Decade ago, you could track a bus by SMS

But the service, 'Yelli-Iddira?' was killed, or allowed to die

When you book an Ola cab, you could track the taxi’s approach on a mobile map, right up to your location. BMTC, now on the threshold of launching its Intelligent Transport System (ITS) could have perfected the same model for its buses 10 years ago. It discontinued a similar, but SMS-based bus-tracking service called Yelli-Iddira?

Ten years ago, Mobile App was an alien word. But two IIT graduates and Muralidhar Rao, the then co-chairman of the Commuter Comfort Task Force developed and pushed the Yelli-Iddira concept. “Forty BMTC buses were fitted with GPS devices. All you had to do was to send an SMS with ‘YI-(Bus Number)-U(Bus Stand Name)’ to get an instant message showing the bus location,” recalls Rao.

Starting off from home, a commuter could decide when and where to take a bus, depending on its current position. The SMS gave options on multiple buses. The technology was unprecedented in its practicality.

The SMS service could work even with a feature phone. “Over a thousand people were actually using the service. It ran for about an year during 2005-06. There was a huge possibility of scaling it up. But BMTC killed it.”

The contract was for ten months. But once the then BMTC Managing Director was transferred, it was not renewed. An experiment that was unprecedented in its use of an evolving technology was allowed to die. “Scores of commuters could plan their days better. From the feedback I used to handle, many were even ready to totally stop taking out their cars to work if the service was scaled up,” Rao says.

As smartphones evolved and the app development went through a virtual revolution, the brains behind ‘Yelli-Iddira?’ were ready to move to the next level. The SMS-service could have graduated to Android or iOS Apps. The entire BMTC bus fleet could have been brought under this system, eventually morphing into an ITS of sorts years ago. Sadly, the opportunity was missed.

The service would have cost BMTC a few lakhs of rupees. Years after Yelli-Iddira was dumped, a tie-up was in the offing for a similar project, but at an estimated cost of Rs 69 crore. This too did not materialise. The ITS project now being prepared for an April launch costs even more. Couldn’t this cost escalation have been avoided had the transport corporation continued and upgraded ‘Yelli-Iddira?’  

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