GPS on your cell: Blirpit tracks bus routes

Blirpit, a locally invented transportation-tracking technology, may revolutionize they way UVM students wait for the bus.  Students Mike Fogg and Nick Godin released a pilot version of their bus­­-tracking website, Blirpit.com, on Sept. 2.   The website, which stands for Bus Line Information Retrieval Program, allows students to track on- and off-campus buses in an attempt to increase efficiency and reduce waiting time at bus stops. The idea was first conceived in January of last year, when Fogg and Godin met up in the third-floor Simpson lounge to begin working on a paper for their race relations course.Instead of writing the paper, “we decided we should really get started with something bigger,” Fogg said.Ideas were thrown out until Godin recalled the last time he was on a plane.”I remembered being on a plane and watching it travel its course on a screen using GPS,” he said. “Then I wondered why the campus buses didn’t have this [technology] and it just took off from there.”Because of his background in graphic design, Fogg became Director of Development and Operations. His job at Blirpit involved creating the website and the accompanying applications that go with it, including iPhone applications and a text messaging feature. The feature allows the user to text DOTCOM to a number on the website, which then tells the user the anticipated time of arrival for the next bus.Godin, director of sales and marketing, tests new features for flaws and communicates with other universities and organizations to promote the product. When the two started working on their project, they wanted to use new technology. Bluetooth and radio frequencies were considered; however, Fogg’s uncle pointed the boys back in the right direction.”‘Why reinvent the wheel?’ he told us. GPS became the logical choice,” Fogg said.A number of faculty and staff helped the students improve their idea, including Chief Information Officer David Todd. Godin and Fogg approached him last March with the idea.According to Todd, their idea was an improvement on an element of a commercial service he had seen three years earlier. The students upgraded the system Todd had seen earlier by adding text messaging components.”I thought the system they’d planned might be more effective in serving clients of the service than the commercial system I’d seen three years ago,” Todd said.  “So I expressed interest in the project and promoted awareness of it among several administrative colleagues.”Around the same time, the two also approached bus administrator Mike Altman to gauge the possibility of linking the bus system to Blirpit.com. After receiving the go-ahead, the buses have since been hooked up to the system.”I have been contacted by many companies from all over the country trying to sell us a system,” Altman said.  “None of these systems had as many features as Blirpit and, besides, it is great to have a homegrown product put together by some very sharp UVM students.”As for the masterminds behind the project, they aren’t sure what the future holds.”The future is pretty open,” Fogg said. “There are so many possible uses for a system like this, it just takes meeting with the right people. “Honestly, I can’t think of a university that couldn’t use it, or a freshman student that won’t,” he said.