Modern traffic surveyors are equipped with smartphones with cameras and Internet access
Small mobile devices equipped with a camera, Internet access and a high performance mobile application make performing fieldwork much easier. The following case study based on a traffic survey that counted passengers using the mobile survey software mQuest® traffic shows how modern technology allows for more convenience, controls, time savings and better quality.
The days of conducting traffic surveys that relied on muscle power and thick directories of stops and stations that were heavy to carry and made life difficult are over. The modern traffic surveyor conducts his work much more conveniently with nothing more than a handy smartphone. Small, mobile devices equipped with a camera, Internet access and a high performance mobile application make performing fieldwork much easier. The following case study based on a traffic survey that counted passengers in North Rhine-Westphalia conducted by the company PTV AG using the mobile survey software mQuest® traffic shows how modern technology allows for more convenience, controls, time savings and better quality.
Company: PTV Planung Transport Verkehr AG
Project: Traffic survey with passenger count in NRW for DB Regio NRW GmbH
Solution: mQuest® traffic, mobile survey software with a counting module – a product from cluetec GmbH
PTV AG has been performing on-going traffic surveys with passenger counting in specific regional trains in North Rhine-Westphalia for DB Regio NRW GmbH since 01 January 2012. A total of 15 surveyors record data like the number of passengers getting on/off, which type of ticket the passengers use, which stations the passengers get on/off at, and which other modes of transportation the passengers use before and after taking the train. These surveys are conducted on a daily basis and will continue until the 8th of December 2012. With more than 75,000 surveys expected to take place, it quickly becomes evident that equipping the surveyors convenient, handy devices is extremely important. Whether its stored station directories, structured question sequences, a counting module, an online interface or a camera – the advantages of using a standard, mobile application – installed on modern smartphones – that is designed for traffic surveys are many. Traffic surveyors equipped with modern means of communication that fit in a pocket will soon be the norm.
From the catalog to the PDA to the smartphone – Convenience increases as weight decreases
Surveys for recording how people move around have to be conducted on a mobile basis – this is something PTV AG is convinced of – and mobile surveys require handy, easy-to-use tools. The use of a mobile survey application combined with a mobile device is nothing new at PTV AG. The Karlsruhe-based company has worked with cluetec’s mQuest® mobile application since 2004 and not only experienced its development as a standard application first hand, but also helped design it based on their own needs. The recent mQuest® traffic update for Android devices has made work much easier at PTV AG and made working in the field much more convenient. The software and hardware was updated to the latest version during the current project. PTV AG is now using a 5.2” Android smartphone instead of PDAs.
Integrated camera helps avoid stressful situations
Surveyors benefit equally from both the new application and the new devices. The touchscreen controls are more user-friendly than the stylus and the new camera function saves the interviewer the trouble of identifying a ticket that is not clearly marked or not found on the price chart. The surveyors are excited about the new feature: “The option of simply taking a picture of the ticket during the interview – with the passenger’s permission – helps in stressful situations. The interview can continue uninterrupted and the application automatically allocates the image to the right data set,” an example of the positive feedback received from the field. The surveyors photograph the display showing the destination of the train they are surveying at the start and end of their shifts to prove that they on the train. The mQuest® traffic application automatically takes care of the rest of the data flow for this additional information.
Eliminating errors with continuous controlling in the field and online synchronization
mQuest® traffic can be used both offline and online – the recorded data can be transferred any time using an online interface with the PTV server. The survey can be completed offline, which eliminates having to deal with dead spots in the network coverage and slow data transfer speeds. The ability to perform controlling from the field and continuously monitor fieldwork is good from a business perspective. Corrections or amendments to the survey structure can be quickly and easily made on all devices in the field thanks to online synchronization. The integrated time stamp also makes it easy to control the surveyors’ work and identify any cheating. An incomplete data set is almost impossible thanks to mQuest®.
Fast survey analysis thanks to continuous data availability
Ideally and effectively designing internal processes is very important to PTV AG. For example, all of the surveyors can use the virtual survey office, a website on which all of the PTV projects have been stored, to login to one of the services listed there which just a few mouse clicks. The fast availability of the data once a service has been completed also supports the company mission. Interim results can be generated thanks to the daily data transfers and, if needed, the raw data that was just collected can be shared with the client. This time factor is significant for clients that need this information as a basis for determining claims to revenues from other transportation companies. It should also be noted that controlling a continuous traffic survey over such a long period of time with the standard pencil & paper method would hardly be feasible from an economic standpoint.
