to start crunching connected car data for Peugeot

IBM is putting its data analytics to work on information collected from Peugeot’s in-car sensors, ostensibly combining it with data from traffic infrastructure and smartphones to create better car apps and more network-aware vehicles.

Verizon goes underground, joining NYC’s subway station coverage project

Three of the big four carriers have already started beaming their cellular signals into the depths of New York City’s subway system as part of the Transit Wireless project. Soon they’ll be joined by Verizon Wireless(s vz)(s vod), which said on Tuesday it will install its base station gear in the 36 stations Transit currently covers. Transit’s ultimate goal is to bring mobile connectivity to all of the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s 277 underground stations by 2016.

Why the iPhone Makes Ditching Your Car a Lot Less Painful

A recent study found that mobile devices and apps can help drastically improve the appeal and usefulness of public and shared transit options, but only if companies and legislators take a cue from some of the good examples already out there.