NetBus founders 370.
(photo credit: Nataly Avital)
Rather than pacing at a bus stop wondering why the 8 a.m. line still has yet to
show up at 8:15, Israeli travelers are now able to take advantage of a
smartphone application that provides updates about their bus’s proximity in real
The iPhone and Android app NetBus is the brainchild of four young
men who came up with the idea during their army service and are equal partners
in the firm – chief financial officer Snir Machluf, chief technology officer
Shimon Tohami, chief marketing officer David Vatine and chief sales officer Liav
Frustrated that buses rarely arrived on time at the bus station
closest to their Mitkan Adam army base – a 2-km. walk away – the team
decided to take action, conjuring up the idea in January 2012 and launching
their company in May of that year, Machluf told The Jerusalem Post
“Google Maps tells you what line you have to take,” he said.
“But most of the people use the bus every day and they know the exact line they
are using, but they don’t know when to get to the station.”
In order to
solve the problem, the team members approached the Transportation Ministry,
where they soon discovered that every bus in Israel is equipped with a GPS
signal. They were able to access that signal through the ministry’s open
application program interface and knew from there that they could provide
real-time bus updates to waiting travelers, according to Machluf.
opening the app, the traveler encounters a simple and user-friendly interface
set on a classic school-bus yellow and black color scheme. The first step is to
scroll through a dial to indicate the number of the desired bus line, and then
press “search bus.”
After conducting the search, the app reveals a list
of buses corresponding to that number near the user, with station choices listed
in order of geographical proximity. At the top of that page, the user can choose
the preferred direction of the line.
Upon clicking on the desired
station, the user arrives at a page integrated with Google Maps that shows all
of the nearby stops in black and the chosen one in yellow, with a white bus. On
the top of the screen is a to-the-second countdown of the bus’s estimated time
of arrival at the station as well as a moving yellow-and-black bus symbol that
indicates the vehicle’s approximate current location.
The app receives
updates from the GPS signals every 30 seconds and updates accordingly, Machluf
Waiting at the station, the traveler can see the 5-4-3-2-1
final countdown as the bus doors open for him, more or less. When the Post tried
using the app on Wednesday, the first time was almost exactly accurate, while
the second was accurate within about 20 seconds.
Also readily available
on the app is a push notification option that allows travelers to request alerts
when their bus is a designated number of minutes away.
Thus far, 200,000
people have downloaded the app total, Machluf said. In the Android’s Google Play
store, 50,000 downloads had occurred and the app had received a 4.5 out of 5
score averaged from 766 ratings.
As of now, the app is available only in
Hebrew, but most of the interface involves numbers, aside from the bus stop name
Financially, the Ra’ananabased start-up has received two
investments and is currently strategizing how to become profitable in the
future. One attractive way that public transportation apps can become lucrative
is when bus companies or research firms use them to conduct data compilations or
academic studies, Machluf noted.
While NetBus is considering whether to
place advertisements in the app, Machluf promised that “it’s free and will
always be free.”
Stressing the importance of maintaining bus security in
Israel, Machluf said that Net- Bus and users never receive the exact location of
buses from the Transportation Ministry.
“Here in Israel, because of
security issues, the Transportation Ministry gives you only the arrival time to
the station,” he said.
The company is not planning to limit its
activities to Israel, however, and is planning to expand to markets overseas –
though Machluf would not specify where. His hope is that by having a more
convenient method to use public transportation, more people will take advantage
of this mode of travel.
“You don’t have the pain of having to wait at the
station for a half hour,” he said.
“We’re managing the time.”