More sustainable programming thanks to the adaptability of the surveys
The traffic solution from cluetec is one of the market-leading standard applications for mobile market research. In addition to improvements in the field, the new update for mQuest® traffic is especially helpful in making the work of the programmers more sustainable. Multi-column auto-fill lists have replaced the need to program filters and can easily be used for other projects. All in all the surveys are much more structured and more adaptable for other projects thanks to the PTV access database. Once a survey has been created it can be adapted, reformatted or changed much more quickly by switching out the lists of characteristics. Questions that are asked later in the survey, for example, user frequency, can be easily marked to be asked or skipped based on the characteristics of the ticket type. PTV AG has complete control over the creation of their surveys thanks to the QuestEditor, mQuest’s editing module.
Berthold Bennewitz, Director of Surveys at PTV AG:
“mQuest® traffic has the right solutions for our needs and the features in the latest mQuest® traffic update has made our work better. In addition to now running on modern, user-friendly smartphones, which makes performing fieldwork more convenient, we especially like how easy it is for us to quickly make corrections to surveys: Our in-house programmers fix the mistake and automatically synchronize all devices in the field using our online interface. There is no longer a need to gather up all the PDAs – a laborious task. This option significantly reduces the amount of stress involved with new projects!”
Matthias Helferich, Managing Director and co-founder of cluetec GmbH:
“With the new version of mQuest® traffic, cluetec has become the first provider on the market to offer a counting module for mobile traffic research on Android devices. Traffic surveys, counting passengers getting on/off, counting the number of passengers on the train, passenger interviews and performing quality checks can now be conducted using Android tablets and smartphones. Intelligent features like the smartphone’s camera are integrated in the application. This allows the new version of mQuest® traffic to offer a comprehensive package of features for market research companies in the field of traffic research that significantly facilitates their work in the field, in programming, correcting errors and controlling operations.”
Advantages of mobile market research using smartphones
- Easy handling thanks to user-friendly smartphones and an easy-to-use application
- Integrated counting module customized for the needs of conducting traffic surveys
- Mistakes in surveys can be quickly identified and corrected. All smartphones are quickly updated for the latest survey version thanks to automatic synchronization
- Convenient to use – station directories and travel records can be stored in the system
- Permanent field control with daily data transfers
- Documentation of all difficult cases by using photos
Saves time – all data is available immediately after it is collected
cluetec GmbH is an IT specialist for mobile software solutions. The Karlsruhe-based company was founded in 2000 and currently has a staff of 35 employees. cluetec develops and distributes mQuest®, the leading mobile survey application for market research, opinion research and traffic research. Its product portfolio has been complemented by the catalogueapp, an application for displaying digital product catalogs on tablet devices, since 2012. The company also offers client-specific software development for mobile solutions, Java EE and Web 2.0 for market research and industrial use. cluetec’s customer base includes companies in the automotive industry like ZF Friedrichshafen, Peugeot and Volkswagen, as well as leading market research institutes like GfK, Ipsos and TNS Infratest.
About PTV Planung Transport Verkehr AG
The PTV Group stands for future-oriented software technologies and consulting for securing mobility. It helps people plan and control passenger and cargo transportation, provides information on traffic-related events and sustainably supports the optimal use of resources. The independent group has been a leading product and solution provider for travel, transportation and traffic planning since 1979. Global demand has created dynamic growth: Today more than 700 employees work on innovative client solutions for public authorities and private industry all over the world. The headquarters in Karlsruhe is a development and innovation center with close ties to research and training. PTV also has branch offices and associate companies across Germany, Europe and on every continent. "PTV Technology" is the basis for many brand name products in business fields like traffic software, transport consulting and logistics software, as well as for the company’s own market-leading map&guide and PTV Vision product lines.
This article was originally published in the German special-interest-magazines “Research& Results”, October 2012 and “Nahverkehrspraxis”, May 2012.