UWand has been introduced in a previous article. It is the official mobile application of city’s transit company. As Mr. Gulliver has noticed, uWand is integrated seamlessly with Utopia’s infrastructure, like the overhead display in the tram. In fact, every digital information media that is part of the city’s infrastructure can communicate with uWand. It might be a little scary, but it is very useful. And yes, the user controls his(her) privacy, by disabling such great features at will. But how does it work and what are the features it offers to its users ? Let us deep dive into uWand.
UWand works both online and offline, without the user noticing much change. This has been made possible by the hybrid infrastructure of Utopia. Here hybrid indicates the use of different technologies. When the mainstream technology doesn’t work, which is the case for 3G/4G and GPS in tunnels, substitute solutions can take the lead. For now, let’s keep the suspense about those alternatives
Every mobile app related to transit should provide a lot of information about the city, the transportation system, the local map, sightseeing opportunities, position, wait. This list is way too long and we find the usual suspects, only there are thousands of them. Same UI, same UX, same colors, same buttons, same interaction. How do we differentiate them ? We can’t. A small feature might make somebody prefer application A over application B. But generally, the features are 95% the same. So, the question is how do one makes a choice? How do you choose a transit mobile application ? My favorite answer is in the next section
The century old rule of Pareto is still true. Every time someone uses uWand, the mobile application tries its best to identify the functionality that in that moment is giving 80% to the user. For the person who waits for the tram at the tram stop, that 80% is the waiting time. This is different for someone who wants to travel from, point A to point B. Or for the frequent user who wants to retrieve his favorite routes and places. What about sharing information with friends ? So many uses and each time one of them is the most important. But how to guess which is what ? It is no guess at all. It is likelihood mixed with knowledge, as the following section shows.
Context as knowledge
What is context for a mobile app user ? It is a combination of the seven questions (where, what, etc). In the case of uWand, that reduces to:
- who the user is
- where the user is
- what the user has previously done
That is context. The app knows who the user is, at least as mobile phone. The position of the user as position of the mobile device is also available. Previous action is also known to the mobile app.
The user is within 2m of a bus station, it can be safely assumed he might take the bus. If the mobile device is moving with high speed (>20 km/h), then the user is in a bus. Again, the position of the user and that of the bus can identify a route, the next stop and possible destination. The user has a calendar shared with the mobile app ? it can anticipate the next move. The list of uses is long, but always we identify a context. That is what uWand does.
So, overall, uWand does not have a regular carousel menu or a functional one. No, it uses suggestions on big tiles. Big buttons, easy to use. Pictures instead of words.