The mobile app O’Way keeps public transport users in the real-time loop on the status of services… thanks to other users.
Currently available in Ile-de-France (Paris and its region), the first Android version launched in April 2016 and IOS this May 2017. To date 2,000 travellers have signed up, of which 1,000 monthly are active on the app.
To find out more, Passion4Transport put some questions to Alexandre Duarte, co-founder of the start-up O’Way: Your way is my way.
P4T: How did O’Way come about?
AD: The idea came to me on the evening of 15 July 2015. I was on my way home and waiting for the train to come. It didn’t. I had no information. No staff to ask. The display screens were out of order. The RATP/SNCF apps were mute. My only hope? Social media.
Then I noticed on my news feed a passenger mentioned an incident that happened earlier on the line and was causing a slowdown. Reassured, I knew my train would come. It was just delayed. Twenty minutes later I boarded with peace of mind.
“During the journey home I wondered what passenger information would be like if delivered by passengers themselves.”
O’Way seeks to provide transparent travel information in real time that respects all passengers thanks to other passengers. It was born out of a desire to no longer simply accept, but to act. We [passengers] can improve the travel experience to a certain degree by taking action.
But it’s not just myself and O’Way co-founder Julien Sombie who are driving this change in mindset, but also the community of O’Way passengers, which is growing day by day and helping make our day-to-day lives easier.
P4T: How did you go about developing the app? Were there any surprises, difficulties?
AD: First of all, you really need to know what it is you’re developing. At the very beginning, it became obvious we’d missed the point completely. In the first versions of the app, apart from the passenger information, we focused too much on social interaction between passengers.
Unfortunately this wasn’t the right approach. So from one day to the next we started afresh and concentrated on the essential – passenger information delivered by other passengers. And this is the second point I’d like to make – the importance of focusing on a principal use that delivers perfectly. You should never worry about starting again from scratch.
“Developing a mobile app involves a lot of iterations.”
By the way, I’ve lost count of the number of updates we’ve made since launching the first version!
The other problem we encountered early on was our lack of knowledge. I myself had no prior experience in developing mobile apps on Android and IOS. And while Julien did have some with Android handsets, he didn’t for IOS. At this point we had to take a decision – either to outsource the development to freelances or do it in-house with employees, interns, or by ourselves.
We opted for the second solution and taught ourselves. We learnt on the job and developed-by-doing! It took time, but we managed to produce both the Android and IOS versions ourselves. And I must say we’re really proud of this achivement because it definitely wasn’t easy!
“Another trap to avoid is thinking there’s an end in sight when developing a mobile app. On the contrary, it’s a never-ending process.”
There are forever tweaks and possible improvements. It’s an extremely demanding task because you’re always calling the app into question, always reviewing its performance.
“When reviewing the app you mustn’t hesitate to ask for feedback from users. Although you don’t necessarily have to take everything they say on board.”
Another lesson learned is not to spend too much time in beta. You have to go for it and launch the app to the public.
“Since the data used by O’Way is provided by passengers themselves, open data is not involved in any way.”
P4T: When did O’Way go live and how has it performed since?
AD: We launched the first Android version in April 2016 and the first IOS version just recently in May 2017. The reactions have been fantastic! In short, everyone is mega pleased. For the Android, we are currently seeing an average of 4.9/5 on Playstore, which is almost excellent. Here are some of the passenger comments on the app:
“At long last, real time info.!” “Very promising app with a sympathetic fledgling community.” “A must for Parisian life.” “Perfect mutual aid when you’re having problems. Reliable and power-efficient… in a word, it’s great!” “Really practical! Much more reactive and precise than RATP. Means I can anticipate transport problems and take another route.” “Really good app. Reliable information thanks to traffic updates shared by passengers.” “First class. The best way to get info. on RER A [Ed. communter rail line between Paris and the suburbs].” “It’s the best, plus you get to talk with nice people.” “Great app, very useful and a must when travelling in Ile-de-France.”
“Over 2,000 passengers have signed up and every month we register around 1,000 active users.”
P4T: What are your future plans?
AD: Although currently active in the Paris region, we want to become the global leader in passenger information of this kind.
“The continued success and future expansion of O’Way depends first and foremost on passengers expressing their desire to become the agents of their everyday journeys by informing others.”
To take O’Way further we will need the financial means, today lacking, to expand our team and extend our reach across the rest of France, Europe…. For the time being, we aren’t making any money.
Can I just point out that we developed O’Way independently. No incubator. In true ‘old school’ style in a garage (well, to be honest, a flat). Since we’re a start-up, O’Way is still searching for a business model that can be replicated and is scalable. To date the app is free both on Android and IOS and there’s no advertising.
“The appeal of this kind of app lies in the strength of its community. Putting up economic barriers would hinder growth and loyalty.”
Going forward, to obtain financing backing we will most likely turn to Business Angels or venture capitalists that are interested in us. For all this we’ll have to wait and see.
P4T: Do you believe the app is providing real added value for public transport users?
AD: Absolutely! The perceived values of the app are manifold. Firstly, users are looking for information – to find out why there is a delay and take steps to find an alternative journey route.
Next, they want support from the community, from fellow passengers who are having the same travel problems. It’s reassuring to know you are all in the same boat!
Last but not least, for the most active users of O’Way it offers a means of helping the community by sharing as much information as possible. This allows them to play a part in the common good.
All photo credits, unless marked: O’Way: Your way is my way