Design Computing Students Awarded Industry Prize

7 January 2013

This article originally appeared in Cubic's Collection Point magazine, available online.

Occasionally someone has a "eureka!" moment that leads to major innovations.

For Cubic's Director of Sales & Marketing in Australia, Bob Deiter, that "eureka" moment came at a transport conference in Melbourne last year, where he was outlining the company's new Nextcity vision.

He was followed by a group of academics and university students from New South Wales who spoke about a concept they called "Infostructure," which involved innovative new ways to use technology to improve public transport.

"We were speaking the same language. The similarities between what Cubic is seeking to achieve through Nextcity and what the university group were prophesying through advanced technology were suddenly blindingly obvious. There had to be a way to marry the two schools of thought," he said.

This led to further discussions between Cubic and the team involved - Dr Hank Haeusler, Dr Martin Tomitsch and Nicole Gardner - which resulted in the company sponsoring a new program for University of Sydney students designed to help improve the public transport experience.

Four teams of students completing a Bachelor of Design Computing course were given the option to work on the Cubic project as part of their assessment for the Advanced Interaction Design subject run by Dr Martin Tomitsch.

The challenge was to "re-vision" the user experience for transit, with the aim of creating a unified and intuitive user interface experience across all channels and devices that a traveller interacts with to plan, pay for and use a transit system.

"Cubic's Capability Development Leader, Boris Karsch, who led the program with Dr Tomitsch, said the project was born out of the recognition that for many users, there is a steep learning curve in working out how to plan and pay for journeys in transit systems.

Technologies such as smartphones and tablet computers present users with very different travel experiences and are challenging traditional user interface design approaches.

Each team developed various concepts, ranging from smartphone apps to tags which could be used as the ticket. A common theme across all teams was an opportunity to incorporate journey planning with ticketing to create a more integrated user experience.

"Students applied design methodologies from their course to the project. During the early phase of the project, teams engaged in user research and context analysis and then developed design concepts to address the project brief," Karsch said.

After four months of work the teams presented their results to an audience which included university students and academics as well as transport experts from the City of Sydney. Cubic's Capability Development Leader Dave Roat who is taking the lead on CTS' global device strategy travelled from the UK to attend.

Managing Director of Cubic Australasia, Tom Walker, said seeing the students user interface concepts transformed to multi-media prese'ntations really brought their ideas to life.

"We were impressed by the prototypes developed. Each added a new perspective on how industry can do a better job helping travellers use a complex transit network such as Sydney."

"The project was a unique opportunity to provide Cubic with a fresh perspective on how to make public transport systems easy and intuitive to use. The students presented a number of very interesting prototype designs that were highly relevant to Cubic's research and design efforts to develop the next generation of ticketing systems and devices."

Two teams were selected for the final stage and presented their ideas to a panel which included Transport for New South Wales Electronic Ticketing System Branch General Manager Greg Ellis and Principal Manager, Fares and Product Development Customer Service, Chris Bennetts.

The winning team - Amelia Lewis, Ronan Brett and Lucy Matchett - had based their concept on future technologies, which was a natural link to Cubic's Nextcity vision.

"I was impressed with the focus on the personalised customer experience - they developed the system so it knows you because of your travel patterns and can inform you of disruptions. This is a very powerful tool and something we will see more of in the future," said Walker.

Speaking on behalf of the winning team, Design Computing student Ronan Brett said their main idea was to use tags on mobile phones, bags or clothing, to turn the commuter into the ticket. The tags would be directly linked to a credit card or a top-up system.

They also developed an app that could be linked to the commuter's trip account, giving live notifications about delays and alternate routes, to ensure they reached their destination on time.

"When we presented this idea to Cubic, it was already something that they were looking into. It was really nice to see our work recognised by Cubic and to have feedback from actual engineers who are working in the industry," Ronan said.

Second prize went to Design Computing students John Duncan, Matthew Norris and Renuja Koleth, who had combined the planning of a journey and ticket purchasing into one interface across ferry, bus and train devices. The design included easy to use icons which were similar to those found on an iPad, a tap and go button on the top-up screen, and the ability to easily plan a trip with the provision of timetables, maps and notification of any service interruptions.

And as for Bob Deiter, he says - "We've come a long way from that initial meeting of minds, and I'm very pleased that Cubic has decided to continue with the program following on from the success this year."

"This is an important part of Cubic's ongoing investment across the globe into research and design that will allow our customers to make 'intelligent travel' real".

Contact: Martin Tomitsch

Phone: +61 2 9351 4610

Email: 09383a4d013a7f1b3a2f083e0a0a5031450953194e4059502600782245