“Studying the behaviour of public transportation users may bring benefits for the safety of passengers as well as for the consumption of fuel,” said Marcel Ogando in 2018 about his Clean Energy Challenge winning project, Milênio Bus. At the time, the proposal was to develop both software and hardware for real-time passenger flow calculation on buses in São Paulo. By harnessing the power of big data, the project hoped to make the sprawling city’s public services more energy-conscious and efficient.

Since then, Marcel and his partner Fábien Oliveira have dedicated themselves to developing innovative, app-based solutions for the urban mobility sector. More recently, they have even adapted to the coronavirus pandemic, embarking on collaborations that address the necessities of the ‘new normal’.

Optimistic about their new projects, we interviewed the engineer to better understand the expectations around his latest creation and how it is contributing to public safety and mobility in Brazil. 

First OFF: HOW ARE YOU? WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON CURRENTLY?

At the beginning of the pandemic in March, we identified the necessity of monitoring crowding in public places, and providing relevant companies with ready decisions on how to handle these situations. That was when we created the INAG, which is the ‘Index of Agglomerations’. This index is composed by our hardware which tracks the quantity of people in a given space, and provides data in real-time via one of our systems. The hardware includes:

  • The SmartCamera: a camera which identifies the quantity of people gathered on a street through techniques of computer vision. It is capable of estimating the number of people in a line, or even seated somewhere.
  • The SmartFlow: equipment capable of identifying the number of smartphones within a 15-meter distance. Besides this, it has an integrated GPS module which visualizes the itinerary of each public transport vehicle. This is the same hardware which we have already installed in over 13 vehicles (subways, trains and buses) in São Paulo. Once the schools are open again, we will also install this device on school buses in three cities in the state of Minas Gerais.

Left: the SmartCamera. Right: the SmartFlow.

WHAT IS THE NEXT STEP FOR INAG?

We intend to expand the solution to the different industries: from medical, to retail, to public squares and restaurants. I believe that, for example, retailers should check the times in which people wait in lines and ask themselves: Why did the lines become slow in certain periods? Where is the bottleneck? And how can we avoid this situation?

When it comes to malls, I believe that it is important to establish some internal goals for the security staff to avoid the index of local agglomeration reaching a specific level. If this data is shown in a public way, I believe that people will feel safer and more encouraged to shop. Current regulations in São Paulo demand that the body temperatures of all patrons are measured, however, in most cases the person who is transmitting the virus does not present fever symptoms themselves. I believe that it is more plausible to control the level of agglomeration in retail, since social distance is a guaranteed measure to reduce the infection of COVID-19.

YOUR STARTUP WON THE CLEAN ENERGY CHALLENGE FOR SÃO PAULO IN 2018. HOW HAS YOUR WORK EVOLVED SINCE THEN?

After we came back from the Netherlands, we had some mentors who helped us to format the product Milênio Bus in a way that has scale and solves the problems of our customers.

There were years of research and the development of different products and services. Today our goal is to bring transparency concerning the control of agglomerations in the city, by providing data which facilitates strategic decisions of companies for the best possible management of the pandemic. This is why we have created the Índice Nacional de Aglomerações – the INAG.

CAN YOU TELL US A BIT MORE ABOUT THE MILÊNIO BUS? HOW DID THE IDEA FIRST EMERGE?

In 2017, we attended EMTU’s Lab of Innovation in Public Transport (Empresa Metropolitana de Transporte Urbano do Estado de São Paulo), and the MobiLab which is the Hatchery of Urban Mobility in São Paulo. 

The idea for Milênio Bus emerged during the hackathon at EMTU, when we came across the data that was needed to help bus passengers and companies make logistical decisions. Such decisions could solve more than 90% of the typical complaints in public buses, which often concern delays and overcrowding. At the beginning of 2020, we started to implement the Milênio Bus in 4 buses. It was amazing to see the product working, indeed, for the first time!

Top: The Milenio Bus app interface. Bottom: Marcel Ogando in São Paulo.

WHERE DO YOU EXPECT MILÊNIO BUS TO BE IN 20 YEARS?

I believe that we will be working with this solution on a global scale, and already with the public transport adapted to work through the demand of the people using it. Our product will be the key element in order for this transformation to happen.

SOON, WE WILL LAUNCH A NEW EDITION OF OUR WORLDWIDE CHALLENGE PROGRAMME, ON THE ISSUE OF WASTE. WHAT IS THE ROLE OF CIRCULARITY IN YOUR WORK?

We adapted our business model to include a monthly fee. So in case a company presents a problem with our hardware, a technician will change it. When this occurs, we reuse the maximum amount of components as possible. It reduces the cost of our product and enables the reuse of electronic components in defected pieces.

LASTLY, DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE ON HOW DESIGNERS CAN APPROACH THIS CHALLENGE?

It is important to have an open mind. Try to expand the current scenario of waste management, and the number of existing opportunities in the industry. I can say that there are great possibilities to improve various processes in a simple way. For that, understanding the experience of users in this segment is fundamental to be able to solve a real problem with a valuable proposal.

 


This interview has been edited for length and clarity. To learn more about this project, visit the Milênio Bus website. For updates about our upcoming challenge, click here.

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