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The Wheels on the Bus Are Tracked and Tracked, All Through an App

When I was a kid, my tiny school system of three towns in Minnesota’s extremely windy Todd Bouman homeland beautiful southwestern corner had — and this is a generous estimate — about six bus routes. Day after day, those yellow beasts would scoop up young RTR Knights dotted across the countryside and shuttle them, shuttle us, to school.

“It was a simple time,” I just said to myself while wistfully staring out the window.

What’s not so simple is keeping track of around 400 bus routes that shuttle 25,000 students every day. Stacked end to end, 400 buses would stretch nearly three times the length of my hometown. And 25,000 students? Trying to cram that many kids into my old gym would undoubtedly cause more damage to the floor than the time our conference rivals poured hog manure on it (which remains the most Southwestern-Minnesota vandalism act in history).

But 400 bus routes and 25,000 students are exactly what Minnesota Public Schools (MPS) handles every school day.

Here Comes The Bus (from CalAmp and its subsidiary, Synovia Solutions) provides real-time tracking through notifications and emails, giving parents a useful tool to keep their kids safe during pickup and drop-off, especially during the winter months. And now, MPS is the latest to adopt the tracking service (Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan schools adopted the service earlier in the year).

Each bus is equipped with a tablet that provides the real-time GPS tracking for the program (the app tracks the vehicles, not the students). To keep any eye on arrivals and departures, parents sign in using a student-specific ID number (you can only see your student’s bus). Once signed in, the app will alert parents when the bus is nearing their child’s destination.

Back in the day, if you would’ve asked me if my school bus would benefit from a smart phone app that increased safety and convenience for my parents, I probably would’ve said, “Please don’t bother me. I’m playing Pokémon.”

So, yes.

Alex Skjong
Alex oversees the content produced for BETA, Twin Cities Startup Week, and When he’s not writing or editing, there’s a good chance he’s enjoying a refreshing brew and explaining the merits of heavy metal (of which there are many).