Recognised by MIT and Google, this 10th grader is looking to improve school fleet managementHarshith Mallya
Schools and parents have the important task of imparting education and providing a nurturing environment for children. Sending a child to school by bus can be nerve wracking for parents. Ensuring children’s safety while they travel to school and return home is an important concern. To date, most schools and parents rely on manual, labour intensive methods to ensure safety on school buses.
Arjun S. Kumar once reached home late after school due to heavy rains and this worried his parents. He realised that most parents face this problem, and developed a mobile app – Locatera – to solve this pain-point.
What is it?
Locatera helps schools manage their fleet of buses in a more efficient way through a ‘tri-app’ methodology. The app has three different modules for parents, school admins, and bus attendants. Based on their credentials they get access to different dashboards with different functions.
While getting on and off the bus students need to scan or swipe quick response code-based or near field communication-powered ID cards through the bus attendant’s smartphone. This information is then relayed to parents and schools to help them track their activity.
The app aims to help schools efficiently manage their transport fleet by getting an overview of the location of school buses and students in real time to parents. Schools can also plan, schedule, and re-schedule bus routes.
With this solution, Locatera aims to replace manual attendance taking on buses and leverage technology to make the lives of bus attendants, parents, and school authorities easier. Schools and parents can get access to students log-in and log-out details and bus transport reports, to know if the bus is on time or if there is a delay.
Some of the other interesting features include:
- Ability to locate the school bus on a map to help parents plan drop off or pick up for parents of younger kids.
- Receive alerts on students boarding and de-boarding the school bus.
- Check the distance of the school bus from its current location and estimate the time the bus would take to reach home.
Most of the above functionalities are for smartphones, so to cater to parents using feature phones (without the app or Internet facility), Locatera gives them a work-around. Parents can give a 'missed call' to the bus attendant’s phone number to receive details like location of the school bus, attendance of the child, etc., through SMS.
Story so far
Arjun, a class 10 student at Velammal Vidhyashram School in Surapet (Chennai), is the Founder and President of LateraLogics. He started the company with the aim of developing affordable and innovative technology solutions to help make life easier.
Arjun was exposed to technology at a young age and was fascinated by it. After his father bought a smartphone, he learnt about Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)’s programming tool-App Inventor and started developing apps on the platform. While in eighth grade, he received accolades from MIT and others for his apps – Ez School Bus Locator and i-Safegaurd, a woman and child safety app.
Related read from 2014: No kidding, this eighth grader from Chennai is looking to hire you
Recently, he was also the recipient of the 'National Child Award for Exceptional Achievements for Computer Technology (2014)' instituted by the Ministry of Women & Child Development, Government of India, and was recently felicitated by Computer Society of India (CSI)-Chennai, IEEE Computer Society-Madras, and IEEE Professional Communication Society-Madras at the CSI National Headquarters.
Based on the user feedback, he developed a new and improved Ez School Bus Locator, ‘Version 2.0’ – Locatera. For this app he won the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)'s 'App of the Month (Best Design) 2015' award and 'Google India Code to Learn Contest 2015'.
Presently, the startup is a one-man show. However, Arjun relies on his parents help when it comes to marketing, sales, and other aspects, while he focusses on the technology. They are exploring a subscription-based business model and are currently piloting this solution across several schools in Chennai. They are also considering ways to provide schools a custom version of the app to let them include their own branding and also set their own preferred price points.
Recently, when the floods struck Chennai, Arjun developed an app, 'iVolunteer for Chennai', to help volunteers in their efforts to rebuild the city with aid workers and other agencies. Most of his apps have so far been free to download and use, and he has also developed a few custom apps for corporates.
Managing between academics and working on Locatera is not very easy, but I am currently able to manage my time well. Going forward, I want to pursue computer science in college and aim to get into the IITs or MIT.
Currently Locatera is being pilot tested in a few schools in Chennai, including the school that Arjun attends. His aim is to expand to more parts of Chennai and then start targeting other Indian cities. Talking about their long term goals, Arjun’s father, Santosh Kumar, added,
We are in talks with many government agencies on how to implement this on a large scale.
The global fleet management market was estimated to grow from USD 8.03 billion in 2015 to USD 22.35 billion by 2020, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 22.7 per cent, states a report by MarketsandMarkets. The report goes on to estimate that North America is expected to be the largest market for fleet management due to technological advancement and early adoption of IoT. On the other hand, Asia-Pacific is expected to witness growth at the highest CAGR during the forecast period.
Globally, San Francisco-based Keep Truckin is among the most mature players in the fleet management space. Earlier in November, it had raised $8 million in funding led by Indix Ventures for their truck fleet management solution. Closer home in India, Goa and Canada-based FleetRover provides insights into fleet movement, position, behaviour, and health.
With a ‘tri-app’ solution, Locatera is going after a niche segment to help manage school bus fleets. While the startup is still in its early stages, the work done so far by a 10th grader is commendable. Getting schools to come on board such a platform may not be as easy as convincing corporate clients with deep pockets, so LateraLogics may face initial challenges and have to educate schools about the benefits. It will be interesting to see how Locatera goes about its work and what more features it will include in the future.