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January 20, 2020 9:26 am

Smart School Buses? Israeli App Tracks Kids’ Routes, Seeking to Give Parents Peace of Mind

avatar by Lauren Izso

The ‘Traffical’ app. Photo: Screenshot.

Every aspect of society today is evolving in the digital realm: even getting to and from school by bus. A new smartphone system developed in Israel called Traffical is making sure parents know where their children are at all times.

A project of the Local Government Economic Services, (“Mashcal” in Hebrew), the system provides real-time information for parents regarding the arrival time and location of the pick-up of their children, as well as the time the bus arrives at the school.

Traffical manages several projects aimed at making local authorities’ services more efficient.

“We have an algorithm that calculates the most efficient route for school, independently,” Traffical Project Manager Shaked Ben Ishai told The Algemeiner.

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The database feeds into to four smartphone apps, each with its own intended users.

First, the bus driver app allows drivers to their fastest route, calculated by Mashcal’s algorithm with the specific pick-up/drop-off locations of the children. This app also connects to the central database using the app’s internal GPS capabilities, so the vehicle’s route is constantly tracked with automation and optimization, according to Ben Ishai.

The second app is geared toward adult escorts on the bus routes, providing specific information about each child and who will be picked up at each location. 

A third app gives the transportation manager of any given local authority or institution a complete real-time picture of the location of every vehicle in its fleet at any given time, to highlight any discrepancies or safety concerns.

Finally, a fourth app is designed for parents and students. Through their smartphones, they are able to track school buses in real time and receive notifications ten minutes before their arrival. It also notifies parents when their children arrive at their destination.

Traffical is currently undergoing experimental use by around 30 institutions and local authorities, including Givatayim, and in the next few months, will expand to more than 100.

The biggest challenge, according to the company, is having the transportation companies agree to having their vehicles tracked.

At each institution, the current level of use varies and only a handful so far have provided the app for parent tracking.

Ben Ishai told The Algemeiner that the privacy was a main concern, but Traffical had made sure the apps were well protected. Only once a parent is registered for the service with their respective municipality is entrance to the app permitted. Even then, parents can just view the specific information of their own children.

“I will only see information about my kid, and you only about yours,” Ben Ishai said. “We put everything we need from the point of view of cyber and privacy policy. We protect the system with all the tools possible to prevent something from happening.”

This is a debate between safety and usability, according to Tel Aviv-based cybersecurity expert Ram Levi. “The system is not tracking the children per se,” he told The Algemeiner. “It’s a transportation management service, and only the responsible adult escort knows exactly who is on the bus, only him.”

Levi, the CEO of cybersecurity firm Konfidas, says he would definitely use the app when his son was old enough to ride a school bus. “We already use so many apps that track our location,” he pointed out.

Mashcal CEO Avikam Beller told the Israeli news website YNet, “The development of Traffical is an example of embedding technological tools through which municipalities can provide more efficient services, and maintain relevance in the digital age as well.”

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